Friday, January 31, 2014

Okinawan Delegation goes to Washington; Western & Okinawan scholars issue separate statements with same request: Abandon plan for new military base in Henoko

 Left: Mr. Seiryou Arakaki, Chairman of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly's special committee on U.S. bases. Center: Ms. Keiko Itokazu, Upper House member of Japanese Parliament. Right: Mr. Caesar Uehara, Naha City Council.
(Photo courtesy of Ms. Keiko Itokazu)

This week, three Okinawan political leaders who comprised the 2014 "No Henoko Base delegation," visited Washington, D.C. to meet with US Congressional members, think tanks, and scholars to convey the results of Mayor Susumu Inamine's January 19, 2014 reelection in Nago and  Okinawan concerns. They told Americans that Mayor Inamine was reelected because of his promise to protect Henoko, an environmentally sensitive coastal area in central Okinawa, under threat by an ecologically destruction military base plan. 

The base plan, pushed by a few military construction companies in Okinawa with close ties to the LDP, never had the support of the Okinawan people, who have viewed it as an ecologically destructive boondoggle.  The current Okinawa governor, Hirokazu Nakaima won reelection in 2010 because of his campaign promise to oppose the plan.  However in late December, Governor Nakaima capitulated to the current Japanese (LDP-run) administration and signed an approval for military landfill. All the while, he made it clear that he did so only under political duress, reiterating his belief that it was not politically viable.

Governor Nakaima's surprise hairpin switch galvanized the formation of an informal network of scholars, writers,  and peace activists who quickly came together to issue a statement (now a petition) asking the Japanese and US governments to honor the popular will of the Okinawan people: abandon the Henoko plan and close Futenma, a flight training base dangerously located in the middle of Ginowan City in central Okinawa.
Johan Galtung (

Signatories include Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, Peace and Conflict Studies founder Johan Galtung, anti-nuclear activists Angie Zelter and Alice Slater, Pulitzer Prize winning historians Herbert Bix and John Dower, scholars Mark Selden, Gavan McCormack, Satoko Norimatsu, Laura Hein, Peter Kuznick, and Norma Field, filmmakers Oliver Stone and John Junkerman, environmentalist David Suzuki, novelists Joy Kogawa and Kyo Maclear, Daniel Ellsberg, and Sheila Johnson, widow of Chalmers Johnson:
Not unlike the 20th century U.S. Civil Rights struggle, Okinawans have non-violently pressed for the end to their military colonization. They tried to stop live-fire military drills that threatened their lives by entering the exercise zone in protest; they formed human chains around military bases to express their opposition; and about a hundred thousand people, one tenth of the population have turned out periodically for massive demonstrations.

Octogenarians initiated the campaign to prevent the construction of the Henoko base with a sit-in that has been continuing for years. The prefectural assembly passed resolutions to oppose the Henoko base plan. In January 2013, leaders of all the 41 municipalities of Okinawa signed the petition to the government to remove the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey from Futenma base and to give up the plan to build a replacement base in Okinawa.

We support the people of Okinawa in their non-violent struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of the environment.
On Thursday, Okinawan scholars and journalists issued their own statement, with the same request: "Respect the voice of the people of Okinawa." The Ryukyu Shimpo reports:
This statement was made in response to Susumu Inamine’s re-election as mayor of Nago. The signers stressed that the election result was an expression of dissent towards the new base not only by the citizens of Nago, but also by the Okinawan people...

Seigen Miyazato, a political scientist and adviser of the Okinawa International Issues Study Group, and other signers issued the statement at a news conference held on January 27. The signers included scholars who specialize in constitutional law and political science, and journalists...

One year ago the mayors of all 41 municipalities visited Prime Minister Abe to submit the petition to cancel the relocation plan within the prefecture. Kunitoshi Sakurai, a professor at Okinawa University, stressed, “We must rebuild an ‘All-Okinawa’ system. We have the common ground that we will decide the future of the region for ourselves.” Masaaki Gabe, a professor at the University of the Ryukyus, Tateki Yafuso, a former professor of the University of the Ryukyus and Masako Yafuso, a board member of the Okinawa Human Rights Association, attended the news conference.
Left to Right: Seiryou Arakaki, Chairman of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly's special committee on U.S. bases; Ms. Keiko Itokazu; Peter Kuznick, American University professor; Caesar Uehara, Naha City Council; 
 and John Feffer, co-director of "Foreign Policy in Focus", a publication by the Institute for Policy Studies. 
(Photo courtesy of Ms. Keiko Itokazu)

In "The Front Line in the Struggle for Democracy in Japan – Nago City, Okinawa," published on Jan. 27 at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Gavan McCormack outlines and explains the significance of this latest episode of the sixteen-year struggle of Okinawans to close Futenma  and to halt the proposed construction of the air training base's ostensible "replacement" at Henoko.  

The East Asia scholar (co-author of Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States) frames the conflict as construction pork barrel politics and militarism versus vibrant citizen democracy and nonviolence in Okinawa.  McCormack (an original signatory) notes that the international letter on behalf of the movement uplifted Mayor Inamine, Okinawan political leaders and activists during the Nago campaign:
Many, including Mayor Inamine, spoke of taking heart from the sense that the Okinawan cause, Nago’s cause, was just and internationally supported. Solidarity is something that Okinawans have long looked for and deserved - by the justice of their struggle, their persistence over so many years, and the resolutely non-violent, citizen-centred democratic frame of their movement. 
Okinawan daily Ryukyu Shimpo's coverage here, "Opposition leader Itokazu visits the U.S. to request cancellation of Henoko landfill."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cherry blossoms in full bloom in Nago, Okinawa

Cherry blossoms in full bloom Nago, Okinawa, 
via Okinawa Outreach on FB. (Photo: Sueko Yamauchi)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Alexis Dudden: Will the U.S. practice the democratic values it preaches in Okinawa?

Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, and 28 boats with local (mostly elder) activists from the "Save Life Society" stage a flotilla, with a large 'dugong' on top of Henoko reef where a proposed American military base
 would be built across important dugong habitat. With the planned construction of the airbase, dugongs, 
which are one of Japan's cultural icons and protected animals, are about to lose their habitat. 

Great article—"Democratic Values and US Bases in Okinawa Will the U.S. practice the democratic values it preaches in Okinawa?"—at The Diplomat by historian Alexis Dudden (one of the signatories of a statement by North American authors, scholars, filmmakers, in support of democracy and peace for Okinawa) overviews the history of local community opposition to the proposed destruction of the last habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong and repeats a question Okinawans have been asking for a long time:
...Villagers who had never considered themselves politically active joined the cause.

The numbers remain small but consistently larger than the government-backed construction companies have anticipated; at one point, fearing confrontation, Japanese surveyors received special permission from the U.S. military command and launched their boats from nearby Camp Schwab instead of the public dock at Henoko. Protesters responded with a peaceful flotilla strategy: an “in water” sit-in made up of kayaks and other small craft. The struggle intensified with government-backed construction firms attempting to bore holes through the coral reefs to erect scaffolding on the one hand, while protesters tried everything in their power to stop them. In December 2004, several construction workers became reckless with their heavy equipment; a few members of the “Society for the Protection of Life” wound up in the hospital. News of their injuries outraged fishermen throughout Okinawa. In solidarity, they sailed to Oura Bay, expanding the resistance from protecting life in Henoko to protecting life in all of Okinawa.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

John Einarsen: Waking up to snow in Kyoto...

John Einarsen, Kyoto Journal founding editor:
Waking up to snow in Kyoto is one of the best things in life. It is an event, an occasion when the world is totally transformed...

Here is one of my favorite Kyoto spots in the snow—Nanzenji

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Still Praying for Tohoku: Uncanny Terrain follows mayoral candidacy of organic farmer in Fukushima

"Uncanny Terrain"  2012-2013 interview footage with Akira Asami, organic farmer in Fukushima

Via filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski, at work on Uncanny Terrain, a documentary exploring the lives of organic farmers in Fukushima in the aftermath of 3/11:
Akihiro Asami left his life as a city salaryman to raise his family on a self-sustaining organic farm in the mountains of Kitakata, on the western outskirts of Fukushima prefecture.

When the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant melted down in 2011, Akihiro's wife Harumi evacuated with their two young daughters. Akihiro stayed behind to continue farming. In the face of public fears of Fukushima food, some of Akihiro's neighbors were unable to keep their farms going and moved away. Akihiro found his crops showed no detectible contamination from the fallout. He worked to hold his community together.

In 2012, Harumi and the girls moved back to Kitakata, accepting the risk of exposure over the pain and disruption of separation and displacement.

Akihiro Asami on the campaign trail in the snow

In December, Akihiro announced his campaign for mayor of Kitakata on a platform of local economies and natural agriculture as an alternative to the unsustainable systems that spawned the nuclear disaster.

Next week we return to Fukushima to capture Akihiro's dark horse campaign, a hopeful protest by one Fukushima farmer for a better way to live.

Please help us to continue our journey, complete the film, and share the stories of Akihiro and his fellow Fukushima farmers with the world. We gratefully accept tax-deductible donations at Uncanny Terrain.
See more photos of Akihiro Asami and follow the election at Uncanny Terrain on Facebook.

Monday, January 20, 2014

To the Japanese Fisherman of Taji from Yoko Ono


Dear Japanese Fishermen of Taiji,

I understand how you must feel about the one-sided-ness of the West to be angry at your traditional capture and slaughter of Dolphins. But that tradition was made only when the world, and Japanese Fishermen did not know what it meant to do harm to the Dolphins. I'm sure you have heard so many speeches in which all of these things have been discussed. So I will not bore you with it.

But I think you should think of this situation from the point-of-view of the big picture. Japan has gone through such hard times lately. And we need the sympathy and help of the rest of the world. It will give an excuse for big countries and their children in China, India and Russia to speak ill of Japan when we should be communicating our strong love for peace, not violence.

I am sure that it is not easy, but please consider the safety of the future of Japan, surrounded by many powerful countries which are always looking for the chance to weaken the power of our country. The future of Japan and its safety depends on many situations, but what you do with Dolphins now can create a very bad relationship with the whole world.

The way you are insisting on a big celebration of killing so many Dolphins and kidnapping some of them to sell to the zoos and restaurants at this very politically sensitive time, will make the children of the world hate the Japanese.

For many, many years and decades we have worked hard to receive true understanding of the Japanese from the world. And, because of our effort, Japan is now respected as a country of good power and ingenuity. This did not happen without our efforts of many decades.

But what we enjoy now, can be destroyed literally in one day. I beg of you to consider our precarious situation after the nuclear disaster (which could very well effect the rest of the world, as well).

Please use political tact and cancel the festival which will be considered by the rest of the world as a sign of Japanese arrogance, ignorance, and love for an act of violence.

Thank you.

Yoko Ono
20 January 2014

Postscript: Dolphin hunting and selling dolphins to aquariums around the world are not Japanese traditions. The large-scale hunts at Taiji only began in 1969.  Smaller scale kills are an"invented tradition" dating back to the Meiji (1868-1912) period, when the Japanese government sought to replace the Japanese archipelago's diverse regional and local cultures with a standardized state-directed national culture. Large-scale whale hunts also began during the postwar period, introduced to Japan by the US Occupation.  Traditional Japanese cuisine is characterized by no or sparing use of meat of mammals. 

Background on Taiji dolphin kills as an"invented tradition" at this 2009 post "Taiji (killing dolphins is not a Japanese tradition) and Beyond: Saving Dolphins and Whales throughout our Planet." Background on the even more recent large-scale kills at "Taiji Dolphin Drives Started in 1969, and Are Not a Part of Japanese Tradition" by Candice Calloway Whiting (published at

Related post: "Blackfish explores the capture and treatment of killer whales in marine entertainment parks; (Japan: 4 captive Orcas); ocean sanctuaries as a way forward...," TTT, Oct. 26, 2013)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Moral Arc of the Universe Bends Towards Justice: Mayor Susumu Inamine, defender of Henoko, wins reelection in Nago

Shingetsu News Agency President Michael Penn, who covered the campaign and election in Nago:
It's victory for democracy, popular sovereignty, citizen's movement against the bribes and intimidation from Tokyo.
Agree with Penn's POV.  See the reelection not as win against Tokyo per se, but, instead, as a victory for Okinawan and local determination to use established democratic procedures to protect the traditional community and beautiful natural environment of Henoko, a fishing village situated in an exquisite coastal area.

Penn's photo of the moment of the announcement of Mayor Inamine's reelection (after sixteen years of struggle in Nago to save Henoko, and especially after the shock of Governor Nakaima's abrupt late December hairpin switch from his 2010 campaign promise to protect Henoko) brings to mind this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, as Americans enjoy the peace and justice activist's birthday holiday weekend in the US:
"Now it isn't easy to stand up for truth and for justice...I haven't lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Mayor Inamine vowed to use his local authority to block the military landfill, proclaiming that his victory was an unofficial referendum on Henoko:
This election was easy to understand. It was about one issue, the Henoko issue...

Most of the politicians in Washington and Tokyo who have made deals concerning Henoko (and journalists writing about Henoko) have never visited Okinawa and this biodiverse coastal area, and, therefore, have no understanding of the precious ecosystem and cultural heritage at stake. It's much more than a "less densely populated area in the north of the island."

Biologists once called Okinawa the “Galápagos of the East” for its rich biodiversity. Although the herds of thousands of dugongs that once grazed on seagrass on Okinawa's coasts are gone, around fifty of the critically endangered sea mammals (cousins to the manatee) still swim with similarly endangered sea turtles in the coastal waters of Henoko. Together with rare birds, fish, crustaceans, insects (classified as rank 1, warranting the highest level of protection by the Okinawa Prefectural Government), the Henoko coast is still a prime habitat of the unique biodiversity of Okinawa. A colony of critically endangered blue coral was discovered in 2007. A World Wildlife Fund study found 36 new species of crabs and shrimps in 2009.  And Tokyo marine science researchers found a “rain-forest”-like variety of 182 different species of sea grasses and marine plants, four of which were probably new species, in Oura Bay in 2010.

In December 2013, Japan moved to designate Yanbaru, a subtropical rainforest (which includes the proposed military landfill site), a natural World Heritage site:
Environmental NGOs are concerned that the reclamation [landfill] and its concomitant introduction of invasive alien species like the Argentine ant would lead to the destruction of the vulnerable island ecosystem.

[The International Union for Conservation of Nature] IUCN has adopted three Recommendations/Resolution requesting the two governments [US and Japan] to review the construction plan.
The Okinawa dugong, a natural monument, is beloved in the mainland as well as Okinawa. Dozens of mainland Japanese environmental NGOs representing hundreds of thousands of Japanese people have supported their Okinawan counterparts and the elder residents of Henoko who have kept watch at a 24/7 sit-in Henoko since this struggle began in 1996.

On January 9, a plaintiffs group (and legal team of 126 people) announced they initiated a lawsuit seeking the cancellation of Nakaima's approval of the Henoko landfill:
Article 4 of the Public Water Body Reclamation Act requires that the landfill work properly and reasonably use national land. The act also requires the work to be environmentally friendly. The landfill approval by the governor does not meet the requirements of the act.

The plaintiffs and legal team are filing a suit against the Okinawa Prefectural Government. They seek cancellation of the approval. At the same time of the filing the action, they seek the stay of execution of the approval.
Kunitoshi Sakurai, a member of the Okinawan Environmental Network, and a professor and former president of Okinawa University, detailed the environmental protection problems in "Japan’s Illegal Environmental Impact Assessment of the Henoko Base," noting that Japanese backroom environmental assessment procedures and laws do not come close to the standards of other developed countries. The founding chairman of the Japan Society for Impact Assessment, Nagoya University professor emeritus Shimazu Yasuo described the Henoko EIA as the "worst in Japanese history."

Even a former Minister of Defense, Satoshi Morimoto, criticized what he described as the "sloppiness" of the Environmental Impact study and the concealment of “'inconvenient facts' of the appearance of the dugong...He asserted, "the Yambaru forest and rivers, whose biodiversity is recognized under both national and prefectural plans, cannot be protected under the planned relocation."

Additionally Earthjustice, a US environmental law firm,  the Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation (JELF) and  Okinawan environmental NGOS will file a new Dugong lawsuit in the US, at the same federal court in San Francisco (in which they filed the first Dugong Lawsuit in 2003):
The lawsuit aims to make the U.S. government stop the Japanese government from entering the area for the reclamation work. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of the United States requires its government to protect cultural heritage around the world. If the government’s actions could affect cultural assets in other countries it must take that impact into account...

The plaintiffs, including the Okinawa dugong and three Japanese citizens, as well as six Japanese and American environmental associations have brought another action against Secretary of Defense and the United States Department of Defense for violations of the National Historic Preservation Act. They allege that the defendants approved plans for construction of the Futenma replacement facility without taking into account the effect of the construction of the military facility on the Okinawa dugong, which is a marine mammal of cultural and historical significance to the Japanese people...

The plaintiffs are same environmental groups and individuals who filed the Okinawa dugong lawsuit in 2003, which they effectively won. In the interlocutory decision, the judge decided that the dugong is subject to the National Historic Preservation Act, and that the government not evaluating the impact on the dugong was a violation of the law.

Kagohashi said, “We considered protective measures for the dugong in the previous case, but this new lawsuit aims to block the construction involved in the landfill. The American Environmental Law is very strict when it comes to the destruction of the natural environment. Our chances of victory are better in the United States than in Japan.”
The first Okinawa Dugong Lawsuit was filed in 2003. The same federal district court determined in the interlocutory decision of Jan. 2008 that the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) applied to the Okinawa dugong as a protected species.

The new lawsuit will not only take protective measures for the dugong as the original lawsuit did; it will additionally more fully address the issue of military landfill construction. U.S. environmental laws are more comprehensive and impartially administered than Japanese environmental laws. According to legal experts, the issue of whether or not a ban on the construction is in the interests of the general public will be a central issue.

In 1966, Ryukyus postal stamp commemorates the dugong's designation as a natural monument. 
(Image: Save the Dugong Campaign Center) 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

Shingetsu News Agency in Okinawa covering the Nago mayoral election

Analysts are calling the Nago election an unofficial referendum on Okinawa Governor Nakaima's approval of military landfill in Henoko (to make way for a new training base opposed by the majority of Okinawans and residents of Nago), a municipality in northern Okinawa which includes Henoko.  In keeping with the region's fierce grassroots commitment to protecting the natural environment and biodiversity of Henoko (habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong, a natural monument), polls are showing that a majority of Nago voters support Mayor Inamine's reelection.

For the most up-to-date English language coverage on the election, we're following Michael Penn, president of Shingetsu News, who is on the road in Okinawa.

Highly respected and followed by Japan scholars and seasoned Japan journalists, Penn provides well-informed, insightful, accessible reporting and analysis for everyone interested in Japan, Okinawa, and East Asia.  No noticeable ideological orientation. Fantastic voice: perfect pitch and tone. His background knowledge and tempered, thoughtful insights add great context to reliable, in-depth reporting.

Moreover, his Tweets and FB posts are lively, interesting, colorful:
Wow. Coming back to my hotel, who walks out of the elevator but Tadatomo Yoshida, leader of SDP.

Now entering Ginowan City to film Futenma base and interview former Mayor Yoichi Iha.

Now working my way around the edges of the giant Kadena Air Force Base.
Penn's analysis on the latest Okinawa news, "Editorial: Nakaima’s Betrayal Cuts Deep," reflects a penetrating and deeply principled point-of-view:
We believe that the only fair approach to the choice of whether or not to build the new US Marine air base at Henoko must come in a referendum put to the people of Okinawa themselves. They are the ones who were denied their rights under 27 years of US military occupation...

Of course, neither Washington nor Tokyo will allow any such referendum to be held, because they already understand perfectly well that “Okinawa” does not approve construction of the base, but only that the Abe government has been able to successfully bribe and intimidate some senior Okinawan politicians to fall into submission.

The choice for Okinawa’s people today is a rather clear one between self-determination and democracy on the one hand, and the continuation of developmental neo-colonialism on the other. No doubt there will be political forces within the prefecture that will line up on both sides. We don’t presume to say at this point which side will actually gain the advantage in 2014, but we can safely predict that Governor Nakaima’s foul betrayal of his people will open up a more intense chapter of the struggle. And, in the long run, it is certainly democracy which must come out on top, one way or the other.
Shingetsu's coverage on Japan, Okinawa and East Asia is great political and public interest reporting that deserves broad following and support. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Democracy Now! interview with filmmaker John Junkerman on Okinawa

Amy Goodman began her Democracy Now! program on Okinawa today with an excerpt from Korean American filmmaker Annabel Park's five-minute video interview with Hirotoshi Iha, "The Heart of Okinawa."

Filmed in Takae in 2010, Mr. Iha explains why he became a peace and democracy activist and the deep meaning of the "Heart of Okinawa." In 1955, his six-year-old cousin, Yumiko-chan, was raped and murdered by an American soldier, who was quietly returned to the U.S. after conviction. The life-long activist then explains why the majority of Okinawans don't want the noisy and dangerous Futenma training base "transferred" to Henoko: "because we know the human cost of it."

"Okinawa’s Revolt: Decades of Rape, Environmental Harm by U.S. Military Spur Residents to Rise Up" then segways into an interview with academic and activist Kozue Akibayashi and filmmaker John Junkerman, who describes the massive expansion [on private property acquired by force and coercion] of US military training and bombing support bases on the tiny island during the Korean War and Vietnam War.  US military bases now take up 20% of the island. Junkerman explains that nearly seventy decades of US use of Okinawa for war training and war support has violated the spirit of the Ryukuan people, who are traditionally pacifist.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Amy Goodman & Democracy Now! broadcasting from Japan

On Saturday, January 18th, Amy Goodman will be speaking in Tokyo at Sophia University at 10:00 a.m. at the International Conference Room, #2 Building.  On Sunday, the 19th, 7:00 p.m., she will be speaking in Kyoto with filmmaker John Junkerman and journalist Yasumi Iwakami at Kyoto Kyoiku Bunka Center (Kyoto Education Culture Center). On Monday, the 20th, the broadcast journalist will speak at the Foreign Correspondents Club (Yurakucho Denki Building) in Tokyo.

Goodman's Democracy Now! interviews in Japan this week explore shock doctrine politics, disaster capitalism, the Fukushima nuclear disaster (with a focus on the hundreds of thousands of nuclear refugees), the TPP, the resurgence of government militarism and censorship, and citizen opposition to military landfill at a biodiverse eco-region in northern Okinawa.

In "Shock Doctrine in Japan: Shinzo Abe’s Rightward Shift to Militarism, Secrecy in Fukushima’s Wake," Koichi Nakano, professor at Sophia University in Tokyo and director of the Institute of Global Concern at the university, explains his overview of the how unpopular policies have been forced in Japan during a period of prolonged confusion and disruption following the natural disasters and multiple nuclear meltdowns of 3/11.
KOICHI NAKANO: Right. The state secrecy law that was passed in December last year, just a month ago, basically two years after the big earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear power accident, that still continues to literally kind of shake Japan, and in the climate of anxiety and insecurity, the government basically is pushing in the classic sort of Naomi Klein kind of way of shock doctrine.

And for the Japanese, it is particularly worrisome because it reminds us of what happened before the Second World War, actually, when Tokyo was destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1923. And the peace preservation law that eventually led to the birth of state secret police and the brutality of the military regime was also enacted two years right after the big earthquake that destroyed Tokyo back in the 1920s. So, the parallel is quite spooky.
In "From Atomic Bombings to Fukushima, Japan Pursues a Nuclear Future Despite a Devastating Past," Goodman interviews journalist David McNeill:
...the effects of the radiation are hotly disputed, and they will go on for many years to come. You know, we are seeing reports of an increase in problems with thyroids among children in Fukushima. But the science is yet to be decided.

But what is really very clear, you know, completely without dispute, is that it has caused an enormous amount of disruption to people’s lives. First of all, as you said, 160,000 people were forced to flee from Fukushima. Another number—we don’t know how many—have voluntarily fled from Fukushima...

So, when people say the death toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is zero, they’re not correct. People have died from that disaster. And I think people will continue to die in the years to come, whether or not the radiation is the cause or not.
In "For Fukushima’s Displaced, a Struggle to Recover Lives Torn Apart by Nuclear Disaster," Goodman interviews filmmaker Atsushi Funahashi, director of Nuclear Nation: The Fukushima Refugees Story, which follows the lives of nuclear refugees from the small town Futaba, when they were evacuated to an abandoned high school building in Saitama (just north of Tokyo).

Friday, January 10, 2014

Okinawa Prefectural Assembly demands Governor Nakaima's resignation

(Photo via Ms. Kyoko Higa, Okinawa Prefectural Assembly member)

Via Dr. Masami Mel Kawamura/Okinawa Outreach via (via Ms. Kyoko Higa, Okinawa Prefectural Assembly member):
Breaking news!

Okinawa Prefecture Assembly passed the resolution, calling for the resignation of Governor Nakaima, although it is not legally binding.

It points that Govenor's decision [to break his 2010 campaign promise and (despite the opposition of the Okinawan Prefectural Assembly, mayors of all Okinawan municipalities, and other elected political officials) approve a deal for environmentally destructive military landfill at biodiverse Henoko and Oura Bay, in exchange for a slight increase of government subsidies] is not reflective of the Okinawan people's will.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Struggle for the Soul of Okinawa: Mayor Susumu Inamine's reelection campaign kicks off in Nago

(Photo: Save the Dugong Campaign Center)

Via Dr. Masami Mel Kawamura via Save The Dugong Campaign Center:
On Jan 19, the Nago (where Henoko is located) mayoral election will be held.

Last night, Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine's election campaign kicked off. Inamine has steadfastly worked for to save Henoko and Oura Bay, a biodiverse coral reef and the last habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong, from military demolition to make way for a training base.

 More than 3500 people gathered to support Mr. Inamine in gathering in Nago.

Japan scholar Gavan McCormack  sums up the importance of this election in the aftermath of Okinawa Governor Nakaima's betrayal of his 2010 campaign promise to protect Henoko:
Ahead lay potential legal challenge (including a possible resolution of lack of confidence in the Governor or a recall motion), court challenges to the legality of the procedures adopted by Tokyo, and undoubted political and social obstacles. Following the “victories” of its November and December stratagems [forcing LDP political officials in Okinawa to renounce their campaign promises to protect Henoko], the national government had to concentrate on prefecture-wide pacification, paying particular attention to winning back the support of New Komeito [a political party ally of the LDP which says it will remain neutral regarding Okinawa]. And most immediately it faced the problem of Nago City.

In the looming election, on 19 January 2014, for Nago City mayor, incumbent Inamine Susumu, elected in 2010 on an explicitly anti-base platform and maintaining a firm position of “no base to be constructed on sea or land in Nago City,” confronts Suematsu Bunshin, a close associate of Governor Nakaima who now represents the explicitly pro-Henoko base construction position. Where Inamine had actually refused any base-related national government subsidies, Suematsu insisted the City could not develop without them. Abe and his government very much needed a Suematsu victory.

With the exception of the brief window of DPJ government under Hatoyama Yukio in 2009-2010, government after Tokyo government since 1997 has clung to the idea that Futenma should be replaced not returned, that the replacement had to be in Okinawa not elsewhere in Japan, and that within Okinawa it could only be in Henoko. For Abe and his associates, Inamine and Nago City constitute a kind of last redoubt, which absolutely must be defeated. The fact that Nago City had rejected Tokyo’s subsidy as inducing a dependent mentality that actually impeded development and that it seemed to be having some success in charting an alternative, self-generated or autochthonous path, made it the more urgent in Tokyo eyes that control over it be re-established.

 No town or city in modern Japan has ever faced anything like the pressure that Nago City has faced, or accomplished such effective resistance for so long. Nago citizens have borne the pressure of the base project ever since it was first announced in 1996, rejecting it by plebiscite in 1997 only to have the then mayor overturn the result and recommend the project go ahead. Since then, they have thwarted it determinedly through the term of 11 Prime Ministers, 3 Governors, and 4 Nago City mayors...
Additionally, Shingetsu News on FB reported today that an Okinawan citizens's group has concurrently filed the first new lawsuit on behalf of the Okinawa dugong.

Jan. 27. 2014 Update: More reportage and analysis by Okinawa (and East Asia) scholar Gavan McCormack (co-author of Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States) at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: "The Front Line in the Struggle for Democracy in Japan – Nago City, Okinawa."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire, Daniel Ellsberg, John Dower, Norma Field, and Oliver Stone join world scholars and artists who condemn Okinawa base plan

Via Satoko Norimatsu at Vancouver-based Peace Philosophy Centre:

We oppose construction of a new US military base within Okinawa, and support the people of Okinawa in their struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of the environment

We the undersigned oppose the deal made at the end of 2013 between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima to deepen and extend the military colonization of Okinawa at the expense of the people and the environment. Using the lure of economic development, Mr. Abe has extracted approval from Governor Nakaima to reclaim the water off Henoko, on the northeastern shore of Okinawa, to build a massive new U.S. Marine air base with a military port.

Plans to build the base at Henoko have been on the drawing board since the 1960s.  They were revitalized in 1996, when the sentiments against US military bases peaked following the rape of a twelve year-old Okinawan child by three U.S. servicemen. In order to pacify such sentiments, the US and Japanese governments planned to close Futenma Marine Air Base in the middle of Ginowan City and  move its functions to a new base to be constructed at Henoko, a site of extraordinary bio-diversity and home to the endangered marine mammal dugong.

Governor Nakaima’s reclamation approval does not reflect the popular will of the people of Okinawa.  Immediately before the gubernatorial election of 2010, Mr. Nakaima, who had previously accepted the new base construction plan, changed his position and called for relocation of the Futenma base outside the prefecture. He won the election by defeating a candidate who had consistently opposed the new base. Polls in recent years have shown that 70 to 90 percent of the people of Okinawa opposed the Henoko base plan. The poll conducted immediately after Nakaima’s recent reclamation approval showed that 72.4 percent of the people of Okinawa saw the governor’s decision as a “breach of his election pledge.” The reclamation approval was a betrayal of the people of Okinawa.

73.8 percent of the US military bases (those for exclusive US use) in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, which is only .6 percent of the total land mass of Japan. 18.3 percent of the Okinawa Island is occupied by the US military. Futenma Air Base originally was built during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa by US forces in order to prepare for battles on the mainland of Japan. They simply usurped the land from local residents. The base should have been returned to its owners after the war, but the US military has retained it even though now almost seven decades have passed. Therefore, any conditional return of the base is fundamentally unjustifiable.

The new agreement would also perpetuate the long suffering of the people of Okinawa. Invaded in the beginning of the 17th century by Japan and annexed forcefully into the Japanese nation at the end of 19th century, Okinawa was in 1944 transformed into a fortress to resist advancing US forces and thus to buy time to protect the Emperor System.  The Battle of Okinawa killed more than 100,000 local residents, about a quarter of the island’s population. After the war, more bases were built under the US military occupation. Okinawa “reverted” to Japan in 1972, but the Okinawans’ hope for the removal of the military bases was shattered. Today, people of Okinawa continue to suffer from crimes and accidents, high decibel aircraft noise and environmental pollution caused by the bases. Throughout these decades, they have suffered what the U.S. Declaration of Independence denounces as “abuses and usurpations,” including the presence of foreign “standing armies without the consent of our legislatures.”

Not unlike the 20th century U.S. Civil Rights struggle, Okinawans have non-violently pressed for the end to their military colonization. They tried to stop live-fire military drills that threatened their lives by entering the exercise zone in protest; they formed human chains around military bases to express their opposition; and about a hundred thousand people, one tenth of the population have turned out periodically for massive demonstrations. Octogenarians initiated the campaign to prevent the construction of the Henoko base with a sit-in that has been continuing for years. The prefectural assembly passed resolutions to oppose the Henoko base plan. In January 2013, leaders of all the 41 municipalities of Okinawa signed the petition to the government to remove the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey from Futenma base and to give up the plan to build a replacement base in Okinawa.

We support the people of Okinawa in their non-violent struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of the environment. The Henoko marine base project must be canceled and Futenma returned forthwith to the people of Okinawa.

January 2014

Norman Birnbaum, Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University
Herbert Bix, Emeritus Professor of History and Sociology, State University of New York at Binghamton
Reiner Braun, Co-president International Peace Bureau and Executive Director of International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
John W. Dower, Professor Emeritus of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut
Daniel Ellsberg, Senior Fellow at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, former Defense and State Department official
John Feffer, Co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus ( at the Institute for Policy Studies
Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
Joseph Gerson (PhD), Director, Peace & Economic Security Program, American Friends Service Committee
Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of International law Emeritus, Princeton University
Norma Field, Professor Emerita, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
Kate Hudson (PhD), General Secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Catherine Lutz, Professor of Anthropology and International Studies, Brown University
Naomi Klein, Author and journalist
Joy Kogawa, Author of Obasan
Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, American University
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace laureate
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
Gavan McCormack, Professor Emeritus, Australian National University
Kyo Maclear, Writer and Children’s author
Michael Moore, Filmmaker
Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus, Brown University/ Veteran, United States Army, Henoko, Okinawa, 1967-68
Mark Selden, a Senior Research Associate in the East Asia Program at Cornell University
Oliver Stone, Filmmaker
David Vine, Associate Professor of Anthropology, American University
The Very Rev. the Hon. Lois Wilson, Former President, World Council of Churches
Lawrence Wittner, Professor Emeritus of History, State University of New York/Albany
Ann Wright, Retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat

(In the alphabetical order of family names, as of January 7, 2014)

Media reports in English:

Ryukyu Shimpo

NHK World
Intl group condemns planned US base in Okinawa

Common Dreams

The International Social News

Oliver Stone joins world scholars, artists to condemn Okinawa base plan

Global Post (Kyodo)
Prominent Westerners oppose new U.S. base plan in Okinawa

Okinawa Base Plan Opposed by U.S Scholars, Others - JIJI PRESS
More articles: 

Eric Johnston at JT: "Luminaries’ statement slams Henoko base deal" (

Monday, January 6, 2014

Shiho Fukada: Japan's Poor, Homeless, Outcasted and Forgotten

Japan's structural economic problems are further alienating its already marginalized populations.

Photojournalist Shiho Fukada goes beyond the bright lights of Tokyo to document the country's unemployment crisis: disposable workers who are easily fired and live without a social safety net. They are usually shut out from the rest of the society, living in poverty but rarely acknowledged by their fellow citizens.

Fukada's photographs add a human face to widely discussed issues—from day laborers living on the streets to educated women taking banal jobs. She reveals the other side of Japan where alcoholism, hopelessness and suicide are increasingly commonplace.

This report is part of a Pulitzer Center-sponsored project, "Japan's Disposable Workers: Lost in the Global Unemployment Crisis."

Hiromi, 58, an unemployed day laborer, picks through garbage to see if he can find anything of value to sell. 
(Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2009)

People wait in line to sleep inside a labor center in Kamagasaki. 
The center used to attract workers from all over Japan for high-paying day labor,
 but with jobs so scarce today it is used as a homeless shelter during the evening. 
(Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2009)

A picture of Mount Fuji hangs under a highway where a homeless man sleeps in Osaka.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ian Thomas Ash's A2-B-C & "Scientists Link Spike in Thyroid Disease to Fukushima Disaster"

'A2-B-C' (TRAILER予告編) thyroid cysts and nodules in Fukushima childrenL 
"Eighteen months after the nuclear meltdown, children in Fukushima are suffering from severe nose bleeds
 and are developing skin rashes and thyroid cysts and nodules. Citing a lack of transparency in the official medical testing of their children and the ineffectiveness of the decontamination of their homes and schools,
 the children’s mothers take radiation monitoring into their own hands.

Via The Real News Network, "Scientists Link Spike in Thyroid Disease to Fukushima Disaster":
Joseph Mangano: Unfortunately, there have really been no studies in Japan except for one, and that is one that's being done by the Fukushima Medical University. They haven't looked at hypothyroidism, but what they've done is this: they have taken 200,000 children under age 18 who live relatively close to Fukushima, and they tested for two things. The first they tested for was thyroid cancer. And they have found up to 59 children have thyroid cancer. In a normal population, it's very rare in children. In a normal--we would expect one or two. They have 59.

Second thing that they found is they through ultrasound look at the child's thyroid gland for precancerous lumps, you know, what they call cysts and nodules. And so far, 56 percent of children near Fukushima do in fact have a precancerous cyst or a nodule. And every year it gets higher--two years ago, 35 percent, last year 45 percent, this year 56 percent. Pretty soon we're going to find that almost every child in the area has a precancerous growth on their thyroid gland. And that is--to me that is a powerful statement about how dangerous this meltdown has been...

The other thing is that all these statements about the radiation is harmless is premature because the reactors are still not under control. They are still leaking. They are still spewing out these terrible poisons. Even a meltdown like Chernobyl in 1986, which again went around--like Fukushima, went around the globe and caused many, many people to become sick and die, it was over after a few weeks. They were able to dump dirt and sand and salt on the reactor and put a sarcophagus over it.

Fukushima is still giving out radiation. It's still not under control. And that's almost three years later.

Nuclear disaster capitalism: Fukushima contractors indebting homeless workers recruited by gangsters

Homeless men snuggle in sleeping bags inside an abeyant fountain equipment and on bench seats 
at an underground passage near Sendai Station in Sendai, northern Japan December 17, 2013. 
(See entire photo slideshow by Issei Kato: "Japan's homeless recruited for murky Fukushima clean-up")

Peonage, also called debt servitude, is a system where an employer compels a worker to pay for an ever-growing, manufactured debt, stuck in a never-ending work-without-pay cycle.

This must-read investigative report by Reuters staff writers Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski, "Special Report: Japan's homeless recruited for murky Fukushima clean-up." sheds light on how low-end gangsters and hundreds upon hundreds of unvetted subcontractors have brought this kind of debt slavery to Tohoku.
The men in Sendai Station [the capital of Miyagi prefecture] are potential laborers that Sasa can dispatch to contractors in Japan's nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of $100 a head.

"This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day," Sasa says, as he strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold.

It's also how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong...

In January, October and November, Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of infiltrating construction giant Obayashi Corp's network of decontamination subcontractors and illegally sending workers to the government-funded project.

In the October case, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai's train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima City for less than minimum wage, according to police and accounts of those involved. The men reported up through a chain of three other companies to Obayashi, Japan's second-largest construction company.

Obayashi, which is one of more than 20 major contractors involved in government-funded radiation removal projects, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the spate of arrests has shown that members of Japan's three largest criminal syndicates - Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai - had set up black-market recruiting agencies under Obayashi...

Japan has always had a gray market of day labor centered in Tokyo and Osaka. A small army of day laborers was employed to build the stadiums and parks for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. But over the past year, Sendai, the biggest city in the disaster zone, has emerged as a hiring hub for homeless men. Many work clearing rubble left behind by the 2011 tsunami and cleaning up radioactive hotspots by removing topsoil, cutting grass and scrubbing down houses around the destroyed nuclear plant, workers and city officials say...

"If you don't get involved (with gangs), you're not going to get enough workers," said Sayama, Fujisai's general manager. "The construction industry is 90 percent run by gangs."

...Nishiyama's first employer in Sendai offered him $90 a day for his first job clearing tsunami debris. But he was made to pay as much as $50 a day for food and lodging. He also was not paid on the days he was unable to work. On those days, though, he would still be charged for room and board. He decided he was better off living on the street than going into debt.

And in-depth background by Paul Jobin: "Dying for TEPCO? Fukushima’s Nuclear Contract Workers" (APJ, May 2, 2011):
In the titanic struggle to bring to closure the dangerous situation at Fukushima Nuclear Plant No1, there are many signs that TEPCO is facing great difficulties in finding workers. At present, there are nearly 700 people at the site. As in ordinary times, workers rotate so as to limit the cumulative dose of radiation inherent in maintenance and cleanup work at the nuclear site...

But this time, the risks are greater, and the method of recruitment unusual.
Job offers come not from TEPCO but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose business is construction and cleaning maintenance. The description indicates only that the work is at a nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture. The job is specified as 3 hours per day at an hourly wage of 10,000 yen. There is no information about danger, only the suggestion to ask the employer for further details on food, lodging, transportation and insurance.

Those who answer these offers may have little awareness of the dangers and they are likely to have few other job opportunities. $122 an hour is hardly a king’s ransom given the risk of cancer from high radiation levels.  But TEPCO and NISA keep diffusing their usual propaganda to minimize the radiation risks.

Rumor has it that many of the cleanup workers are burakumin. This cannot be verified, but it would be congruent with the logic of the nuclear industry and the difficult job situation of day laborers. Because of ostracism, some burakumin are also involved with yakuza. Therefore, it would not be surprising that yakuza-burakumin recruit other burakumin to go to Fukushima. Yakuza are active in recruiting day laborers of the yoseba: Sanya in Tokyo, Kotobukicho in Yokohama, and Kamagasaki in Osaka. People who live in precarious conditions are then exposed to high levels of radiation, doing the most dirty and dangerous jobs in the nuclear plants, then are sent back to the yoseba. Those who fall ill will not even appear in the statistics.
Many prefer to turn a blind eye as it is reassuring to believe TEPCO’s nonsense and the nostrums provided by scholars associated with the nuclear lobby. But there is also a growing awareness of the problem, which can be observed for example through the vast mobilization in the region of Fukushima and Tokyo among citizens and on the Internet...

Temporary subcontract workers who have never entered a nuclear plant before probably have a very vague perception of these risks.
Public bids are now almost entirely controlled by the construction companies at the top (moto uke) and the yakuza at the bottom;

Though the Ministry of the Environment only authorizes two levels of subcontracting, in practice, the levels of subcontracting are even more numerous than at F1 and other nuclear plants. Between his own employer and Shimizu Construction, the moto uke, Masato has counted 24 levels;

Wage skimming is the norm and many workers only get a tiny portion—if any—of the 10,000 Yen hazard allowance;

The majority of workers receive no health insurance benefits from their employer and for many reasons they do not register for the national health insurance system on an individual basis.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Shingetsu News Agency's new website launched

Shingetsu News Agency launched its new website on Jan. 1, 2014.

Comprehensive, smart, insightful and lively, SNA, headed by President Michael Penn, a seasoned Japan journalist, is a great go-to site for news on Japan.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wild "Heavenly Horses" Return Home

"Heavenly horses" return to Steppes of Mongolia and China. 
(Photo and Story: AFP via JT, 2013)

Chinese legend says the Silk Road's iconic Heavenly Horses were discovered 2,000 years ago by a criminal exiled to Dunhuang (a Silk Road crossroads in western China) who captured some and then presented them to the emperor, who fell in love with the breed.
They became known as Przewalski’s horses during European contact in the 19th century. Once thought to be extinct in the wild, the ancient species is being revived by conservationists in China and Mongolia.

Steppes horses came to Japan during the Kofun Period (250-540), from the Asian continent via the Korean Peninsula. Haniwa (funerary clay) horses were buried in tombs, along with figurines, from the Kofun to the Asuka Periods (538-710). 

Haniwa (clay funerary) horse acquired by the LA County Museum in 2010. 
(Photo: LA Times)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

May 2014 be filled with light, healing, and peace...

This luminous photo is from  Beautiful Energy's last Candles for Peace gathering of 2013.  Their first Candles for Peace gathering in 2014 will be Friday, January 10, as always, at the Kokkai-gijidomae Station, adjacent to the Japanese National Diet Building.