Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tomoyuki Toyozato: Photos of Iejima Protest of V-22 testing & flight training

Okinawan photographer Tomoyuki Toyozato's photos capture the continued legacy of a half-century of US-imposed suffering of Okinawans who live in Iejima, a tiny island three miles west of Okinawa's main island. Toyozato's photos show residents protesting US military use of their island for V-22 Osprey transport aircraft testing and flight training.

Osprey aircraft noise  causes headaches, palpitations, and dizziness. Local dairy farmers are reporting adverse health conditions in cows, which may experience even greater level of impacts as human beings from the aircraft’s low-frequency sound emissions.

Ms. Shoko Jahana, director of the Nuchi du Takara House, 
a museum that documents the March 1955 violent seizure of farmland in Iejima.
Her sign says "Nuchi du Takara" (Life is sacred). 

Residents have been protesting the US military use of their island since 1955, when the US military violently seized 63% of land belonging to the farmers of Iejima, to make way for an aerial test bombing range.  When the farmers and their families resisted, US troops dragged women and children out of their homes by force and killed family goats. The soldiers poured gasoline on crops to destroy them and contaminate the ground.

In July 1955, led by Iejima resident, Shoko Ahagon, the founder of the Okinawan nonviolent movement for human rights and property rights, about thirty people from Iejima, including children, traveled to Okinawa island, to spread news of the US military seizures of their homes and farms.  Journalist Jon Mitchell tells the story  of their "Beggars March", during which the farmers begged the US to return their homes and farmland, to no avail.  Following the loss of their property and means of livelihood, farmers were forced to collect scrap metal from the US bombing range; this resulted in the deaths and injuries.  When farmers tried to return to unbombed parts of their farmland, US soldiers arrested them.

Besides using gasoline, the US later used  Agent Orange to raze crops and contaminate the ground. (Mitchell: "Given that the US military was now aware of the health dangers of these defoliants, its actions border on biological warfare against the very Okinawan allies who it was supposed to be protecting.")

Sixy years on, the US military still uses Iejima as a war training base: to simulate the landing area on an aircraft carrier and the US is expanding its use of Iejima for V-22 Osprey practice take-offs and landings.

Last fall, despite unanimous prefectural opposition, the US Marines brought the V-22 to Okinawa for hazardous low-level testing training over urban areas, including schools and hospitals, and ecologically sensitive rainforest in northern Okinawa. The accident-prone transport aircraft is now in its 25th year of development, at the cost of $22 billion and over 30 lives. The US is planning the construction of 68 other heliports throughout Okinawa to stage US and Japanese government-subsidized training of the commercially unviable  aircraft. The manufacturer hopes to sell the aircraft to the Japanese government, which would be the first foreign government to purchase the expensive US update of the tilt-rotor aircraft first developed German WWII weapons developers who abandoned development because of design defects they could not overcome.

(Many thanks to photographer Tomoyuki TOYOZATO for sharing his photos of the protest in Iejima last week; his image of Henoko is the cover of Satoko Norimatsu's and Gavan McCormack's "Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States" -


More on Iejima by Jon Mitchell at The Asia-Pacific Journal: "Beggars’ Belief: The Farmers’ Resistance Movement on Iejima Island, Okinawa" -; and  "Agent Orange on Okinawa - New Evidence" -

Latest on Okinawa at The Asia-Pacific Journal: "Okinawans Facing a Year of Trial: the Okinawa-Japan-US Relationship and the East China Sea"  by Sakurai Kunitoshi with an introduction by Gavan McCormack -

Excellent article on US military V-22 testing and training expansion plan in Okinawa and mainland Japan:  "US Marines eye Japan as a training yard" by Kosuke Takahashi -

More on V-22 hazards at Wired: "General: ‘My Career Was Done’ When I Criticized Flawed Warplane" by David Axe -

Frequent Osprey flight violations reported in Okinawa in first month, Asahi, Oct. 31, 2012:

No comments: