Thursday, December 25, 2014

10,000 sing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" — Japan's Beloved Anthem of Peace

This is a video of the Osaka "Number Nine Chorus" of 10,000 singers who perform "Ode to Joy" every December. The soloists and orchestra are professionals; however the rest are singers from the community.

The Japanese love of "Ode to Joy," the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, began during the First World War, when German prisoners of war performed the Ninth Symphony for the first time in Japan in 1918.

In Europe, exactly one hundred years ago, German, French, and British soldiers engaged in a spontaneous holiday ceasefire, emerging from the trenches to exchange food, drink, and even play soccer, sharing a brief moment of humanity during the brutality of war.

The Japanese nickname for the uplifting movement — "Daiku" ("Number 9") — alludes to Article 9, the Japanese Constitution's Peace Clause which outlaws war as a means of conflict resolution.  Beethoven's  lyrics are from a poem celebrating human unity by Frederick Schiller.  The 19th-century century German philosopher was preoccupied by the quest for freedom and human rights. Like many of his era (which spanned the American Revolution), he championed political ideals based not on coercion and tyrannical brute force, but instead by reason, goodwill, dialogue, and democratic process.

Worldwide, "Ode to Joy" has long been considered a peace anthem, a song of resistance to not just war, but also state repression. Chilean democracy demonstrators sang the song during PInochet's dictatorship. Chinese protesters sang it during the march on Tiananmen Square. This year, the music and lyrics are even more meaningful to the Japanese and Okinawan supporters of democracy and Article 9, the Japanese Constitution's Peace Clause.

...Brother love binds man to man
Ever singing march we onward
Victors in the midst of strife
Joyful music lifts us onward
In the triumph song of life...

Human rights attorney Scott Horton tells us that Beethoven was drawn to Schiller's writings because the composer longed for liberty, however omitted the "deeper, more political charge" of the final stanzas of "Ode to Joy" to veil his challenge to the repressive Hapsburg regime from which he received patronage.
...the work is radical and blatantly political in its orientation–it envisions a world without monarchs at a time when the distant colonies of North America alone offered the alternative. It imagines a world whose nations live in peace with one another, embracing the dignity of their species as a fundamental principle, and democracy as the central chord of their organization. Its long appeal to Beethoven lay in just this intensely subversive, revolutionary core. To start with, as Leonard Bernstein reminded his audiences, the poem was originally an “Ode to Freedom” and the word “Joy” (Freude instead of Freiheit, added to the third pillar, Freundschaft [Friendship] came as a substitute for the more overtly political theme...

Beethoven reckoned, of course, that his audience knew the whole text, just as he knew it, by heart. He was by then a crotchety old man, Beethoven, but he knew the power of a dream, and he inspired millions with it, to the chagrin of his Hapsburg sponsors.

Schiller’s words are perfectly fused with Beethoven’s music. It may indeed be the most successful marriage in the whole shared space of poetry and music. It is a message of striking universality which transcends the boundaries of time and culture. It is well measured in fact to certain turningpoints in the human experience.
Some of the lines from Schiller's poem omitted from "Ode to Joy":

...Persist with courage, millions!
Stand firm for a better world!
...Deliver us from tyrants’ chains...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Okinawans elect 4 Henoko-aligned MPs to the National Diet; Displays of Peace Banners Multiplying in Henoko

From Right to Left: Toshinobu Nakazato, former chairman of the Okinawan Prefectural Assembly;
 Denny Tamaki (District 3 which includes Henoko), reelected for his 3rd term; 
Kantoku Teruya, reelected for his 5th term;and 14-year incumbent MP Seiken Akamine,
meet with Henoko residents at Sit-In.  (Photo: Takayuki Jyouma)

"Newly elected House of Representatives members report their victories to residents’ sit-in at Henoko," via Ryukyu Shimpo, one of Okinawa's two major dailies:
[Kantoku] Teruya, who was elected in the 2nd district in which many U.S. military bases are concentrated, stated, “We are facing a situation in which the Abe administration is changing the Peace Constitution, and that it is driving Japan at breakneck speed to once again become a war nation. I want to fight against the Abe administration with you.”

[Denny] Tamaki, who was elected in the 3rd district which includes Henoko, Nago, declared, “For the last two years, I have realized that we can persuade the governments of Japan and the United States, if we follow-through and do what we must. With pride, we are striving to solve the Henoko issue with Govenor Takashi Onaga, Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, Nago citizens and all Okinawan people.”

Hiroshi Ashitomi, co-representative of the Helicopter Base Objection Association, said, “I feel an aura coming from the four representatives. We will support them in their efforts to convey the voices of the people of Okinawa to people across the country.”

Peace Banners Proliferating throughout Henoko and Okinawa. 
(Photos: Okinawa Prefectural Peace Committee) 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Plaintiffs argue historic case to save dugongs & preserve Okinawan cultural heritage - first hearing in San Francisco federal court on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014

Ryukyu Postal’s stamp to commemorate the dugong's designation as a natural monument in 1966 
(courtesy of Save the Dugong Campaign Center)

American, Okinawan and Japanese conservation groups argued their historic case today, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, in U.S. federal court, seeking to halt construction of a U.S. military port and airstrip at a biodiverse coral reef and dugong habitat in northern Okinawa. The planned U.S. training base expansion would destroy Okinawa's best coral reef and pave over some of the last remaining habitat for critically endangered Okinawa dugongs, ancient cultural icons for the Okinawan people and marine mammals related to manatees. The dugong is listed as an object of national cultural significance under Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, the equivalent of the U.S. National Historic Protection Act.

Via The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice:
This is the first hearing in a historic lawsuit brought by American and Japanese conservation groups under a provision of the National Historic Preservation Act that requires the United States to avoid or mitigate any harm to places or things of cultural significance to another country. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has listed dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there may have been as few as 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world; more recent surveys have only been able to conclude that at least three dugongs remain in Okinawa.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is the latest in a long-running controversy over the expansion of a U.S. Marine air base at Okinawa’s Henoko Bay. Preliminary construction [survey drilling] on the base began earlier this year.

Earthjustice, on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation, Save The Dugong Foundation, Anna Shimabukuro, Takuma Higashionna, and Yoshikazu Makishi, is arguing today that the court should review the U.S. Department of Defense’s flawed efforts to examine the harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong, and stop the Department of Defense from allowing construction of the new airstrip until it has made meaningful attempts to avoid or mitigate that harm.

“Our folktales tell us that gods from Niraikanai [afar] come to our islands riding on the backs of dugongs and the dugongs ensure the abundance of food from the sea,” said Takuma Higashionna, an Okinawan scuba-diving guide who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Today, leaving their feeding trails in the construction site, I believe, our dugongs are warning us that this sea will no longer provide us with such abundance if the base is constructed. The U.S. government must realize that the Okinawa dugong is a treasure for Okinawa and for the world.”

“The law requires that the Defense Department cannot allow this military base expansion project to go forward until it has made efforts to understand and minimize its effects on the dugong,” said Earthjustice attorney Sarah Burt. “When another country’s culture, heritage and revered endangered species are at stake, the U.S. must at the very least follow the law.”

“Okinawa dugongs can only live in shallow waters and are at high risk of going extinct. These gentle animals are adored by both locals and tourists. Paving over some of the last places they survive will not only likely be a death sentence for them, it will be a deep cultural loss for the Okinawan people,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Background: In July conservation groups filed a lawsuit, supplemental to a 2003 suit, seeking to require the U.S. Department of Defense to stop construction activities on the new U.S. Marine base airstrip at Henoko Bay until it conducts an in-depth analysis aimed at avoiding or mitigating harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong.

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment lists dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there might be as few as 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world; more recent surveys have only been able to conclude that at least three dugongs remain in Okinawa.

Although the Defense Department acknowledges that this information is “not sufficient,” and despite the precariously low dugong population even under the most conservative estimates, the Defense Department has authorized construction of the new base.
Five years ago, more than 400 environmental conservation, animal protection, peace and justice groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, asked President Obama to cancel the planned landfill and base construction at the Okinawan dugong habitat.

At the time, the US government announced that it would reconsider plan in light of the massive local and worldwide opposition to the project. In 2008, the US federal court
found the US Dept of Defense in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. The court required the DoD to meet with plaintiffs and negotiate on the issue of mitigating harm to dugongs. This did not happen, hence this year's new lawsuit, which was filed July 31, 2014,  in the same court on behalf of the original Dugong Lawsuit plaintiffs.

The waters off Henoko, Okinawa are the last remaining northernmost home of the dugong. In 1955, the dugong was designated as a protected cultural monument by the then autonomous Ryukyu Prefecture, because of its status as a revered and sacred animal among native Okinawans. Since 1972, the species has also been listed by Japan's federal government as a "natural monument" under the country's Cultural Properties Protection Law. It is also protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Journalists, legal experts, & filmmakers condemn State Secrets Law's chilling effect on freedom of expression & freedom of press; Japan's rating drops from 22nd to 59th on World Press Freedom Index

Japanese Army cavalrymen parade in front of the Kabukiza Theater, Ginza, Tokyo,1938

Justin McCurry, "Japan whistleblowers face crackdown under proposed state secrets law: Officials who leak 'special state secrets' and journalists who seek to obtain them could face prison if bill is approved this week," Guardian:
Under a special state secrets bill expected to pass on Friday, public officials and private citizens who leak "special state secrets" face prison terms of up to 10 years, while journalists who seek to obtain the classified information could get up to five years.

Critics of the new law say it marks a return to the days of prewar and wartime Japanese militarism, when the state used the Peace Preservation Act to arrest and imprison political opponents.

"It is a threat to democracy," said Keiichi Kiriyama, an editorial writer for the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, adding that the legislation would "have a chilling effect on public servants, who could become wary about giving the information" to journalists...

Abe, who does not have to fight an election for another three years, is expected to push ahead with his nationalist agenda, including constitutional reforms that would end the military's purely defensive role.

The secrecy bill's hasty passage through the lower house has been marked by noisy public demonstrations and opposition from journalists, lawyers, politicians, academics and scientists, as well as film directors and manga artists concerned about freedom of expression...

"There are few specifics in the law, which means it can be used to hide whatever the government wishes to keep away from public scrutiny," said Mizuho Fukushima, an opposition MP.

"In its current form, the prime minister can decide by himself what constitutes a secret."
Matthew Carney, "Critics fear Japan's democracy is 'regressing' as government introduces laws to keep state secrets," Australian Broadcasting Company:
In 2009 investigative journalist Masakatsu Ota uncovered a top secret deal between Japan and United States that allowed nuclear weapons to be brought into Japan during the Cold War...

"A key person in government confirmed it for the first time and the reports triggered an inquiry," he said...

Under the new secrecy laws exposes like Ota's will be much harder to do...

Experts have described the laws as extreme and part of prime minister Shinzo Abe's wider agenda to revise Japan's constitution...

Law Professor Lawrence Repeta from Tokyo's Meiji University said the government had a lot of power.

"They say the right to freedom of speech should only be respected when it doesn't disturb public order," he said...

The majority are against the laws and at protests across the country over the weekend people called for them to be scrapped...

Another protester said Japan was heading back to its militarist past with these new laws.

"When Japan headed to militarism, people were arrested if they showed opposition, that's the scariest thing. Democracy has not matured yet, but it's been developing and I want to stop this move," the protester said.

Already the government is set to classify half a million documents as state secrets.

Critics have said the real danger of these laws will see the government ultimately deciding what is secret and the definitions can be vague.
"Protest statements issued as state secrets law takes effect," via Asahi:
Organizations representing journalists, legal experts and the entertainment industry issued statements calling for the abolishment of the state secrets protection law that they say will trample on the people’s right to know...

The Japan Congress of Journalists’ statement issued on Dec. 9 said the law would “cover the people’s eyes, ears and mouth and usurp their freedom of the press and speech.”

The statement listed a number of problems with the law: the range of documents classified as state secrets could expand without limit; the government can continually extend the period a document is classified as a state secret; and journalists and human rights activists could be punished under the law.

The Japan Civil Liberties Union, consisting of lawyers and legal scholars, issued a statement on Dec. 8 protesting the law because “it inappropriately restricts citizens’ right to know.”

...A group of individuals connected with the movie industry, including directors Yoji Yamada and Isao Takahata, also issued a statement Dec. 9 calling for the law’s annulment...

The statement also touched upon the history of the movie industry before and during World War II when the government forced the production of movies that supported Japan’s war effort.

The statement was made “from a strong feeling of creating a society that never again goes to war and to never again be complicit in the production of movies that stir up war sentiment.”
Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan Freedom of the Press Committee Japan Investigative Journalism Awards and Special Freedom Of Press Prizes Press Release, December 10, 2014:
Reporters Without Borders has called it, “an unprecedented threat to freedom of information.” The organization’s World Press Freedom Index for 2014 has just dropped Japan to number 59 on its list, below countries like Serbia and Chile. This marks a precipitous fall; Japan was ranked as high as 22 in 2012. Clearly, even international observers are becoming increasingly concerned about the direction of media freedom here.

The law provides for prison terms of up to ten years, not only for government insiders who leak information regarded as “secret,” but also for those, including journalists, who encourage them to do so. In other words, according to experts, even asking persistently about a “secret” could be a crime punishable with up to five years in jail.

The secrecy law, unprecedented in Japan’s postwar history, was forced through the Diet over the objections of critics who pointed out its many deficiencies. While the law was still under consideration, the FCCJ released a statement expressing our concerns...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hawai'i-based Ukwanshin Kabudan perform at Governor Takeshi Onaga's All-Okinawa Victory Celebration

Via Save Henoko, an informal group of Okinawans and Overseas Okinawans who view the preservation of the dugong and coral habitat at Sea of Henoko as integral to the preservation of historic, traditional culture and the protection of human rights and dignity in Okinawa:
Members of Ukwanshin Kabudan (traditional performing artists) from Hawaiʻi were asked to play kachaashii at Onaga's headquarters to celebrate the victory right after the results were announced. But before kachaashii, they took it upon themselves to sing Kagiyadefu, to celebrate the auspicious day in true Uchinaa tradition.

Thanks to Brandon, we were able to share in this historical celebration of Onaga's landslide victory over Nakaima in the Okinawa governor's election which solidly showed the Okinawan people's stance against the new base in Henoko...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki: "Demilitarization of Okinawa is necessary for peace in East Asia"

(Image: Ryukyu Shimpo)

Toshinobu Nakazato, a former Speaker in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, has initiated a postcard campaign to support the All-Okinawa Movement to halt the plan to landfill and build an offshore and military port over the coral and dugong habitat at Henoko, Okinawa.  

89 mainland Japanese celebrities have replied, including anime director Hayao Miyazaki, who wrote, "Demilitarization of Okinawa will be necessary for peace in East Asia."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Takeshi Onaga wins governor's race on platform to save Henoko

Governor and First Lady of Okinawa. (Via SNA)

Today Okinawans elected former Naha City Mayor Takeshi Onaga for governor in a landslide  election; and Naha residents of Naha elected  former Vice-Mayor Mikiko Shiroma, to replace Onaga. Both ran on platforms promising to save Henoko's dugong and coral ecosystem from the US-Japan plan to landfill it and  military port and offshore runway construction.

Michael Penn, (Shingetsu News Agency (SNA)):
The numbers coming in show landslide victories for both Onaga and Shiroma.  Onaga beat Nakaima by about 3:2 margin. Exit polls find only 25.5% of Okinawan voters find Henoko base construction to be acceptable.
Eric Johnston, JT:
Onaga also promised to deliver a strong message to Tokyo and Washington that the Henoko plan was unacceptable and that those who thought Okinawa could be bribed by being offered central government funds for development projects were wrong.
Filmmaker Chie Mikami:
The moment the Henoko villagers launched a Committee to Protect Life, they raised their voices in opposition [to the new base/military port plan] -- for 17 years,  I stood by and witnessed.

I did not see this day coming. This proved an All-Okinawa Movement could support a win for an All-Okinawa Governor...
Ryukyu Shimpo (one of Okinawa's 2 major daily newspapers):
 Onaga served as a co-representative of the executive committee that held an Okinawan people’s rally in 2012, which called for the closure of the Futenma base and the cancellation of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft deployment to Okinawa. He has insisted that Okinawan people should unite in an ‘All-Okinawa’ approach that goes beyond the framework of the conservative-versus-progressive party, in order to resolve the base issue. The ex-Naha Mayor has promised to follow-through on a petition to Prime Minister Abe requesting the easing of the base-hosting burden. This petition bears the signatures from the mayors of all 41 municipalities in Okinawa and the chairmen of the various assemblies.

Onaga is backed by the Social-Democratic Party, the Communist Party, the Okinawa Social Mass Party and the People’s Life Party. The Naha City Council’s conservative group members, who were expelled from the LDP after opposing the relocation plan, also supported the ex-Naha Mayor. They criticized Governor Nakaima’s approval of landfill required for the new base in Henoko.

In August, the government started a drilling survey for reclamation work in Henoko. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said Tokyo will go ahead with construction based on the incumbent governor’s approval. Despite Onaga’s victory, it appears the government still intends to carry out the relocation work. Onaga will consider revocation or withdrawal of Nakaima’s landfill approval. The result of the election will have a serious impact on the relocation plan.
Peter Ennis, Dispatch Japan, "Okinawa election puts Tokyo and Washington in a bind":
The victory on Sunday of Takeshi Onaga in the race for governor of Okinawa came as no surprise...

But the size of Onaga’s victory – roughly 100,000 votes ahead of Nakaima, with two-thirds of voters joining Onaga in opposition to construction of a new US Marine base in the prefecture – was stunning, putting both Tokyo and Washington in a serious bind...

... it won’t be easy for Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to maintain his stance that the Futenma-Henoko controversy “is a thing of the past.”

Onaga’s electoral success poses a big dilemma for the LDP, heading into Lower House elections that PM Abe is expected to call for December 14. Sentiment against the ruling party’s stance on the Futenma Replacement Facility controversy has already affected other elections. Henoko is a district of Nago City, whose mayor, Susumu Inamine, is a fierce opponent of the new Marine facility. He is backed by a majority of the city assembly. Meanwhile, also on Sunday, the city of Naha voted for a new mayor to replace Onaga, and elected an opponent of the new base.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Analysis of the Okinawa Movement: SNA's Interview with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine

Michael Penn's interview with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, at Nago City Hall, two days before the election for a new Okinawa governor:

INAMINE: The election is about the ideas of the citizens of Okinawa, whether they can be heard in Tokyo and Washington. Or if the ideas are only about bases for those two governments will be quietly accepted by the next governor.

SNA: Why are both conservatives and progressives supporting Onaga?

INAMINE: First, a governor is a politician who must honor promises. Clearly, Governor Nakaima did not do what he promised to do.

Second, in Okinawa, both conservatives and progressives agree that the damage from military bases must come to an end now. The hearts of conservatives and progressives are united, and in this election, they have come together with one voice.

SNA: How did Governor Nakaima lose so much support after eight years in office?

INAMINE: First, as I said, he violated his campaign promise. Also, he views development as separate from military bases, that economic progress is related to accepting military bases. That is different from Okinawa's stance in the past.

SNA: Is there a connection between this election and fundamental issue of democracy?

INAMINE: More than 80% of Okinawans oppose building a Henoko base.  In a democracy, you can't just ignore the voices of the people. If you do ignore them, it's a big problem. It's something that cannot be allowed in a democratic society.

SNA: What about the connection between US bases and economic development in Okinawa?

INAMINE: Conservatives and progressives divided in the last elections. But this time, some business leaders backed Mr. Onaga.

Tourism is a leading sector in Okinawa's economy. Military bases account for less than 5% of Okinawa's economy. The idea that Okinawa needs bases to survive economically is just a myth spread widely throughout mainland Japan.  Tourism is the industry that can put Okinawa on its own feet.

SNA: Do you have any concern that Mr. Onaga might change his policies after the election?

INAMINE: I think Mr. Onaga is very different from Mr. Nakaima. Mr. Onaga has put his political life on the line in this election, and the main issue is the Henoko base issue. So if you ask if Mr. Onaga will tone down his opposition, you have to realize he has put everything on the line.

I have faith Mr. Onaga will not betray our expectations.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kya Kim & Peace Mask Project: The art of symbolism in peace building

Journalist, peace activist and Peace Mask Project team member Kya Kim reminds us of the powerful role of symbolism in creating change towards lasting peace. Kyoto-based Kya Kim and her team strive to spark this lasting peace across Japan, China and Korea:
A divided world creates more insecurity and fear. And fear, too often results in violence. Trust is the courageous act of being the first to break through that fear and reach out to "the other." Peace Mask Project is itself an act of trust, from the idealism that inspires the effort to the individual act of being a Peace Mask Model to the support and participation of hundreds of individuals in a collective effort to advance into a sane and healthy future.

Today tensions are rising in East Asia and many regions around the world. Fear and insecurity are also on the rise. This tension we are seeing does not guarantee violence, but, instead, could be seen as a great opportunity.

Conflict is natural and always present. It is neither negative nor positive in itself. Violence and repression are only one possible response to a conflict and one our societies turn to far too often.

There are many reasons for this: the profitability of militarization for a handful of corporations and individuals; the control and manipulation of a population through fear. But mostly I think it's due to a lack of creativity and cooperation. We are stuck in old habits and old ways of />
Today young people have an unprecedented understanding of the greater world. We are becoming increasingly aware of how we are interconnected and interdependent. We find beauty in other cultures. And by reflecting on our own, we are open to growth and to change. This is the reality of our future, and one that needs to be reflected in our societies. Conflict is no longer synonymous with war. It is, rather, an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for peace...

We hope that Peace Mask Project will provide a platform for their shared vision of peace, to build trust by building lasting relationships, and to help them become leaders of a better world...

We do not need for the conflicts of our time to erupt in violence or be resolved through aggression. Everyone of us has a role to play in determining the outcome of our shared conflicts.

How will we participate?

What opportunities will we present through our actions?

Which future will we choose?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Targeted Village, The Vacumn Zone, One Shot, One Kill showing at peace film line-up at Keio University

Peace Cinema - Keio University, Mita Campus, Tokyo - this fall. 

Oct 29 - Chie Mikami's Targeted Village -- follows the history of forced V-22 Osprey testing & training in Okinawa. 

Nov. 25 - Shinkû chitai (The Vacumn Zone) - Satsuo Yamamoto's 1952 film based on Hiroshi Noma's celebrated postwar novel. Called "the strongest anti-military film ever made in exposé of the brutality and corruption of the Japanese army shown in its most revolting form" (Anderson and Richie, The Japanese Film). The story shows the life of a soldier who is reintegrated into the Imperial army after serving a prison term for theft. Surrounded by corrupt officers and comrades, he finds the military, with its systematic dehumanization, an even lonelier "no man's land" than prison. 

The film—like Twenty-Four Eyes, Keisuke Kinoshita's 1954 film based on Sakae Tsubo's 1952 novel of the same name—was one of many Japanese antiwar films made during the postwar period.  (Most of Japan's antiwar films are unavailable with English subtitles. Twenty-Four Eyes—which follows the story of a school teacher and her students during the period of heightened militarization from the 1930's through the Pacific War, and its aftermath—is an exception; released by Criterion.)

Dec. 17 - One Shot, One Kill - A documentary by Yukihisa Fujimoto that explores how the military breaks down the civilian values of young people, turning them into soldiers who will follow orders and kill.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A win for the Japanese People who Conserve Article 9, for the Nobel Peace Prize, would “reorientate the prize to the core of Nobel’s original will.”

Congratulations to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for being awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.

Although not selected as the winner, the people who support the Japanese Constitution's Peace Clause, Article 9, were a noted contender in this year's Nobel Peace Prize. 

Via WaPo:
“Japanese people who conserve Article 9” 

...Article 9 refers to a clause in the Japanese constitution, drawn up following World War II, that states that Japan will “forever renounce war” and the “threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” The Japanese government’s “reinterpretation” of this pacifist clause earlier this year sparked a public backlash, with campaigners arguing that the clause is one of the reasons Japan has not waged war in nearly 70 years.

Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of PRIO [Peace Research Institute Oslo, an independent research institute] and a respected Nobel Prize commentator, recently chose this group as his top pick. He is the first to admit he doesn’t have a solid track record in predicting the winner, but he believes this could be the year for this off-beat choice. It would, he said, be a nod to nonaggression and would “reorientate the prize to the core of Nobel’s original will.”

On the other hand, the last two winners have been organizations -- in 2013, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and in 2012, the European Union -- and the committee may prefer an individual this year.
Background on Article 9 via Global Article 9 Campaign and Peace Boat, which received a nomination in 2009, on behalf of the Japanese people who support Article 9:
Adopted following World War II and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Article 9 is a pledge to Japan itself and to the world, particularly to neighboring countries that suffered under Japanese invasions and colonial rule, to never repeat its mistakes. Since then, Article 9 – and the Japanese people's commitment to its pacific principles – has played an important role in keeping peace in Japan and in the region, preventing Japan from participating in war and forcing the government to maintain peace policies.

Peace Boat launched the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War in 2005, together with the Japan Lawyers' International Solidarity Association (JALISA) and sponsored by a coalition of civil society organizations in Japan. The Campaign has since received support from dozens of groups and thousands of individuals worldwide, including Nobel Laureates and key international figures. Over 33,000 people gathered at the Global Article 9 Conference it organised in Japan May, 2008...

On the significance of Article 9, Peace Boat Director and Co-Founder of the Campaign, Yoshioka Tatsuya says, “We believe Article 9 is a universal asset. Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is clear that no solution can be achieved by military options. Today, we are facing climate change, poverty, pandemics. Given the limited world resources, the vast amount of money spent on military expenditures should be shifted towards building a sustainable future.”
JT's follow-up story reflects Japanese campaigners did not expect a win this year. Instead, they view the nomination process as an ongoing opportunity to highlight the history and merits of the Japanese Peace Constitution in Japan and abroad:
“To be honest, we did not necessarily think that our efforts would reach the goal in just one year,” said Yoshiaki Ishigaki, one of the leaders of a group calling itself the Organizing Committee for the Nobel Peace Prize for Article 9 of the Constitution. The group initiated contact with the Nobel Committee and honed its bid before the nomination was accepted....

He said that many Japanese are unaware of the role that Article 9, which bans Japan from using force to settle international disputes, has played in protecting them, and that future peace may be at risk under a government that wants to amend the Constitution to get around it.

The committee has collected more than 410,000 signatures over the course of its campaigning, but says it aims to collect 1 million for its renewed Nobel attempt next year.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Save Our SEA" Henoko photography exhibition now showing at National Diet Building, Tokyo; will open in Naha on Oct. 9

The "Save Our SEA" Henoko photography exhibition opens on Oct. 9 at the Ryukyu Shimpo Gallery in Naha.

The stunning show closed at a Ginza gallery on Oct. 2, and is now at the National Diet Building, Upper House Hall in Tokyo.

[Date] 10/6 (Mon) and from 7 (Tue) 10:00 until 7:00 PM [location] House of Councilors Hall Basement 1 room B103 (6 days) B101 Conference (7 days).

For admission to the Upper House, please contact by telephone, in advance, the following Office: Anyone can visit the exhibition. 6550-0907 or Fukushima Mizuho offices 6550-1111. sponsored by: representative of Henoko Sea Photo Exhibition Executive Committee K. Shindo 090 - 4813 - 5043. (Via photographer Ken Shindo)




【日時 】
参議院議員会館地下1階 B103会議室(6日)

田城かおる事務所 6550-0907
福島みずほ事務所 6550-1111

主催:辺野古の海写真展実行委員会代表 新藤健一 090-4813-5043

Monday, September 22, 2014

MP Keiko Itokazu representing Okinawa at the Indigenous World Conference starting today at the UN headquarters in New York

(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Upper House Member of the Japanese Diet, Ms. Keiko Itokazu, is representing Okinawa at the Indigenous World Conference starting today at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Indigenous peoples around the world have gathered. Mr. Shisei Toma, of the Association of Indigenous Peoples in the Ryukyus, is also in attendance.

Groups and individuals for peace, including Okinawan Americans and Japanese Americans who live in the NYC area, are supporting the Okinawan delegation's appeal to the U.N. community regarding human rights violations under ongoing forced US military expansion in Henoko and Takae.

The traditional local cultures and histories of Okinawa are deeply intertwined with the islands' distinctive ecosystems. Indigenous sacred places called utaki are situated in forest groves. Many have been destroyed or are now within US military bases built on land forcibly acquired in the aftermath of the Pacific War and during the 1950's "Bayonets and Bulldozers" period of military seizures of private property for base expansion. The Sea of Henoko is also considered sacred because it is the habitat of the Okinawa dugong, a sacred cultural icon, and because of the magnificence and abundant biodiversity of sea's coral reef.

Coral reefs have been an traditional part of Okinawan (and other Pacific Island) cultures for many centuries. However, most of the coral reefs on Okinawa Island are now dead, because of landfill, pollution, and coastal construction. Marine biologists say the coral reef at Henoko and Oura Bay is the best and most biodiverse coral reef in all of Okinawa prefecture. Okinawans are seeking to establish a marine protected area in Henoko to preserve the dugong and coral reef habitat and interconnected rivers, mangrove forests in this beautiful eco-region.


On Tuesday, September 22, Ms. Itokazu spoke on the "fulfillment of the rights of indigenous peoples at the national level and regional level" at the conference. She described forced new military base construction, adding that, in spite of the strong opposition of Uchinanchu (the indigenous people of Okinawa), the state is continuing to force the military base construction. Ms. Itokazu's conclusion: Uchinanchu are being deprived of the right of self-determination, contrary to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Int. Day of Peace 2014 - Think PEACE, Act Peace, Spread PEACE - Imagine PEACE

Via Yoko Ono on the Int. Day of Peace 2014,
Surrender to PEACE:
love, yoko
#SurrenderToPeace #PeaceOneDay

Saturday, September 20, 2014

9.20.14 "All-Okinawa" Henoko Rally with Nago Mayor Susumi Inamine, Senator Keiko Itokazu, Gubernatorial Candidate Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, & 5,500 Okinawans Representing Seven Generations...

Nago Mayor Inamine, wearing his dugong, sea turtle and coral reef fish cloak,
 addresses 5,500 participants at the rally at Henoko on 9/20/14. 
(Photo: New Wave to HOPE)

Upper House Member of the National Japanese Diet, Ms. Keiko Itokazu 
addresses 9.20.14 rally at Henoko. (Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Okinawan elected political leaders raise "fists of anger" 
to demonstrate unity and determination at the 9.20.14 rally at Henoko. 
(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Some of the 5,500 rally participants.  
(Photo: New Wave to HOPE)

Okinawans protecting their sea. 
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Henoko preservationism is a multi-generational family activity. 
The grandchildren of these children will represent the Seventh Generation 
of Okinawa's democracy and peace movement which began at the end of WWII. 
The Seventh Generation is a Native American ecological concept that urges the current generation to live sustainably, for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future.
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Henoko elders greeted by gubernatorial candidate, Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga. 
The elders, youth during WWII, represent the second generation 
of the Okinawan Movement. 
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Not forgotten: Takae Village in Yanbaru, Okinawa's subtropical rainforest. 
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Wonderful photo of Ms. Etsuko Jahana, director of the House of Nuchi du Takara 
(Life is Precious) at Iejima. The small island, just west of Okinawa Island, 
is the birthplace of Okinawa's democracy & peace movement.  
Jon Mitchell's description of House of Nuchi du Takara:
 "Upon entering, visitors are confronted with a small set of bloodstained clothes 
and the description that they belonged to an Okinawan child 
stabbed by Japanese troops to keep it quiet when U.S. soldiers were in the vicinity. 
Other displays record the postwar “bayonets and bulldozers” period when, in the 1950s, 
the Pentagon violently seized farmers’ land to turn the island into a bombing range.
 Exhibits include photographs of islanders’ homes razed by U.S. troops 
and several dummy nuclear bombs dropped on the island during Cold War training drills."
(Photo by Kizou Takagaki, via Save the Dugong Campaign Center)

The Okinawan Movement draws inspiration from the African American Civil Rights Movement, including its anthem, "We Shall Overcome." 

Henoko's signature Rainbow Peace Flag. 
The rainbow flag has been adopted internationally as a symbol of the peace movement
 and was first used in a peace march in Italy in 1961.
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New Development: Dugong Lawsuit • Brown Bag talk • DC office of Center for Biological Diversity • September 9, 2014

Via  JELF (Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation):  Everyone welcome at a Brown Bag update on the Dugong Lawsuit at the DC office of the Center for Biological Diversity with Peter Galvin, co-founder and director of programs. Date and time: September 9, 11:30 a.m.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

United Nations asks the Japanese government to respect Okinawan people’s opposition against US military airbase at Henoko

Upper House Member of the Japanese Diet Keiko Itokazu and Naha City Councilman Caesar Uehara
 testify before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
(Photo via Keiko Itokazu on FB)

Via Ryukyu Shimpo:
On August 20 and 21, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) investigated on racial discrimination in Japan. They also discussed policies on the U.S. military bases in Okinawa...One of the committee members stressed that the rights of Okinawan people to access traditional land and resources should be recognized and guaranteed. Another claimed that residents should be included in the decision-making process for policies that might affect their rights. They agreed that there should be local participation at the early stages of decision-making, especially regarding the U.S. military base issues...

To the Japanese government which does not recognize Okinawan people as “Indigenous People,” one of the committee members pointed out that it is important to consider how people in the Ryukyus identify and define themselves. Another pointed out UNESCO recognizes that Ryukyu/Okinawa has unique language, culture, and tradition and urges the Japanese government to recognize and protect such uniqueness...

One of the committee members claimed the Ryukyu Kingdom’s long relationship with Ming and Qing Chinese dynasties, the history of annexation of the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1879 and assimilation policies promoted by the Japanese government all verify the indigeneity of Okinawans. He said it was wrong that Japan does not recognize this. Another said the Japanese government should respect Okinawan people’s will and guarantee their rights in light of this history.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

8.27.14: NHK filmed a dugong & turtle swimming together at the Sea of Henoko

On August 27, NHK TV filmed a dugong and turtle swimming near each other, off Okinawa's Henoko coast. Via @Yuric117 on Twitter

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Environmentalists, Article 9 supporters, and musicians lead Tokyo 8.23.14 Solidarity Rally for Okinawa

Photo: Twitter@soulflowerunion

Especially supported by Japan's environmentalist and musician communities, Tokyo demonstrated solidarity with Okinawa at the 8.23.14 rally in front of the prime minister's residence protesting landfill and construction at the dugong and coral habitat at the Sea of Henoko.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

8.23.14: "We reject any future for Okinawa that would continue to be dominated by the bases. It is our duty to pass on to our children an Okinawan future full of hope & we have every right to build freely...a truly Okinawan caring society."

(Photo: Livedoor News)

On August 22, the day before the 8.23 All-Okinawa rally in Henoko, an Okinawa dugong was sighted  by a helicopter television crew.  Locals say dugongs, considered messengers from the sea in Okinawan traditional culture, have often appeared at times of crisis during the eighteen-year struggle to save the Sea of Henoko. These visits are interpreted as a warning to the foreigners who would destroy its habitat and support to locals working to save its habitat, thus the survival of the dugong.

In Okinawa's past, huge herds of dugong swam off the Henoko coast. However environmental destruction from coastal development has destroyed much of the marine mammal's habitat, especially since 1972, when Okinawa reverted to Japanese control, and came under the Japanese government's "construction state"political economy. (Land reclamation (landfill) is a huge business in Japan: 90% of the archipelago's ecological delicate tidal wetlands have been landfilled. Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota calls these construction companies the "gravel industry" citing their clout in Okinawa.)

The Okinawa dugong is now critically endangered, with less than 50 remaining. Its largest and best feeding grounds is at the Sea of Henoko, where the Japanese government is forcing landfill in pristine waters that are also Okinawa prefecture's best and most biodiverse coral reef. At the end of July, the US environmental law firm, Earthjustice, filed a new lawsuit in the same US federal court in San Francisco that ruled in favor of the dugong in 2008, requiring  the US government to abide by laws protecting the dugong, a sacred Okinawan icon and "natural monument."

(Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

The 8.23 rally was organized by the All-Okinawa Conference which formed at Naha, the prefecture's capital, in July. Representatives included numerous elected political officials, including mayors from all of Okinawa's municipalities and representatives from environmental, women's, peace, and human rights NGOs. Their conference statement described their collective vision for Okinawa:
We reject any future for Okinawa that would continue to be dominated by the bases. It is our duty to pass on to our children an Okinawan future full of hope and we have every right to build freely and with our own hands a truly Okinawan caring society. We call upon all the people of Okinawa to unite again on an “all Okinawa” basis to demand implementation of the 2013 Okinawan Kempakusho and cessation of the works being imposed by force upon Henoko.
(Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

Jon Mitchell's August 23 article at The Japan Times, "Thousands march on Henoko base site," describes the rally, which was attended by 3,600 Okinawans from throughout the prefecture, who arrived by busload after busload:
More than 3,500 demonstrators marched to U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on Saturday in the largest show of anger to date against the new American base being built off Henoko Bay to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in crowded Ginowan further southwest.

Lining the road four deep for 700 meters and crowding the hillsides, the protesters chanted “Stop construction” and “Save the Bay” after assembling in the morning. Some came from as far as Hokkaido, many with their children in tow.

Okinawan legislators and peace campaign leaders gave impassioned speeches against what they called Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s re-militarization of Japan and railed at the perceived discrimination of Okinawans.

The largest welcome was given to anti-base Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, who was re-elected in January on a strong anti-military platform. Wearing a cape decorated with multicolored dugong, the endangered mammal threatened by the project, he greeted the crowd in Okinawan.

Inamine likened the situation on Okinawa to World War II, when more than a quarter of the civilian population died, saying that this time, the island was not under attack by the U.S. military, but by the Japanese government.

Mayor Susumu Inamine, MP Keiko Itokazu and other political leaders address rally.
(Photo: Upper House Member of the Japanese Diet Keiko Itokazu)

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine wearing a dugong cloak. (Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

Faith-based supporters. (Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

More faith-based supporters. (Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

(Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

MP Keiko Itokazu testifies about human rights violations in Okinawa at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Japan review in Geneva

(Photo via Keiko Itokazu on FB)

Via Upper House Member of the Japanese Diet Keiko Itokazu with Naha City Councilman Caesar Uehara at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Japan review yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland. The two Okinawan political leaders reported on Japanese government discrimination against the Ryukyuan people on August 19. They cited the Japanese government's use of riot police, security contractors, and military (Coast Guard) to force construction of US military bases at Henoko and Takae, against the democratically expressed will of the people.

The lawmakers asked for the UN body to support the immediate withdrawal of the Henoko new base plan; the withdrawal of planning and immediate cessation of Takae helipad construction; and he immediate closure and removal of the Futenma base.

UNESCO has recognized a number of Ryukyu languages (2009) and the unique ethnicity, history, culture and traditions of Okinawa, which was an independent country for 500 years before the Meiji Japanese military seizure in 1879. Human rights violations suffered by the people of Okinawa during US military rule (1945-1972) and the Japanese government (1972-present) are well-known. CERD has expressed strong concerns about structural discimination of Okinawans on the basis of ethnicity. However, the Japanese government has disregarded the indigeneity of the Ryukyuan people, despite overwhelming evidence, resulting in a continuing violation of their human rights.

Because of concerns, in the past, CERD has urged the Japanese government to engage in wide consultations with Okinawan representatives with a view to monitoring discrimination suffered by Okinawans, to promote their rights and establish appropriate protection measures and policies. However, the Okinawan people require more protection from the Japanese government's ongoing escalation of human rights violations in Okinawa.

Ms. Keiko Itokazu reported strong resentment and questions about the Japanese government's refusal to recognize Okinawans as a separate people; use of military violence to enforce human rights violations in Henoko and Takae, and promised follow-up actions.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Japan's 47 News: Okinawa dugong spotted today 2 miles from Henoko Beach; on the same day that destruction of dugong habitat started...

Dugong seen swimming off Henoko coast today. (Image: 47 News via Kyodo)

Today a Japanese media outlet, 47 News, reported that a Kyodo helicopter team filmed a Okinawa dugong swimming 2 miles from Henoko Beach on June 17,  as the Japanese government started the destruction of its habitat. The dugong was seen floating for about 10 minutes before it submerged into the sea. The sea mammal is at an extremely high risk of extinction.

Mariko Abe, chief of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan protection department, who is familiar with the ecosystem of Henoko said, "This is undoubtedly a dugong," after viewing the image.


Background: The Nature Conservation Society of Japan reported in July that it had found more than 110 locations around the site of the proposed construction where dugongs had fed on seagrass this year. The Sea of Henoko has the largest and best feeding grounds for the critically endangered sea mammal. There are seagrass beds at the sea adjacent to Henoko, to the north, at the Sea of Kayo, but the beds are small and would not be able to sustain even the tiny population of remaining dugong.

Since 1955, the dugong has been protected as a cultural monument by the autonomous Ryukyu Prefecture, due largely to its status as a revered and sacred animal among native Okinawans. Since 1972, the species has also been listed by Japan's federal government as a "natural monument" under the country's Cultural Properties Protection Law. It is also protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

In 2004, the US environmental law firm, Earthjustice, on behalf of Okinawan, Japanese, U.S. environment protection groups and Okinawan residents filed a federal lawsuit, the "Okinawa Dugong versus Rumsfeld," in San Francisco, asking for protection for the dugong. The case is still open; after a 2008 ruling that the defendants must negotiate with the plaintiffs regarding environmental issues and protection of dugong habitat. The plaintiffs are still waiting for this discussion.

Therefore on July 31, 2014, Earthjustice filed a new lawsuit in the same court, asking the US government to halt construction plans.

Dugongs have been seen more frequently in the Sea of Henoko and appear at critical times in the struggle over the new base, which is opposed by almost all residents of Henoko, and 75% of Okinawans.

An Okinawan-Hawaiian American explains the significance to Okinawans and Overseas Okinawans, "The Okinawan manatee seem to always appear during times of being threatened as if they are trying to to show that they want their home to be protected and to lay claim. For Okinawans, it is like our ancestors are also saying to protect the land and ocean."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Okinawa Times: Video of coral, anemone, clown fish, sea urchins at the Sea of Henoko - the most biodiverse & best coral reef in Okinawa...

Okinawa Times video of coral, anemone, clown fish, sea urchins, & more marine life at the Sea of Henoko - the most biodiverse and best coral reef in Okinawa and one of the few coral reefs still alive at Okinawa Island. Most of Okinawa Island's coral reefs are dead from landfill, pollution, and/or disease.

The Sea of Henoko is also the principal and best feeding grounds for the critically endangered Okinawa dugong, a cultural icon.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Struggle for the Soul of Okinawa: "I saw so many military boats in the sea around 7 a.m. It reminds me of 1945."

Henoko on August 14, 2014. (Photo: Chie Mikami on FB)

Film director Chie Mikami on August 14, 2014, on location at Henoko : "I saw so many military boats in the sea around 7a.m. It reminds me of the history of Okinawa, year: 1945."

Today the Japanese government sent a military flotilla to Henoko, Okinawa, to put up buoys and patrol an "exclusion zone" in their plan to force drilling, dredging, landfill, and construction of a US military base at the the Sea of Henoko.  Observers said there were so many vessels, they were uncountable.

Japanese military flotilla surrounds the Sea of Henoko - August 2014. (Image: Ryukyu Shimpo)

US amphibious assault on Okinawa in 1945. 

Local residents have been protested and staved off repeated attempts military base construction at the dugong habitat and coral reef—the most biodiverse and best in Okinawa—since 1962. The current struggle has been ongoing for 18 years.

They are led by the Henoko elders, child survivors of the Battle of Okinawa, the Pacific War's worst battle, and the only battle fought on Japanese territory.  In 1997, they created the “Inochi o Mamoru Kai” (Society for the Protection of Life) to oppose the destruction of the Henoko Sea, which fed them during the Battle of Okinawa, when there were no other food sources. The dugong and the sea both reflect and symbolize the Okinawan core value of Nuchi du Takara: the sanctity of life and the right to life for nature that nurtures life, and human right to live in peace.

85-year-old Fumiko Shimabukuro speaks at a June 28 rally at the Henoko Tent City sit-in. 
During the Battle of Okinawa, she suffered burns from American flamethrowers 
while hiding in a small cave with members of her family and three other families. 
Mrs. Shibakukuro joined the Tent City sit-in on the beach in 1996, when the plan was first announced.
 Mrs. Shimabukuro told the media in Dec. 2013, “This (approval) is not the end. As long as I am alive, 
I will continue to fight the government’s plans." (Photo: New Wave to HOPE)]

The islands have only been a part of Japan only since the late 1800s, when the Meiji government seized the Ryukyu Kingdom and renamed it Okinawa Prefecture. At the end of the Pacific War, knowing defeat was inevitable, the Japanese militarist government used Okinawa as a sacrificial pawn in a battle of attrition against the U.S. The fighting destroyed all the material culture on Okinawa Island and killed around 140,000 Okinawans, one third of the Okinawan population. After the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty were signed in 1951, Okinawa Prefecture was under U.S. military rule until 1972.  While Okinawa constitutes only 0.6 percent of Japan's land area, more than 70 percent of U.S. military bases in Japan were built there. Even after reversion to Japanese rule, the military bases remained.

Okinawans are comparing the forced expansion at Henoko not only to 1945, but also to the traumatic "Bayonets and Bulldozers" period of the 1950's, when the US military used coercion and violence to seize entire villages, the best farmland, the best coastland, utaki (sacred sites), and ancestral tombs throughout Okinawa prefecture to make way for  base expansion. Both Futenma in the middle of Ginowan City and Camp Schwab next to Henoko were built on forcibly acquired Okinawan private property.

This was also the period that the all-Okinawan nonviolent movement began. 250,000 rallied on June 30,1956 in Naha and Koza (Okinawa City). The Japanese and international media covered the struggle, generating global attention. The then president of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the US Army asking it to halt land seizures and related human rights violations. Most of this history has been buried outside of Okinawa. However the Battle of Okinawa and "Bayonets and Bulldozers" remain a living part of the present for Okinawans who see the ongoing struggles as not new "anti-base" protests, but, instead, part of the latest chapter in a seventy-year struggle for property rights, human rights, environmental protection, democracy and peace in the islands of Okinawa.

Okinawan women protest US military seizure of their homes and land in Isahama (Ginowan) in July 1955.
Between 1954 and 1955, the US military forced owners from their property Isahama, 
to make way for the construction of Camp Zukeran, a training base and launchpad for the US war in Vietnam. 
(Photo: Okinawa Prefectural Government)).

In 1957, the US Army constructed Camp Schwab on land acquired by coercion that the Japanese government "leases" for the US  from local owners. The 5,000-acre base is used for live-fire and amphibious assault training, and the 300-acre Henoko ordnance depot, stores ammunition for most of the U.S. Pacific command.

In 1962, the US government began bombing the coral reef to build a military port. This blasts killed large numbers of fish and marine life.  Local resistance halted the destruction then (and again in 2004, the last time the Japanese government attempted a forced construction).

During the US military build-up in Okinawa during the Vietnam War, outsider organized crime gangs came to Henoko to open more bars and brothels. Members of the military trafficked drugs from Southeast Asia and sold military property in the black market. There were two discrete worlds in Henoko: the traditional fishing and farming village and a foreign wartime military subculture, serviced by a seedy, parasitic organized criminal subculture. Locals don't want to see the latter resurrected again, which would happen if the base construction continues.

Okinawan author Tatsuhiro Oshiro has written about Okinawa as a "sacrifice zone" where state power imposes sacrifice upon the weak.  In 2011, Oshiro published Futenma yo (To Futenma), a book of short stories that explores the human consequences of governmental abuses of power. In the first story, Oshiro addresses the history of Futenma through a family whose home and land was taken to expand the training base. The story ends with the heroine continuing to perform a traditional Ryukyu dance although the musical accompaniment is drowned out by the noise from U.S. aircraft training. Her determination symbolizes local Okinawan culture that refuses to be defeated by the heavy oppression of military bases. Oshiro explains. "My intention was to write about the identity of the Okinawan people who want to weave our history together and regain the land that's steeped with memories."

Oshiro's story also reflects the roots of the fierce struggle over Henoko, which may be viewed as an ongoing chapter of a continuation of the post-1945 struggle of Okinawans, a traditionally pacifist people, for recovery of local determination of their land and society.  Postwar U.S. military rule followed the Imperial Japanese pattern of using force to impose a militarist culture upon the islands.

Okinawans are fighting for their soul at Henoko, a place steeped in what little of traditional Okinawan culture survived: the living sea and the living Okinawa dugong, a cherished, sacred icon. After the Pacific War's destruction of almost all material culture, all that was left was the natural environment and intangible culture. The dugong and the sea, symbols Nuchi du Takara, the sanctity of life and the right to life for nature that nurtures life, and human right to live in peace are cultural forms of the Okinawan message to the world for 70 years, their dedicated witness for Nuchi du Takara was borne out of the wartime devastation they suffered because of a Japanese war with the United States.

Like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Okinawa has become a focus for the study of peace because of the Battle of Okinawa, and  because Okinawans continue to appeal for relief from U.S. military bases and US military expansion in their prefecture. Former Governor (1990-1998) Masahide Ota, a child survivor of the battle, created  Okinawa International Peace Research Institute to study war and peace,  to introduce traditional Okinawa peace culture to the world, to lead Okinawa's transformation to an "island of peace," and build a global peace network, and to promote positive peace, peace education, and a peace economy.

Upper House Member of Parliament, Ms. Keiko Itokazu, 
protesting the Japanese government's installation of buoys to create an exclusion zone 
for drilling into and landfilling over live coral and dugong habitat at the Sea of Henoko.

Henoko residents had been supported by an all-Okinawa political coalition until late last year, when under claimed duress by the Japanese government, the current governor broke his 2010 campaign promise to protect Henoko, and signed an approval for landfill that was predicated on environmental protection information certified by engineers, not marine biologists or ecologists.

However, this summer the movement regrouped at the "All-Okinawa Conference" held in Ginowan City on July 27, to an overflowing crowd, under the banner:  “Stop the Enforced Henoko Works - Okinawa United in Resolve."  Takazato Suzuyo, who has long been involved in the movement for human rights and against base and military-related violence against women, issued a call, “At this gathering of people from all over Okinawa let us affirm our determination to really stop Henoko!”The conference resolution concluded:
We reject any future for Okinawa that would continue to be dominated by the bases. It is our duty to pass on to our children an Okinawan future full of hope and we have every right to build freely and with our own hands a truly Okinawan caring society.
July 27 "All-Okinawa" conference in Ginowan City. (Photo: Ken Shindo on FB)

Henoko residents have also been long supported by global peace, democracy, faith-based, and especially environmental advocates who repeatedly praise the wetlands, mangrove forests, rivers that make up the unique and delicate biodiversity of the Sea of Henoko's ecoregion. Its coral reef, the best in Okinawa, is renowned among marine biologists for its vitality and unique species. Most of the coral reefs at Okinawa Island are dead from landfill, pollution, and disease. The Sea of Henoko also has the largest and best seagrass beds, thus habitat, for the Okinawan dugong. The adjacent Sea of Kayo also has seagrass beds, but they're small, and planned landfill and base construction would degrade and eventually destroy them.

The dugong, a sacred icon, is of great cultural and historical significance in Okinawa.
(Image: Ryukyu Postal’s stamp to commemorate the Okinawa dugong's designation 
as a natural monument in 1966 (Via Save the Dugong Campaign Center)

In 1955, the Okinawa dugong, a revered and sacred animal for native Okinawans, was designated as a protected cultural monument by the autonomous Ryukyu Prefecture. Since 1972, the species has also been listed by Japan's federal government as a "natural monument" under the country's Cultural Properties Protection Law. It is also protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Because of the historical and cultural importance of the critically endangered dugong, In 2004, the American environmental law firm, Earthjustice, on behalf of Okinawan, Japanese, U.S. environment protection groups, and Okinawan residents filed a federal lawsuit , the "Okinawa Dugong versus Rumsfeld," in San Francisco, asking for protections for the dugong, under the National Historic Preservation Act. The case  is still open; a 2008 ruling required the defendants to negotiate with the plaintiffs regarding environmental issues and protection of dugong habitat. The plaintiffs are still waiting for this discussion. Therefore on July 31, Earthjustice filed a new lawsuit in the same court,  asking the US government to halt construction plans.


"Okinawa’s “Darkest Year: The Battle of Okinawa, 2014," Gavan McCormack, The Asia-Pacific Journal, August 18, 2014.

“All-Okinawa Conference” Formed at Meeting of Over 2,000 People," Urashima Etsuko, The Asia-Pacific Journal, August 18, 2014.

”Assault on the Sea: A 50-Year U.S. Plan to Build a Military Port on Oura Bay, Okinawa,” Satoko Norimatsu, The Asia-Pacific Journal, July 5, 2010.

"Dugong Swimming in Uncharted Waters: US Judicial Intervention to Protect Okinawa's"Natural  Monument” and Halt Base Construction,"Hideki Yoshikawa, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Feb. 7, 2009.

” A message from Save Life Society, society for protection of all lives and livelihoods, Henoko, Okinawa, Japan,” June 26, 2008.

“Okinawan Dilemmas: Coral Islands or Concrete Islands,” Gavan McCormack, JPRI Working Paper No. 45: April 1998.