Saturday, December 31, 2011

Makoto Arakaki: Photographs of the Okinawa Prefectural office sit-in

(Rally at Okinawa Prefecture office building. Photograph: Makoto Arakaki)

Mark Selden, editor of The Asia-Pacific Journal, notes that Okinawans have created the most vibrant and sustained grassroots movement for democracy and peace in the Asia-Pacific, comparable only to the Korean movement in intensity, longevity, and creativity.

Makoto Arakaki's photographs of the late December sit-in at the Okinawa Prefecture's administration building captures the intensity of not only this latest moment in history, but also of the breadth and depth of the entire Okinawan Movement, now in its sixth decade.

Okinawans, including prominent elected political leaders and journalists, engaged in a successful 24/7 sit-in at the Okinawa Prefecture administration building to prevent the delivery to the Okinawan Prefectural officials of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the DC-Tokyo U.S. Marine base proposal. Part of the EIA did reach the office in a surreptitious 4 a.m. backdoor delivery, but not the entire document.

According to sociologist Masami Mel Kawamura, the Japanese government wanted "to rob the Okinawa prefectural government of precious time for preparation of "Governor's Comments" on the EIS while distracting the media's attention. According to the EIA law and ordinance, Governor's Comments for the airport plan should be issued within 45 days after the submission of EIS while for the reclamation plan they should be issued within 90 days."

The EIS alleges that the destruction of Oura Bay and Henoko to make way for offshore runways for military aircraft would not result in any significant environmental impacts to Oura Bay's biodiverse sea life, including the federally protected Okinawa dugong.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ongoing Sit-In at Okinawa Prefecture Office

Scholar of East Asian history and politics Gavan McCormack has long compared the Okinawan movement to the Polish Solidarity Movement, in terms of tactics and the similar widespread challenge to undemocratic domination by a client state satellite of a world power.

The Polish Solidarity Movement, although it erupted in the summer of 1980, had been fueled by citizen dissatisfaction since 1945, when Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in a betrayal of trust and principles of national self-determination, delivered Poland and other Eastern and Central European countries to the former Soviet Union for military occupation. Okinawa was delivered to the U.S. by the postwar Japanese government, for similar use. The Okinawan movement, like the democracy movements in Eastern and Central Europe, has been in the making since 1945.

The ongoing sit-in at the Okinawa Prefecture Building (fueled by collective moral, spiritual, social and political energy passed down through generations .

Sociologist Masami Mel Kawamura:
This shot of the meeting, held at the lobby of Okinawa prefecture building on Dec.28 , shows what our sit-in is like (still now, a considerable people are sitting in Okinawa Prefecture Building).

The media tends to report sensational scenes which emphasize the "conflict" between the Okinawan people and the Japanese government , and to highlight peoples' anger. But we are fighting against the Okinawa Defense Bureau's [Okinawa arm of the Japanese Defense Ministry] outrageous submission of the EIS. Our sit-in is in collaboration with Okinawa Prefecture Assembly members and Diet members from Okinawa.

At the meeting, they reported how they addressed Okinawa Prefecture and Okinawa Defense Bureau, to block the submission of EIS documents, after the Okinawa Defense Bureau's submission of EIS at 4:00 AM.

Although we have been showing strong opposition and Okinawa prefecture is in winter holiday, the Okinawa Defense Bureau is still trying to sneak and deliver the rest of the EIS, which is needed to meet the requirement in EIA process. It forces people now to keep a continuous 24-hour sit-in at the prefecture building.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Noda lifts ban on weapons exports

Bad News for Article 9 supporters: "Japan PM lifts ban on arms exports":
Noda’s decision, long sought by the Japanese industry, is likely to draw strong protests from many quarters at home that want no departure from the pacifist tradition that has defined Tokyo’s international orientation since the end of the World War II.

Some Asian countries including China, which bore the brunt of Japanese aggression during World War II, are certain to respond warily.

Battle of Okinawa Update: Latest Okinawan citizen rally against delivery of EIS

(Latest rally against the delivery of EIS to Okinawa. Photos: Masami Mel Kawamura)

Update from Kinay Oshiro at Okinawa Outreach on FB:
URGENT. The environmental report was delivered to the prefecture, at 4 in the morning. Another mistreat of Okinawa by Japan.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Share Your Christmas with Tohoku, Japan

Via Kim Hughes on FB,
Share Your Christmas this Christmas with a child in Tohoku, Japan

The idea of Share Your Christmas is simple. Children (and adults) choose a present from the many received on Christmas Day and send it, wrapped or re-wrapped to Tohoku, where it will be passed on to a child (or adult) in need.

The powerful earthquake and tsunami of nine months ago on left many thousands of children (and adults) without families and friends and their homes. Children of all ages lost all their toys, their most beloved possessions.

Over 360,000 children in Fukushima Prefecture, where three nuclear reactors melted down after the tsunami, are living in especially stressful conditions. They are not allowed to play outside, where the earth and air is poisoned with radiation; they have to wear geiger counters to keep a constant check on radiation levels.

But Fukushima is not the only area where children are suffering. Up and down the northeastern coast are hundreds of small communities where people lost just about everything.

To unconditionally share or pass on a gift is a small thing in many ways, but for the children of Tohoku, abandoned by their government and much of mainstream Japan also, it will mean so much. Connection. Comfort. Love. Someone somewhere cares, is thinking about them, if offering a small piece of their heart from somewhere far away.

How Share your Christmas began

A resident of Tokyo received a request from his niece in Baltimore, asking for a computer for Christmas. After long and all-due consideration he agreed, but on the promise she donated one of her gifts from under her family tree to a child in Tohoku.

At dinner that evening, her agreement became the basis of an urgent campaign. Since Japan is not a Christian country as such, it will not matter that gifts only arrive after Christmas Day itself. We then anticipate several weeks of intense activity, making sure gifts reach boys and girls - and adults too - of the correct age.

We invite those sharing their gifts to write messages, and will encourage recipients to reply. In this way we hope Share your Christmas will translate into Share your Lives, with many friendships being forged for the future.
Find out where to send at the above link...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Everyone

Suzy Bogguss & Chet Atkins: "I heard the bells on Christmas Day" circa 1992
I heard the belIs on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair, I bowed my head:
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song,
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.'
Then pealed the beIls more loud and deep;
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace on earth, good will to men'.

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written as a prayer following the critical wounding of his son who joined the Union Army against the poet's wishes, during the American Civil War

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Velcrow Ripper charts "humanity's immune response to a planet in crisis" in Fierce Light & Evolve Love

Velcrow Ripper  has been charting psychological resilience and nonviolent faith-based social change movements since the start of the millennium, as if anticipating the Occupy Movement, which he has been filming from its start. This year, the Canadian filmmaker has been sending out major soul force along with Naomi Klein and the millions of others who support the Occupy Movement.

Here's a recent interview from his latest website, Occupy Love
ALIVE MIND: Occupy Love is the third film of the “Fierce Love Project.” It comes after Sacred Scared (Special Jury Prize of the Toronto Film Festival), an uplifting pilgrimage through war-torn places around the world, followed by Fierce Light, a film about bringing together spirituality, and activism. Is there a logical progression to these films? How would you relate Fierce Light to Sacred Scared and Occupy Love?

VELCROW RIPPER: Indeed there is - the films are about about the “Heart of the Times” of this unique period in human history, from the millennium to 2012. It is a time of enormous crisis, and enormous possibility. The overall theme is, how can the global crises that we are facing lead to the evolution of humanity?

Scared Sacred takes us on a journey to ground zero’s of the world – places like New York City during 9.11, Afghanistan, Hiroshima, Bosnia, Cambodia, Israel and Palestine. In each of those places, I discovered some of the most remarkable individuals I have ever met. I found that there were two things that the survivors all had in common, that helped them get through the crises they faced with their spirits transformed, not crushed: having a source of meaning, which was different for each of them, and taking action.

This lead to the second film, Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action, which explores the relationship between spirituality, and activism. There has long been an artificial divide between these two important aspects of human society, and this film explores the power that is released when the two come together.

In Occupy Love I ask the question: how is the economic and ecological crises we are facing a great love story? I have gone beyond the word “spiritual” to the deeper, and more universal word, “Love.” The last lines of “Fierce Light” are, “Another world is here, right now: listen.” On the sound track you can hear the rumblings of a volcano, the sleeping woman – who is now wide awake.

Occupy Love explores this awakening, this revelation of our shared heart, and our shared oppression, and the process of working together to transform the bankrupt system of today into a world that works for all life. The Occupy movement, and the related movements that are erupting around the world, from the Arab Spring, to the European Summer, are all a part of this awakening.

I recently showed Fierce Light at Occupy London and people were really struck by how the movie predicted the arising of Occupy. The films truly have their finger on the pulse of the times. In fact, Fierce Light was a little ahead of it’s time...

ALIVE MIND Commenting on the protest that spurred in Quebec City in 2004 against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, you are asking “What would I do if I did not have a camera in my hands? Would I want to pick up a rock and throw it right back at these dehumanized Plexiglass faces?” What stance do you adopt when you shoot in the midst of demonstrations? Does being an engaged filmmaker mean taking a step back from neutrality in those situations?

VELCROW RIPPER I don’t believe in neutrality. That comment, which was a rhetorical question, was answered by the film: I would do what Carly Stasko does at that moment – she dances.

My response to repression, violence and corporate dominance is to be as contrasting to that as possible – liberated, non-violent, and creative. That is the way to transform violence, not by speaking it’s language back at it...

ALIVE MIND On Sept 17, 2011, at Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street, you’ve asked a giant FDR dime, “How could the global crisis we are facing become a love story?’ You made a short-film out of it, entitled Summer of Change: Occupy Wall Street.

Have you been personally involved in the movement since then? What are your future plans?

VELCROW RIPPER I have fallen in love with the Occupy Movement. I was at Occupy Wall Street since day one, travelled to Occupy Oakland for their epic general strike and just returned from Spain, where I was filming with the Indignados, Egypt, where I was covering Tahrir Square and the Egyptian Revolution, and Occupy London. I was looking at the roots of the movement, tracing it back from the European summer, to the Arab Spring, and looking at where the movement has evolved. The film is now called “Occupy Love.” The original project, Evolve Love, may come out after, or will be integrated into this movie.

Two years ago I asked writer Naomi Klein, “How could the crisis we are facing on the planet become a love story?” And she laughed, and said that her and I do the opposite – she points out how bad things are and I look for the love. Last week I saw her at an action and she gave me a big hug and said, “History has re-arranged itself to prove your thesis.”

The Occupy Movement, and the much bigger, and deeper global spirit of transformation from which it arises, is the love story I have been looking for, all my life. In Fierce Light I reference Paul Hawken, who in his book Blessed Unrest, talks about a global movement of movements that is emerging all over the world, what he calls “humanity's immune response to a planet in crisis," the largest movement in history. And the remarkable thing about that movement is that it is self organizing, and it didn’t even know that it existed. The Arab Spring, The European Summer, and now the Occupy Movement, is that movement standing up, looking around, and discovering itself.

And right now, this is the greatest love story on earth. This movement is rooted in interdependence, and is the opposite of the selfish, lifeless, dog eat dog-eat-dog world promoted through the vast capital of the corporations. We need to do everything we can to nurture this evolving movement, our ever-evolving global society, and keep it moving always in the direction of love, in the direction of life. Love is the movement. We are the 100%
Read the interview and see videos (including Summer of Change: Occupy Wall Street at Occupy Love: Global Revolution of the Heart.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paul Hawken: "The Biggest Global Movement in History"

It is my belief that we are part of a movement that is greater and deeper and broader than we ourselves know or can know. It flies under the radar of the media by and large. It is nonviolent. It is grassroots. It has no clusterbombs, no armies, and no helicopters. It has no central ideology. A male vertebrate is not in charge.

This unnamed movement is the most diverse movement the world has ever seen. The very word "movement" is too small to describe it. No one started this worldview. No one is in charge of it. There is no orthodoxy. It is global, classless, unquenchable, and tireless. Its shared understanding is arising spontaneously from different economic sectors, cultures, regions, and cohorts. It is growing and spreading worldwide, with no exception.

It has many roots. But primarily the origins are indigenous cultures, the environment and social justice movements. Those three sectors and their subsectors are intertwining, morphing, and enlarging... This is a democracy movement...It's marked by kinship, communities, symbiosis. It's Pachamama ("Mother Universe"). It's Mama. It's the earth talking back, waking up...
This talk is now five years old––but this clip of Paul Hawken speaking at a 2006 Bioneers conference describing the collective energy of hundreds of thousands of civil society organizations made up of tens of millions of people––if not more, from all over our planet–– is still breathtaking.

The social entrepreneur drew his talk from his 2007 book, Blessed Unrest: How The Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.

The movement Hawken describes is not something new. Citing poet/environmentalist Gary Snyder and actor/activist/writer Peter Coyote––Blessed Unrest refers to "the great underground, a current of humanity that dates back to the Paleolithic and its lineage can be traced back to healers, priestesses, philosophers, monks, rabbis, poets, and artists 'who speak for the planet, for other species, for interdependence, a life that courses under and through and around empires.'" 

Hawken's imagination was captured by not only the explosion of movements––but also by the shift towards the "intertwingling" of causes––environmentalism; renewable energy and sustainability; biodiversity; indigenous issues; civil society, children's issues; community development; cultural heritage; democratic activism; fair trade; good governance; human rights; social and economic justice; disarmament and peacemaking; water and other resource rights; and gender issues.

Orion excerpts Blessed Unrest here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

STONEWALK KOREA: Apology for the Japanese Colonial Occupation of Korea & Military Sexual Slavery; Fieldwork in Jeju Island & Okinawa

A 2007 grassroots Japanese apology to Koreans and military sexual slavery survivors for the suffering caused by Japan during its military colonial occupation of Korea, the war, and aftermath...(Participants are still engaged in interfaith-based dialogue between Japan, the Korean peninsula, Jeju Island, Okinawa, and the U.S.)...
Our journey for peace begins today
and every day.
Each step is a prayer,
each step is a meditation,
each step will build a bridge.

- Maha Ghosonanda
In the spring of 2007, Japanese peace and reconciliation activists commissioned a memorial stone with the inscription "Unknown Civilians Killed in War" written in English, and, below this, "In Apology, Friendship,and Peace" written in Japanese and Korean. Joining together with Korean and American counterparts, they formed STONEWALK KOREA 2007 for a journey throughout the Korean peninsula. Pushing the one-ton stone in a cart in procession, they began in Pusan at the end of April and arrived in Panmunjeom, next to the DMZ, in June.

Their intention: to apologize to all Koreans for the Japanese occupation of Korea, with a special message for the aging survivors of Japanese imperial military sexual slavery.

Participants recorded their multilingual mission at Korean blog and a Japanese website. Others captured the walk on videos posted on YouTube: "The Start," and "Departure from Seoul."

American participant Dot Walsh noted some of the journey's stops:

• The jail where people protested the imprisonment of Lee Si-Woo who was released in January 2008. The photojournalist and peace activist was charged and detained by the South Korean government in April 2007, for disclosing include reports on anti-personnel mines clearance and landmine casualties in South Korea. Lee had examined these records for the Korean Campaign to Ban Landmines, obtaining explicit permission to do this from the government beforehand, according to Amnesty International. His photographs can be viewed online at his website, DEEP THINKING FOR PEACE.

• A makeshift peace museum in a building's basement

• The Japanese Embassy where military sexual slavery survivors have been holding demonstrations on Wednesdays since 1992.

• The House of Sharing Museum that documents "comfort station" history

•  A prison that held resisters during the Japanese occupation

•  A U.S. military air base outside of Seoul where the peace and security of residents have been violated by noise pollution from jets and the storage of depleted uranium.

•  Heyri, an eco-conscious, international residential community for artists of all genres

Japanese participant Mari Enzoe described their encounter with atomic bomb survivors in Hapcheon, known as "Korea's Hiroshima.":

The most memorable thing for me was to see and talk to Hibakusha in Hapcheon. We as Japanese didn't know what to say to them. I can't even speak Korean. If they had not been brought to Japan, they would never have become Hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings). But, Mr. Hirose spoke to them in Japanese and many of the Hibakusha spoke fluent Japanese and they seemed to enjoy talking to Mr. Hirose as they are from the same generation, and share the same burden that they have carried for a long time.
The Korean victims of atomic bombings have not received widespread English-language media attention, despite the fact that ten percent casualties of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were Koreans. According to Korean victim advocates quoted in Andreas Hippin's 2005 article in The Japan Times,""The end of silence: Korea's Hiroshima Korean A-bomb victims seek redress," more than seventy percent of the Korean victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from Hapcheon. Most were brought to Japan by its wartime military regime as forced laborers. Others were desperate, landless farmers deprived of livelihood who went to Japan in seek of employment. Around 23,000 hibakusha returned to Korea after the war, where they faced incredible hardships.

Fukuoka resident Tomoko Ueki described how a trial Stonewalk Korea began in Fukuoka prefecture at the Iizuka Cemetery memorial for unknown Koreans who died as forced laborers in coal mines during the Second World War.

American participant Andrea LeBlanc, a member of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a peace advocacy group composed of families of September 11, 2001 victims, participated in both Stonewalk Korea 2007 and the 2005 Hiroshima to Nagasaki Stonewalk. At the end of this journey commemorating civilians killed in Japan during the Second World War, some of the Japanese participants conceived the idea for Stonewalk Korea 2007.

Japanese Stonewalker Takao Ogata recounted the latest placement of the Korean memorial stone in early February, 2008:
Now it’s in Hapcheon, located in Gyeonsangnam-do, in the southeast part of the Korean Peninsula. At first, Korean Stonewalkers were thinking of putting the Stone near the DMZ. But they found it very difficult to negotiate with authorities. Hapcheon is known as “Hiroshima in Korea” because many Korean Hibakusha (A-bomb victims) live in Hapcheon. So, Korean Stonewalkers are hoping to create a peace park and museum in Hapcheon in the future and put the memorial stone in the park.
Ogata described the grieving activities that Korean and Japanese Stonewalkers in Okinawa from February 15-18, 2008, and Jeju Island, off the southern coast of South Korea from March 28 to April 3, 2008:
Each island has a similar sad history of war and today’s problem of military bases. Through the fieldwork, we’ll mourn unknown victims and step forward to peace together. Although we are not pulling a stone, we think it’s a peace pilgrimage, following the Stonewalk Korea 2007. Of course, participants from the U.S. are welcomed!
He added that details will be posted (in Korean) at the Korean Stonewalk website.

Peace Abbey a spiritual retreat in Sherborn, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, purchased a one-ton granite memorial stone and inscribed on it the words “Unknown Civilians Killed In War" to honor all people killed in war. Mohammed Ali, a renowned war objector, unveiled the stone in 1994.

For centuries, countries have honored soldiers who have died in battle. The U.K. buried an "unknown warrior" from the First World War in 1920. Other nations followed suit, putting iconic spotlights on tombs of "unknown soldiers." However, national governments have paid little to the civilian loss of life in wars. Some experts say that in modern warfare, governments often intentionally overlook civilian deaths ("collateral damage") as not meriting close accounting.

Nine out of ten casualties of war are innocent civilians, according to the Peace Abbey leadership, which became concerned about the lack of an official place in the U.S. where citizens can mourn civilian victims of war: men, women and children. Dot Walsh, the Peace Abbey program director, explained, "The idea for Stonewalk was first suggested by a Cambodian Buddhist monk, Maha Ghosananda. He said, 'They don't have a memorial in Washington honoring civilians. Why don't you bring the one here (the Memorial Stone) at the Peace Abbey there?'"

To fill this vacumn, Peace Abbey created another memorial stone and transported it to Washington, D.C. in 1999, hoping it would be placed in Arlington Cemetery, home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. However, the U.S. Congress refused to accept the stone. Thereafter, Peace Abbey decided to send it around the world to draw attention to civilians killed in war, and as a focal point for peace and reconciliation, supported by the interfaith peace activism of Peace Abbey. Stonewalks have taken place in Ireland in 2000 and England in 2001, and the U.S. in 2004.

One of the Korean ministers who participated in Stonewalk Korea 2007 expressed hope that Japanese, Korean, and American people will join with Vietnamese people and initiate a future Stonewalk in Vietnam.

Originally posted at the Kyoto Journal website on Feb. 23, 2008.

Friday, December 16, 2011

“Atomic Café”: Japan’s entertainment personalities confront post-Fukushima sociopolitical realities, lament media silence during recent Tokyo event

Kenji Endo ("Enken"): "Living in this nuclear age and facing the dangers of radiation, it is important for each of us to do what fulfills us. My love is singing, and I will continue to do it passionately every day for the rest of my life."

Nine months following the triple earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck Japan on March 11th of this year, life has largely returned to business-as-usual as far as most of the country is concerned. With the majority of those living outside the affected regions unable to fully register the scale of the tragedy to begin with, even Tokyo—which was largely paralyzed during the days following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant due to fears of imminent large-scale nuclear emergency—now once again buzzes along obliviously in typical metropolis fashion as if nothing had ever occurred.

Helping to support this image of normalcy is a mainstream media that routinely downplays Fukushima’s ongoing health and environmental costs, despite ongoing bad news regarding leakages and radiation contamination, while a seemingly unrepentant Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) continues its pursuit of profit-making nuclear power over other possible sources of energy.

With notable exceptions such as a recent sit-in demonstration in front of the Ministry of Economy led by righteously angry Fukushima mothers, tremendous pressure is being exerted at most levels of society to tow the official line.

In few industries is this taboo stronger than in the world of entertainment, where media personalities are expected to keep critical thoughts to themselves lest they risk offending sensitive sponsors. In addition to a growing number of citizens, however, certain celebrities are violating this restriction to speak their minds against what they perceive to be strong injustice.

On a recent evening in Tokyo, several members of Japan’s entertainment and media industry who are all outspoken critics of Japan’s nuclear policies—broadcaster Peter Barakan, singer Tokiko Kato, citizen journalist Yu Tanaka, vocalist/guitarist Hiro Yamaguchi and actor Taro Yamamoto—gathered at a live music space in the artsy neighborhood of Daikanyama to do this very thing.

The November 23rd event, titled Atomic Café after the 1982 documentary film that satirized the nuclear fervor of 1940s and 1950s America, began with a powerful performance from rocker Kenji Endo (known as “Enken”). This was followed by an engaged two-hour discussion facilitated by lawyer/musician Kikujiro Shima, as panelists delved into the complexities of the social and political landscape that continue to define post-3.11 Japan.

Atomic Cafe panelists (L-R): Kikujiro Shima (facilitator), Peter Barakan, Tokiko Kato, Yu Tanaka, Taro Yamamoto, Hiro Yamaguchi

Perhaps the most egregious example of what can happen if one flouts the established rules of enforced silence surrounding the nuclear power industry may be seen in the case of Yamamoto, who lost his scheduled role in a forthcoming television drama after speaking his mind following the Fukushima disaster.

“Prior to 3/11, I had only ever expressed myself on an intellectual level; and as an actor, I had lived exclusively through my sponsor,” he told the audience. “After the accident occurred, however, I came in touch full-force with my emotions—which included extreme anger in addition to regret for not having spoken out sooner against nuclear power.”

Specifically, Yamamoto incurred the wrath of the scandal-shy media establishment by attending an anti-nuclear demonstration held in Tokyo on April 10th that drew some 20,000 people—announcing beforehand to his Twitter followers: “I can’t stay silent while Japan continues the state terrorism of nuclear power."

“I knew I was bound to lose work after making my views known, but it was shocking how quickly it actually happened,” Yamamoto told those in attendance. “Although it was an incredibly difficult thing to do given the constraints I was under, I thought about the possibility of another Fukushima occurring, and finally realized that I had no choice but to speak out.”

Despite differences in age, career and backgrounds, one common thread uniting all of the panelists was a passionate sense of righteous anger toward a bureaucratic system that has consistently protected the interests of the powerful corporate nuclear industry, while silencing any and all dissent regarding the human suffering that has transpired as a result of the Fukushima crisis.

Journalist and environmentalist Yu Tanaka, who has been speaking out against the dangers of nuclear power and radiation for decades, spared no contempt for those responsible for the recent tragedy, and its effect on the lives of society’s most vulnerable. “I recently took a group of Fukushima children to Okinawa, and they displayed obvious fear toward both the ocean and the rain, in addition to being afraid to stay outdoors more than ten minutes at a time,” Tanaka recounted. “They finally realized they were safe, but we had to send them back to Fukushima at the end of the trip knowing that they would once again be returning to this kind of stress and fear. These children have been robbed of their lives, and we must look clearly at who and what is responsible for it.”

Tanaka emphasized, however, that we now have a golden opportunity to transcend tragedy by creating a society with radically different values. “Other countries are making the shift to alternative energies, so why can't Japan—the number one technologically advanced nation in the world—do the same?” he challenged. “An Internet-based business model created at the grassroots level could in fact make the energy industry profitable enough so that companies will want to fund it. However, it is critical that we first break out of the existing dictatorship whereby TEPCO (The Tokyo Electric Power Company)—an enormous media sponsor—threatens any information outlet that dares criticize it.”

Peter Barakan agreed readily about the issue of media control, with which he is intimately familiar as a broadcaster. Originally from the UK but having spent the better part of his life in Japan, he has consistently challenged the existing climate of both overt and subtle media censorship by featuring the music of politicized artists on his radio programs, along with his own commentary regarding government policies in areas such as war and nuclear issues.

Within this climate, broadcasters who are willing to challenge the official line are a precious resource to those with few other outlets for expression. During his weekday morning radio program, Barakan recently read an email message from a listener who had returned to his hometown of Minami-Soma, one of the areas most severely affected by the nuclear crisis, and said that he was “seething with anger” as a result of being forced to remain at the mercy of a system that could only be described as “nuclear fascism.”

“As a monopoly—not to mention one that is, incidentally, in debt—TEPCO should most certainly not be spending its money on PR, which I believe should more rightly be termed as ‘propaganda’," Barakan remarked.

“Musicians speaking out on social issues are a minority in any country,” he also noted, “with the notable exception of the Vietnam war era during the 1960s and 1970s, when a group of top-name artists gathered in the USA for a major concert held in New York City titled Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE).”

In Japan, one consistently similar voice in this regard is that of Tokiko Kato, who has combined singing with social activism since the era of the ANPO (Japan-U.S. Security Treaty) protests during the 1960s. Long having advocated the eradication of all things nuclear, she was among the lineup of artists participating in the first grassroots-level Atomic Café Festival held in Tokyo in 1984, which aimed to “call for the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear power through music."

Involved in sustainable organic farming movements together with her late husband for the past several decades, Kato’s echoed Tanaka during the recent event with the resounding message that we must now work to transcend the current nuclear crisis by completely transforming our social values. “Many Fukushima citizens have had no choice until now other than working at nuclear plants, but more and more people—including many youth—are now moving to the countryside in order to begin creating completely new lifestyles,” she told the audience. “In addition to being fun, growing your own food also empowers you to begin taking charge of your own food safety.”

Tokiko Kato, with backdrop photo of her writing a note of support for local citizens
 while visiting affected regions following the 3.11 disaster

Hiro Yamaguchi, who has traveled numerous times with his band Heatwave to play music for residents from the cities of Minamisoma and its neighboring Soma in Fukushima prefecture, agreed with this last point. “I’ll never forget the many young women I’ve spoken with who are agonizing right now regarding whether or not they will ever be able to have children,” he remarked.“While power company officials may clearly be blamed for this accident, each one of us also needs to think seriously about the impact of our individual actions on society at large, so that we can help create a hopeful future.”

Yamamoto, before having to leave early from the event to attend another engagement, delivered an impassioned final speech regarding concrete steps that are now being taken in order to make positive change in this regard. Specifically speaking, he announced an initiative that he is helping to spearhead along with a collection of other public figures, whereby signatures will be collected in Tokyo and Osaka to call for a citizen referendum regarding the issue of nuclear power.

“I would like to ask each one of you here today to go home and call the offices of lawmaker candidates to ask the following three questions," he said. “First, given the certainty of future earthquakes occurring in Japan, what is their concrete plan for closing nuclear power plants? Second, what is their stance on the situation facing families near the Fukushima nuclear power plant whom the government has yet to evacuate? And finally, what is their plan for dealing with nuclear waste? And those who do not give acceptable answers should expect to feel the heat come election time.

“Hibakusha (people affected by nuclear radiation) are now increasing by the moment,” he said before exiting the stage. “We really don’t have any more time to waste.”

Text by Kimberly Hughes

Images by Mari Onoda

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Supporters Form Human Chain in Tokyo to Call for Wartime Sexual Slavery Justice Amidst Ultra-Right Opposition

As I approached the offices of the Foreign Affairs Ministry to participate in a human chain event advocating justice for “comfort women”—the euphemism for women (many of them Korean) who were abducted into wartime sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army—I was shocked to hear lewd messages blaring from multiple directions via deafening loudspeakers. Many, many times louder than the shameful commentary broadcast by members of the uyoku (ultra-rightists) during the recent Fukushima women’s sit-in, these comments were no less disturbing: “You’re all liars. These women were just prostitutes!” “What about the abduction issue? How dare you Koreans demand compensation!” “And you pitiful Japanese who are out here supporting them? You must secretly be Korean!”

Deeply shaken by what was going on around me, I made my way to join the human chain. I felt better to see that it was enormously long—drawing, I later learned, some 1200 to 1300 participants. On the way, I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the tents which had been in place during the Fukushima women’s sit-in were still very much intact—serving to give voice to both the ongoing anti-nuclear and Occupy Tokyo movements. I stopped for a moment to pick up flyers and give a small donation, and saw that the woman staffing the booth was in tears. “This is so shameful,” she whispered. “There are women who have traveled from Korea to be here today, and now they have to listen to this ugly abuse.”

I tried to comfort her, saying that the Korean women surely were grateful for the presence of numerous supporters and allies, such as herself—and that ultimately, those hurling the verbal tirades were injuring themselves more than anyone else. While I wanted to add that the women from Korea were also unlikely to understand exactly what was being said, the reality was that any who were old enough to remember the Japanese occupation were indeed likely to speak the language due to its forced wartime usage.

Human chain advocating justice for women forced into wartime sexual slavery

The event was being held to commemorate the 1,000th weekly demonstration held outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul every Wednesday since 1992—rain or shine—to demand that the Japanese government officially apologize and provide financial compensation to the so-called "comfort women." A press release for the action reads:
More than 20 years have passed since Kim Hak-Sun first declared on August 14 1991 that she had been forced to serve as a “comfort” woman (sex slave) by the Japanese Army in Korea during World War II. Other women subsequently came forth, and the following year demonstrations began to be launched every Wednesday in Korea to call for a resolution to the issue of sexual exploitation by the Japanese military. December 14 2011 will mark the 1,000th such demonstration.

Former “comfort women” endured systematic military rape and great pain and humiliation during wartime, and many led lives of great hardship even after the war. Despite such adversity, survivors began to gather the courage to talk about their experiences and shed light on a subject previously unacknowledged. Today, the 234 women who came forward are now over the age of 80, and many of them have passed away greatly disappointed that the issue still had not been resolved in their lifetimes.

Two decades later, the Japanese government continues to ignore advisories on the issue given by human rights bodies such as the United Nations, as well as resolutions passed by the legislatures of Korea, Taiwan, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and the European Union, as well as the proposal by the Korean Foreign Affairs Deputy Office bilateral Japan-Korea negotiations following the August 30 2011 Korean Constitutional Court ruling.

For 20 years, despite conditions of rain, snow or scorching heat, the survivors have demonstrated every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. To mark their 1000th weekly demonstration, and to demand that the Japanese government restore honor to these victims of military sexual violence, and issue both an apology and reparations to the women without further delay, Japanese civil society groups will create a human chain around the Japanese Foreign Ministry office on December 14, 2011. Other actions will be carried out on the same day throughout Japan and in other countries throughout the world, including the Philippines, Australia, Germany, the United States, Taiwan, Canada and Korea.
After participating briefly in the human chain, I returned to the tent to speak with activists about the day’s gathering in the context of social movements happening in Japan today. Mitsuro Sudo, a member of the anti-nuclear citizen organization Tanpoposha (“No Nukes Plaza Tokyo”), made the connections easily. “Whether we are talking about wartime sexual slavery or forced construction of military bases—which was recently likened in Okinawa to the act of rape—we must deeply consider the point of view of those being victimized,” he said thoughtfully. “The shared cause among each of these issues is the act of invasion, whether on a personal or a national level, and we must look at these problems historically in order to solve them.”

“In addition to power politics and problems connected to the market economy, which exist in many countries, one special problem unique to Japan is that of the kokutai (emperor’s organization),” he added, gesturing toward the counter-protesters, whose belligerent ranting had begun reaching even higher crescendos. “These aggressors clearly want to protect their profits at any cost, and so it’s up to the rest of us to save the children, the poor and the weak from the new atomic power holocaust that is now occurring in Fukushima.”

Mitsuro Sudo, continuing to fight the good fight outside the Japanese Diet offices

"Stop all nuclear power now!"

I had to leave after about an hour to return to my workplace, which was only about a five-minute walk from where the demonstration was taking place. Barely able to summon an appetite amidst the continued chaos, I nevertheless began to eat my lunch of homemade umeboshi onigiri (rice balls with pickled plum filling)—suddenly becoming aware of the ironic symbolism whereby this food is often equated with the very same Hinomaru (Japanese national flag) that was now being wielded all around me by hate-spewing uyoku. I lost my appetite for the briefest of moments before recalling a conversation I had had several years prior with a friend regarding the symbolism of the sakura (cherry blossoms), which had historically been co-opted by war sympathizers who equated the phenomena with soldiers dying for their nation in the prime of youth—but whose fleeting beauty we both agreed that we would continue to admire nevertheless.

Sign reads: "Comfort woman=sexual slave is a LIE. Just prostitute!"

In any case, whether the “comfort women” will receive the justice that is long due to them, I cannot say. Sadly, most of them have already died without seeing this occur during their lifetime. To mark the 1,000th demonstration in Seoul, a statue of a young girl was erected Wednesday across from the Japanese Embassy to symbolize those who lost their youth in such a cruel way. Rather than use this as an opportunity for reflection, however, the Japanese government has instead issued an official complaint, claiming that the statue would “damage relations” between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the global grassroots movement to support these women continues. In Tokyo, the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) regularly houses installations on the issue, and groups such as the Violence Against Women in War – Network Japan (VAWW-Net) continue to pressure the Japanese government to act upon the ruling handed down by the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery in 2000, which it has ignored to date.

Loudspeaker-equipped uyoku trucks, ruining an otherwise beautiful autumn day

Wednesday's event was synchronized with the action in Seoul, which similarly demanded a public apology and compensation for the surviving women. In addition, solidarity events were held across the archipelago by supporters in Hokkaido, Hiroshima, Fukuyama, Fukuoka, Osaka, Okinawa and Shizuoka.

In Tokyo, more than 300 citizens attended an intra-Diet meeting, while another 100-strong waited outside the room. Seven Diet members from various parties along with non-affiliated members participated in the meeting, pledging their commitment to this issue.

For further details on Wednesday’s demonstrations in Seoul and elsewhere, see this excellent article from Asia One News.

--Kimberly Hughes

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Second Harvest Japan: helping to feed the more than 20 million people in Japan who live below the poverty line & 3/11 survivors in Tohoku

Second Harvest Japan has long helped the more than 20 million people in Japan who live below the poverty line and are struggling for survival.

Since 3/11, Second Harvest Japan has been engaging in disaster response in Tohoku and have a website dedicated to relief efforts. Check out the list of needed items here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Helen Caldicott: "If Americans change the way they live & decide to take responsibility to clean up the polluted planet, millions will follow."

Europeans use approximately 50% less energy per capital than Americans, while maintaining the same standard of living. Europeans are cognizant of energy use and conservation: a light turned on in European hotel hallway is automatically extinguished within three minutes.

Yet with American advertising saturating global TV networks, the U.S. lifestyle has become the model for millions of people in China, India, Africa, and Indonesia, and even the Inuit in the Artic. If Americans change the way they live and decide to take responsibility to clean up the polluted planet, millions will follow.

- Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer

Monday, December 12, 2011

Donate one present to Fukushima this holiday season to Create a Nuclear Power Free World

"A nuclear power free world- for my grand-grandchildren's generation" What is a nuclear free world to you? Post your photos and messages here.
An appeal from the organizers of the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World to be held January 14-15, 2011 in Yokohama:
Ever since March 11, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster has been having a grave impact on the people of Fukushima. Radioactive material has been found in mothers' breast milk and children's urine in Fukushima--evidence that peoples' lives, including the lives of future generations, are being threatened.

Today in Fukushima, state and industry are being given priority over the health and safety of the people, as demonstrated by the Japanese government raising the “safe” level of radiation exposure to twenty times its previous level, including for infants. As a result, residents in some areas are effectively condemned to suffer continuous exposure to high levels of contamination that would have made them eligible for evacuation from Chernobyl, but in Fukushima they do not qualify for any such assistance.

Those who have the financial ability to flee the area still face the great psychological burden of not knowing when--if ever--they will feel safe returning to their homes, and live in an indefinite state of uproot. Those who cannot afford to abandon their homes, land, and jobs face the daily guilt and worry that they are condemning their children and themselves to cancer and other radiation exposure diseases.

It is often difficult to feel connected with disasters around the world that you don't have direct contact with in your everyday life. Even here in Japan, the media has begun to shift away from dealing with this tragic situation and most citizens have put Fukushima in the back of their minds.

In this season of giving and of thinking of the needs of others, however, we would like to invite you to remember the people of Fukushima by giving them a present.
"A nuclear power free world is world where we can enjoy life with our children"
- Company employee, 30, Tokyo

We are asking for donations for the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World--a conference in Yokohama, Japan in January of 2012 that will allow their voices to be heard, and that will amplify on an international scale their call for wiser alternatives to nuclear power. This conference will create a venue for people from all around the world to gather in Japan and respond to the reality of Fukushima.

By combining the experiences of countries around the world, the conference also aims to demonstrate that it is realistically possible to create a society--a planet--that is not dependent on nuclear power. Whilst creating a road map for the safe removal of existing nuclear power plants, international experts, activists and concerned citizens will present alternative policies based on renewable energy and propose action plans that can be implemented by Japan and other countries around the world.

Building a brighter future for the people of Fukushima starts with creating a network across borders that can begin to envision and construct a nuclear power free future--and that can also combine forces to press the Japanese government to not leave the people of Fukushima unsupported in the midst of the world's worst nuclear power plant disaster.

You too can make a difference by asking one of your friends, family members, or co-workers to donate 2,000 yen ($25 USD) to the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World instead of buying you a Christmas present. One less present from the heap we tend to receive every year will hardly dent our enjoyment of the season, but each donation can help to build critical momentum to support the people of Fukushima and the future of our shared Earth.
To give your present to Fukushima click here!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

US Catastrophe: "From the Dot Com bubble to the scandals of the Enron era to a disastrous war in Iraq to a global torture regime to a housing bubble"

Middle American Occupy commentators cite failure of vision, selfishness, conflicts-of-interest, and gross incompetence in U.S. leadership as reasons for disastrous U.S. domestic and foreign policies that have brought about the opposite of domestic and global peace, justice, security, and prosperity.

• "Occupy Wall Street becomes Occupy America" (Bill Press, Tribune Media Service, Oct. 20, 2011):
The question I'm most often asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement, or OWS, is: "What's it all about?" And, every time, I'm reminded of the famous New Yorker cartoon of the man who walks into a showroom for luxury yachts. "If you have to ask the price," the salesman solemnly informs him, "you can't afford it."

Similarly, if you have to ask what OWS followers are protesting, you'll never understand. Is it corporate greed? Persistent unemployment? Record-high corporate profits? Home foreclosures? Income inequality? Stagnant wages? Foreign wars? Money in politics?

Yes, it's all of the above -- and more. Quite simply, the protests are directed against every manifestation of a system today that is dramatically tilted in favor of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans at the expense of the other 99 percent. If there's one statement that sums up the entire movement, it's the banner "We Are the 99 Percent
"We Are Not Occupying America -- They Are" (Eric Garland, St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Common Dreams, Dec. 2, 2011)
Americans generally are unused to images from the Occupy protests being domestic ones. Grandmothers and unarmed college students pepper-sprayed with alarming casualness. Reporters singled out and beaten. Veterans returning from war in Iraq only to be gravely injured trying to exercise the precious liberties for which they supposedly risked life and limb.

Perhaps, we hoped, that these things were only possible in clearly authoritarian regimes such as Syria, Burma and Iran, but they are now home-grown creations, sharing both technique and intention to keep people from peacefully assembling and asking for a redress of grievances, the most precious right enshrined by the Founding Fathers.

New revelations show complicit activity between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and local police forces to repress the Occupy protests, a collaboration that violates a host of regulations, laws and the very Constitution. Given the pattern of violence in the coordinated response to peaceful demonstrations, it is clear that those in elite positions of government are at the very least guilty of overreaction fueled by anxiety and confusion, or are at worst behind a conspiracy to repress the free speech of Americans asking for political reforms that are entirely reasonable within a functioning democracy. Once again, as it seems to happen so often these days, America's leadership fails.

The United States has been careening into catastrophe after crisis after scandal for more than a decade under the current crop of leaders in the public and private sector. From the frivolous Dot Com bubble to the financial scandals of the Enron era to a disastrous war of choice in Iraq to the creation of a global torture regime spanning from Virginia to Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib to a housing bubble based on pure fraud ending in a trillion-dollar bailout to propping up a debt 'supercommittee" that couldn't agree on how to manage a bake sale. America's leaders seem chronically incapable of doing the right thing.

In the decade since the world-uniting tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, America has faced a great number of difficult situations, and, repeatedly, our leaders cannot manage the institutions of the United States to honorable, successful outcomes.

But this aggression against American citizens with no other goal other than to repress free speech is a turning point. America's leaders can no longer hide behind simple incompetence, as they have with every other scandal from Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction to the badly blown bubble of fake mortgages. These events are not the result of poor foresight, and "Nobody could have seen it coming" will not function as an excuse. This time, the leaders know precisely what they are doing.

Those currently holding elite positions of influence have shown themselves ill-fit to the job of leading a great, peaceful, just and prosperous nation. The baby boom generation, whose members hold the highest posts of government, military, finance, industry and the media, has failed to produce a cadre of leaders capable of anything other than fulfilling their own selfish interests, either by loading up their pockets with outlandish compensation packages or by staying in positions of power for personal gain while wrecking the institutions they pretend to serve. Given their gross incapacity to function in the positions they currently hold, it is time for society to dismiss these pretenders in the hopes of moving forward to find better, more qualified candidates...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

International Disaster Relief Organization Japan- Deep Kyoto interviews founder Rob Mangold

The following is an excerpt from a Deep Kyoto interview of Rob Mangold, the founder of International Disaster Relief Organization (IDRO) based in Kyoto:

"It is good to see boats in the harbor at funakoshi again. 船越湾に舟見ると安心する" IDRO JAPAN blog post Nov. 27th
I arrived in Ishinomaki about 1pm yesterday. A lot has changed in the last two months. The city seems to be very busy, the area around the train station still has a lot of shuttered shops, but energy is high. Only a couple of quick stops before heading out to the peninsula.

On the 21st of this month a temporary store opened on the Ogatsu peninsula. The first time people have been able to do any local shopping since March. The bridge that was destroyed at Okawa has been rebuilt and I saw cars moving across it yesterday. I met with Nakazato san in Funakoshi. They are fishing again, and took in 250 fish the morning I arrived. The women at Funakoshi are making jewelry, and that has turned into quite a cottage industry for them…
(Rob Mangold writing from his 7th trip to Tohoku on November 24th)
Wow, the people up there are amazing. No-one is sitting around waiting for help, they are out there doing it themselves.

(From Rob’s report of his fourth trip to Tohoku last May)
As winter sets in, it is time once again to consider the plight of people in northeastern Japan, for Tohoku winters are cold and long. One Kyoto-based organization, that continues to work tirelessly to assist them, is IDRO JAPAN. As regular readers know, IDRO’s volunteers have done some incredible work over the last nine months helping the victims of 3/11 rebuild their lives. Here from the IDRO website is a review of all they have achieved:

Sponsored 7 relief trips from Kyoto

  • distributed immediate relief supplies
  • distributed carpentry tools
  • distributed electrical appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators and microwave ovens
  • replaced glass windows in Funakoshi Elementary School
  • participated in local volunteer relief activities

Sponsored a 7-week summer work camp for volunteers
  • organized over 50 volunteers
  • provided relief supplies
  • participated in local clean-up and assistance activities
  • assisted in home repair and maintenance
  • assisted in cleaning of the Miyagi Sanriku coastline

I think you will agree that that is a pretty impressive tally of results, and all of it was largely organized by one man: IDRO’s founder, Rob Mangold. A few weeks ago I sat down in Tadg’s pub with Rob, and over a few fine craft beers we talked about IDRO’s achievements thus far, and about their ongoing long-term goals. I also wanted to get to know Rob himself a bit better.
Rob Mangold & a fellow volunteer in Miyagi
Read the rest of the entry at Deep Kyoto.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

"The history we carry is not just our own...what worries us is all the soul's call to human compassion."

After certain events, then—including The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011— a new energy from the universe churns what is collective into what is individual to produce the mix Jung called “collective unconscious” which we all share.

The history we carry is not just our own. What worries and gnaws at us, like a dog a bone, is all of ours, as shown by the soul’s call to human compassion.

- Alan Botsford, freedom in harmony

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"We call on the Japanese & US governments to respect the democratic wishes of Okinawans who have voted to prevent new base construction on Okinawa.”

Okinawans demonstrate on Dec. 1, 2011 at the Okinawa Defense Bureau,
a division of the Japanese Defense Ministry 

Two still relevant statements from earlier this year by Americans who support the Okinawan democracy and peace movement that seeks to halt US military destruction of unique, biodiverse, irreplaceable ecosystems in northern Okinawa (a subtropical rainforest & a coral reef habitat that is the home of the critically endangered and federally protected Okinawa dugong):
January 7, 2011

Dear U.S. Ambassador Roos,

US for OKINAWA, a peace action network formed by U.S. and other citizens from around the world, strongly denounces the sudden restarting of construction of an additional 6 new helipads in Takae, Okinawa. Such destruction further destroys the important biodiversity of the region, endangers the lives of local residents, and shamefully continues to undermine democracy in Okinawa.

As U.S. citizens, we call upon our country to use its great power to start fostering global environmental sustainability—not blatantly destroy the forests, waters and wildlife of other countries under the guise of “security.”

We call upon our country to stop the practice of trodding over the democratic processes of other countries supposedly in the name of promoting the American value of democracy. This is deceitful, and harms not only others, but our own stature in the world as well.

Finally, with an arsenal of more than 13,000 nuclear weapons, a chain of approximately 1,000 military bases around the world, fleets patrolling the world, inordinate stockpiles of conventional weaponry, and annual military spending far outstripping any other country, we call upon our country to halt this unnecessary new military construction in Takae.

It's time for the U.S. to step into a new era of fostering peace and stability in the world through more peaceful and just means. Let's start by halting further destruction of Takae.



Network for Okinawa Statement/Press Release on New U.S. Military Construction in Yanbaru Forest & Henoko, Okinawa

Construction Accelerates at Two U.S. Military Sites in Okinawa Prefecture
Advocates Express Concern for Treatment of Peaceful Protesters

Feb. 16. 2011

WASHINGTON – The Japanese Defense Ministry’s Okinawan Headquarters (the Okinawan Defense Bureau) accelerated construction of new facilities at two military bases in northern Okinawa during the last week of January — despite recent signals from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the United States would be more flexible in the realignment of bases in Okinawa. The construction prompted calls of protest from international peace and environmental organizations.

Construction workers pushed past local residents to move material and equipment into Takae Village in the Yanbaru Forest. Crews also replaced a barbed wire barrier with a temporary wall on a beach bordering Camp Schwab in an effort to block the view of new construction from protesters. Residents have continuously protested both construction sites since US and Japanese governments announced their plans at the end of 1996; and cite the many sensitive environmental and cultural treasures at risk. Both sites are home to rare and endangered species found only in Okinawa.

“The actions of the Okinawan Defense Bureau are of deep concern and demonstrate the legitimate grievances of the Okinawan community. We urge all parties to exercise firm restraint. We call on the Japanese and American governments to respect the democratic wishes of Okinawans who have overwhelmingly voted to prevent new base construction on Okinawa,” said John Feffer, spokesperson for US-based Network for Okinawa.

Plans for the US Marine Corps’ jungle training area near Takae Village include six new helipads capable of handling the military’s new V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Residents object that the construction will surround their village of 160 people and damage the biodiverse Yambaru Forest. Takae’s local residents successfully prevented construction from 2007 until December 2010 when a protest camp was partially destroyed by a US helicopter and construction crews forcibly restarted construction work.

Residents near Camp Schwab oppose construction of a new airbase and military port over coral reefs in Henoko Bay. Military leaders cite this new megabase as a replacement for the existing controversial Futenma airbase in central Okinawa. The plan has drawn international criticism because of the endangered species that live within the construction area. In 2008, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the U.S. Department of Defense had violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by failing to “take into account” in the planning of the construction of a US military base in Henoko and Oura Bay the effects of the construction on the Okinawa dugong, a Japanese “natural monument.” Last November, Okinawa elected a governor who campaigned on the promise to close Futenma and relocate it outside the prefecture.

“It is an incredible tragedy the Japanese and American governments insist on pushing forward with a construction plan that would cause irreparable damage to one of the world’s most diverse biosystems,” said Mr. Feffer. “During a time of economic crisis and mounting deficits, it is shocking that both countries have embraced a plan that cuts education and social welfare programs while supporting a construction plan that benefits only the military-industrial complex.”

The Network for Okinawa (NO) is a grassroots coalition of peace groups, environmental organizations, faith-based organizations, academia, and think tanks, which oppose additional military construction in Okinawa and support the democratic decisions of the people of Okinawa.

Japanese version:

「Network for Okinawa」(沖縄のためのネットワーク)声明文



建設作業員が建設資材や機材を高江の山原(やんばる)の森へ移動する際、地元住民を押しのけて通り過ぎました。また、キャンプ・シュワブと海辺の境界にある有刺鉄条網を臨時の壁に置き換えることで、建設現場を抗議者の 視界から妨げる試みです。住民は、1996年末に日米政府が計画を発表して以 来、両建設現場では住民たちが反対運動を行ってきました。住民たちは、繊細な 環境および文化遺産の危機をずっと訴えてきました。両方の現場は、沖縄でしか見つけることのできない希少種や絶滅危惧種の生息地です。

「沖縄防衛局の行為は大きな懸念であり、沖縄地域の正当な不満をあきらかにしています。私たちは、工事関係者には不適切な行動を慎むよう要求します。私たちは、日米両政府に対し、沖縄の圧倒的大多数の人々が新基地建設阻止のために投票した民主的な願いを尊重するよう求めます」と、米国を拠点にしている「Network for Okinawa」の代表のジョン・フェファー氏は語りました。

高江近くの米海兵隊のジャングル訓練場の計画は、米軍が開発した垂直離着陸機V-22オスプレイが操作できる米軍のヘリパッド6つを含みます。住民は、建設が160人の住む村を囲み、生物が多様なやんばるの森に被害を及ぼすと異議を唱えています。2007年から2010年12月までの間は、建設の阻止に成功していましたが、今回、抗議テントが米軍のヘリコプターによって部分的に破壊され、建設作業員 たちが強制的に建設を再開しました。2007年から2010年12月までの 間は、建設の阻止に成功していました。



※「Network for Okinawa」(沖縄のためのネットワーク)は、米国と世界の平和・環境団体、宗教的奉仕活動団体、大学・研究機関やシンクタンクの代表者を結びつけ、沖縄に おける軍事施設建設に反対し、民主的な判断をサポートする草の根のネットワークです。
Background from Hideki Yoshikawa in Okinawa:
The Citizens’ Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa (Okinawa BD): Call for Your Attention and Action:Protect Yanbaru Forest and Local Community from Helipad Construction

Dear Concerned Citizens and Organizations,

On February 3, 2011, amid local people and their supporters’ protests and calls for dialogue, members of the Okinawa Defense Bureau marched in and began felling trees in Takae area of the Yanbaru forest in Okinawa, Japan to resume the construction of six new helipads for the US military.

The resumption of construction has brought a new intensity to the stand off between the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the local people and their supporters, who have been carrying out a peaceful sit-in protest to protect the living environment and the Yanbaru forest.

The Citizens’ Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa (Okinawa BD) is calling for your attention to this latest development in the Yanbaru forest and is asking for your action to help halt the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s construction work in the forest.

Located in the northern area of Okinawa Island, the Yanbaru forest (about 26, 000 ha) is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in Japan. It is home to over 1,000 species of high plants and 5,000 species of animals, including numerous indigenous and endemic species such as the endangered Okinawa Woodpecker and Okinawa Rail. It is also home to people who live in small and isolated communities. Takae is one of these communities.

The Okinawa prefectural government promotes the Yanbaru forest as a key area in its efforts to get the Ryukyu Islands designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The Japanese government announced its intentions to designate the Yanbaru forest as a national park during the10th Conference of Parties to the Convention for Biological Diversity
(COP10) held recently in Nagoya, Japan.

Helipad Construction

Since 1957, the US military has been using a large part of the Yanbaru forest for training. Today, 30% of the Yanbaru forest is a US military training area. In this training area, there are already 22 frequently used US helipads, causing various problems to the environment and the nearby local communities. Thus, since the construction plan was revealed in 1999, local people, NGOs, and experts have been opposing to the plan and expressing their concerns that the construction of new helipads in the Takae area will certainly further impact the Yanbaru forest and the Takae community.

After conducting its Environment Impact Assessment for the helipad construction plan, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has concluded that the construction and use of the helipads would have no impact on the environment and the community. While local people, NGOs, and scientists/experts have criticized the EIA for its lack of transparency, accuracy, and reliability, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has been proceeding with the construction plan, based on the EIA’s “no-impact" conclusion.

International voices, meanwhile, have been loud and clear. The International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) has twice called for conservation of the endangered Okinawa Woodpaker and Okinawa Rail in the forest. On the occasion of COP10 in Nagoya, the Guardian newspaper urged the Okinawa Defense Bureau to “consider alternative sites [for helipad construction] that will not impact Okinawa's unique biodiversity.”

This is why the residents of the Takae community and many others have been opposing the construction plan and calling for explanation and dialogue with the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

Okinawa Defense Bureau Filed Lawsuit

So far, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has shown no willingness to resolve the criticism and concerns. Instead, it has reacted to the local opposition by filing a lawsuit against residents of the Takae community for obstruction of traffic in November 2008, who were engaged in a peaceful sit in protest against the helipad construction.

In what many consider a “SLAPP lawsuit,” the court has ordered both the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the local residents to enter negotiation outside of court. Negotiation has not, however, has taken place as the Okinawa Defense Bureau keeps declining to negotiate.

It is in light of these developments that the Okinawa Defense Bureau marched in and began felling trees in the Takae area of the Yambaru forest and the stand off between the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the protesters has intensified.

Please Voice Your Objection and Concerns!

We of the Okinawa BD ask the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the Japanese government to immediately halt the helipad construction in the forest. We also ask them to enter dialogue with the local people, NGOs, and experts/scientists in order to seek ways to protect the rich biodiversity of the Yanbaru forest and the peaceful living environment for the local people.

We invite you and/or your organization to voice your objection to and/or concern over the resumed construction of helipads in the Yanbaru forest, and to send them to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the Japanese government, the Okinawa prefectural government, and the US government,

Hideki Yoshikawa

Chief Secretary
Citizens’ Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa

Contact Addresses

-Okinawa Defense Bureau
Tel: 81-(0)98-921-8131
Fax: 81-(0)98-921-8168

Japan Ministry of Defense
Tel: 81-(0)3-5366-3111

Japan Ministry of the Environment
Tel: 81-(0)3-3581-3351

Okinawa Prefectural Government/Military Base Affairs Office
Tel: 098-866-2460
Fax: 098-889-8979

US Embassy in Japan
Tel: 81-(0)3-3224-5000
Fax: 81-(0)3-3505-1862

US General Consulate in Okinawa
Tel: 098-876-4211
Fax: 098-876-4243

Information on Yanbaru Forest, Takae Community, and Helipad Construction

- Okinawa Prefectural Government, “The Nature of Yanbaru” (in English)

- Japan Hotspots, “A Treasure Box of Subtropical Laurel Forests” (in English)

-Takae People’s Blog, ”What is going on in Takae, Higashi village” (in Japanese)

-“Voice of Takae” (Jun. 2008) (in English)