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Thursday, December 25, 2014

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-JD

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

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

(Image: Ryukyu Shimpo)


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

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

Saturday, November 1, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

How will we participate?

What opportunities will we present through our actions?

Which future will we choose?

Friday, October 10, 2014

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



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

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

Via WaPo:
“Japanese people who conserve Article 9” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

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



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

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

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

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

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■「辺野古の海」沖縄展 
 大反響があった「辺野古の海」写真展は9日から那覇市の琉球新報ギャラリーで始まります。ようやく、チラシが完成しました。

 皆さん、沖縄の将来、日本の将来と平和に危惧をいだくようでしたら、
ぜひシエア、拡散してください。
 
 東京展を見損なった方には6日―7日の2日間ですが国会・参議院議員会館でご覧いただけます。

【日時 】
10月6日(月)と7日(火)午前10時から午後7時まで
【場所】 
参議院議員会館地下1階 B103会議室(6日)
            B101会議室(7日)

 なお、参議院会館への入場については事前に電話で以下の事務所に問い合わせてください。どなたでも入場できます。
田城かおる事務所 6550-0907
福島みずほ事務所 6550-1111

主催:辺野古の海写真展実行委員会代表 新藤健一 090-4813-5043

Monday, September 22, 2014

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

(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

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

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

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

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

Follow-up: 

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

(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)


(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

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

Via Yoko Ono on the Int. Day of Peace 2014,
Surrender to PEACE:
Think PEACE, Act PEACE, Spread PEACE - IMAGINE PEACE
love, yoko
https://soundcloud.com/yokoono/sets/surrendertopeace
#SurrenderToPeace #PeaceOneDay


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

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


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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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

Photo: Twitter@soulflowerunion

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

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

(Photo via Keiko Itokazu on FB)

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

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

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

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

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

-JD

Sunday, August 17, 2014

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


                   沖縄県名護市辺野古の東方約5キロの沖合を泳ぐジュゴンとみられる海獣=17日午後、共同通信社ヘリから
Dugong seen swimming off Henoko coast today. (Image: 47 News via Kyodo)

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

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



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

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Laura Kina's Blue Hawai'i & Wesley Uenten's "Okinawan Diasporan Blues"

"Graves By the Sea" by Laura Kina

In this excerpt from "Okinawan Disaporan Blues," included in Laura Kina's Blue Hawaii exhibition catalogue, Wesley Uenten describes the Japanese colonial rule's erasure of traditional Okinawan culture and ongoing resistance by a group of grandmothers and grandfathers, child survivors of the Battle of Okinawa, to the US plan to turn the habitat of the Okinawan dugong, a sacred cultural icon, into another military base:
...At least on the level of cultural genocide, what happened to Okinawans was similar to what happened to Native Americans. It seems so familiar when I read about the...philosophy of the “Indian Schools” that prohibited Native American school children from speaking their own language or practicing their culture.... By the time that my grandmother was born in 1893, most Okinawan children were in schools, where they would be punished for speaking the Okinawan language and expected to worship the Japanese emperor. A large wooden tag with the words 方言札 (hōgen fuda), or “dialect tag,” was place around the neck of school children who spoke in the Okinawan “dialect.” The tag symbolically relegated the Okinawan language to the inferior status as a backward “dialect” of Japanese, while corporeally ingraining a sense of shame and fear in generations of Okinawans for speaking their own language and being their own selves...

Physical genocide did take place on Okinawa. Japan’s leaders knowingly caused about a fourth to a third of Okinawa’s population to perish in less than 3 months during the Battle of Okinawa when they used Okinawa as a buffer to hold off American troops heading toward Naichi (mainland Japan)...in 1945...

I stare at "Graves by the Sea." ...Departed souls encased in concrete tombs pushed up against each other. They are testament of the reverence for ancestors and tradition in Okinawa that contradicts the reality of the lack of space on Okinawa...There is a strong and powerful message that the ancestors and land is telling us through Laura’s work.

I end this essay at a time when I have just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. with an Okinawan delegation that was making a direct appeal against plans by the U.S. and Japanese governments to push ahead with construction of a new U.S. Marine Air Station on the clear blue waters of Henoko...At this time, both the Jp and U.S. governments are stepping up their attempts to push past unyielding local Okinawan opposition... Henoko is the site of a large thriving coral reef, turtle spawning grounds, seaweed beds, and an already endangered species of dugong. The blue ocean of Henoko will be no more if this plan goes through.

Most of the officials, politicians, and researchers we met in Washington D.C. [during the Jan. 2014 Okinawan Delegation] had made up their mind about new base construction at Henoko saying that it is the best plan... However, what the delegation was trying to get across to deaf ears was that Okinawans have stopped the construction for 18 years by placing their bodies in front of ships and equipment coming to start construction. Old people, as old and tiny as my Baban in my memories of her, have come to sit on the beach everyday in quiet but unrelenting resistance to American Manifest Destiny and Japanese fatalistic dependency on that destiny...
Wesley Ueunten is an associate professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. A third generation Okinawan, he was born and raised in Hawaiʻi and received his Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Remembering Hanji Kawase: Anti-war Bon dance festival marks 50th anniversary in Hokkaido

Anti-war Bon dance festival marks 50th anniversary in Hokkaido. 
(Photo: Masashi Rokubuichi via Asahi)

Evocative photos and article by Masashi Rokubuichi at The Asahi on the 50th anniversary of an OBon peace festival in Betsukai, Hokkaido. The festival has been held on the farm of Hanji Kawase who died five years ago. His land was in the middle of of a vast tract of land formerly a farming village taken over in 1963 by the Japanese government for the Yausubetsu live-fire training field that is used by both the US military and the JGDF.
“The large turnout can be attributed to) not only the milestone anniversary but also the outpouring of public anger against the Abe administration regarding the right to collective self-defense and other issues,” said Kato, a 72-year-old former junior high school teacher from Hamanaka, Hokkaido...

People from across Japan listened to music and danced at the Kawase farm in the middle of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Yausubetsu drill site, which straddles Betsukai and two other towns.

One big topic of conversation at the festival was the decision of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government on July 1 to reinterpret war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution to lift Japan’s self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense.

The farm used to be run by anti-war landlord Hanji Kawase who died five years ago.

The mid-August Bon holiday season in Japan is a time when people travel to their hometowns to honor their deceased ancestors. The spirits of the dead are believed to return home during the period. Bon Odori dances are held at local festivals throughout the country.

Sachiko Watanabe, who took over the farm from Kawase about 10 years ago and has lived there ever since, said she is well aware of the symbolic nature of the anti-war Bon dance festival, given Kawase’s continuous defiance of the government.

She indicated that the festival has taken on increased significance because the current administration shifted security policy away from postwar Japan’s pacifist ideals.
Hanji Kawase painting Article 9 on his barn.
(Photo: Asako Kageyama)

More Background: "Defending the Peace Constitution in the Midst of the SDF Training Area," Tanaka Nobumasa, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Dec. 10, 2004. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Nagasaki Journey: The Photographs of Yōsuke Yamahata


Front Cover of Nagasaki Journey. (Photograph: Yōsuke Yamahata)
It was perhaps unforgiveable, but in fact at the time, I was completely calm and composed. In other words, perhaps it was just too much, too enormous to absorb...

Human memory has a tendency to slip, and critical judgment to fade, with the years and with changes in life-style and circumstance. But the camera, just as it seized the grim realities of that time, brings the stark facts of seven years ago before our eyes without the need for the slightest embellishment. Today, with the remarkable recovery made by both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it may be difficult to recall the past, but these photographs will continue to provide us with an unwavering testimony to the realities of that time.

- Yosuke Yamahata
On August 10, 1945, a day after the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, accompanied by writer Jun Higashi and painter Eiji Yamadea, military photographer Yosuke Yamahata began to photograph the dead victims and survivors. Taking hundreds of photographs within hours – the most extensive photographic document of the immediate aftermath.

Within two weeks his photos appeared in the August 21, 1945 issue of the Mainichi Shimbun. However, the US Occupation government imposed censorship that prevented further distribution of Yamahata’s photographs. It was only after the restrictions were lifted in 1952 that they would appear in Life Magazine.

In 1965 Yamahata was diagnosed with cancer, probably caused by the residual effects of radiation received in Nagasaki in 1945. He died the next year. His son had the negatives of these photographs restored in 1994. An exhibition of prints, Nagasaki Journey, traveled to San Francisco, New York, and Nagasaki in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the bombing.  The photographs may be viewed online at http://www.exploratorium.edu/nagasaki/related/journeyYamahata.html.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

George Takei remembers Hiroshima, hometown of his Japanese family; spotlights Nuclear Bombing Survivors' call for abolition of nuclear weapons & world peace



Japanese American actor and activist George Takei visits Hiroshima, Japan—a city where he has roots, a city with a tragic past, and a city now devoted to peace.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Voices from Survivors of Hiroshima & Nagasaki: "I had dreamt the night before exactly as it happened in Nagasaki."

Hiroshima in Flames (Photo: City of Hiroshima)

Voices From Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (linked at the Gensuikyo (The Japan council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs site) is a profound collection of survivor testimonies describing the hours before, during, and after the atomic bombings.

The lists of titles of the testimonies read like lines of poetry, painting the terrible tapestry of individual human experiences as Hiroshima and Nagasaki passed through the chasm dividing reality before and after the bombings:
Witnesses to Hiroshima from the night of August 5 through the early afternoon of August 6, 1945

I left the place and escaped death.
It was 15 minutes after 8. It was as silent as a graveyard.
Rays shimmered like heat haze on the ground..
I thought Hiroshima was moaning...
I thought I was dead.
The water of the river blown off the ground just like a tornado.
Leaves were burning on the pine trees.
It seemed as if the sun covered half of the sky over Hiroshima.
Na-mu-a-mi-da-butsu, they chanted in their Buddhist prayers...
Witnesses to Hiroshima around noon through the evening, August 6, 1945

The dead sat up abruptly.
The burning bridge fell down.
Flames shot up into the sky like the Niagara Falls inverted.
Angels.
Now is the time to throw away our pens...
Everybody cried out loud.
My little brother died. I should not have yelled at him.
Maybe it was my mother's soul that visited me.
Witnesses to Hiroshima from August 7 through August 14, 1945

Daybreak, August 7th, 1945 Hiroshima
We dug the riverbank and buried her two daughters
The enemy used a new type of bomb
I was more afraid of the Living than the Dead.
Would this case possibly be caused by radioactivity?

The atomic bomb mushroom cloud over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945
(Photograph by Hiromichi Matsuda, via Nagasaki City - Peace and Atomic Bomb Records)
Witnesses to Nagasaki from the evening of August 8 through through the evening, August 9, 1945

The farewell meal was rice balls.
I had dreamt the night before exactly as it happened in Nagasaki.
I still cannot forget my seven-year-old-son's back.
Three B-29s are heading toward the west.
My shoes were burning
The cloud like a demon was looking down.
People were dead with their eyes open
Cicadas shrieked, "Water, water!"
Don't cry, she was lulling her baby.  The baby was headless.
Even my soul was blown off.
Nagasaki will never recover.
The sun looked bloody red.
Your face looks like a monster.
This must be the end of the world.
It was dreadful to hear the groaning of thousands of people.
I said the prayer of Job.
I have forgotten the prayer.
I walked home crying for Nagasaki on fire.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki August 15, 16 in August to The first ten days of September, 1945 

War made us suffer so much.  It didn't matter whether we won or lost.
Radiation injury was the great majority.
Medical science had no chance against it.
I'd like to go where Saint Mary is, with my hair tied in three-pieces.
Pious and calm struggle against disease.
I have been to the "next world."
My younger brother appeared in my dream and told me the place he died.
"If we could die wet with rain, we were willing to do so."
I have to expose my fox-like face to the public and live.
I'm happy.  Buddha has come to meet me to Heaven.
Evening primroses had been in bloom over a burial mound where we buried the dead people.
Hiroshima Nagasaki, A-bomb victim's opinion.

Opposing to atomic bombs are the voices of A-bomb victims themselves.
We really went to stupid war.
I would want to be pilgrim and go to look for my daughter.
We have to revenge by achievement of peace...
A-bomb survivors must not escape from the fact of being bombed.
Parents, children and grandchildren -- three generations continue to carry on movement against atomic and hydrogen bombs.
Please make use of my story.

-JD

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Peace Marchers arrive in Hiroshima: Call for a world free of nuclear & uranium weapons; Hiroshima Commemoration & Prayers for World Peace...

A very rare rainy August 6. Anniversary of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. 
Every year, many people from all over the world gather 
to commemmorate that tragic day and vow for a world free from nuclear weapons. 


August 4, 2014.  Peace Marchers on the stage of the Opening Plenary of 
2014 World Conference Against A and H Bombs!

Congratulations to our friends at Peace March (sponsored by Gensuikyo, the Japan Council against A and H-Bombs), who have arrived in Hiroshima.

We join all in Hiroshima and  Nagasaki in remembering the people who died and suffered from the nuclear bombings. We also remember all victims of nuclear test bombings (Marshall Islands, US, China, Russia (Kazakhstan), India (Rajasthan), Polynesia...), and uranium weapons since Aug 6 and  Aug 9, 1945. And join their united call for a world free of nuclear weapons, and for peace.

More about Peace March:
The National Peace March is a campaign for a world free from nuclear weapons while walking across Japan literally while calling ‘No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki! No more nuclear weapons!’ It starts on May 6 from different prefectures in Japan and converging in Hiroshima on August 4.

The Peace March started on June of 1958 when a Buddhist monk walked from the atomic bomb site in the Hiroshima Peace Park all the way to the World Conference in Tokyo covering a distance of 1000 kilometers. As he passed through several prefectures, many people joined him each day and the delegation became very big when they reached Tokyo.

For more than half a century already, the Peace March has been done every year without a break. Rain or shine more than 1000,000 marchers pass through more than 70% of municipalities in all of Japan’s prefectures each year. Anyone with the wish for the abolition of nuclear weapons is very much welcome to join.

Konnichiwa! Heiwa koushin desu! Hello, this is the Peace March!
See the great photos and read the inspiring entries about everyday Okinawan and Japanese people working for peace and a world without nuclear weapons at Peace March Journals.


August 5, 2015. Hiroshima. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Humanity May Face Choice By 2040: Conventional Energy or Drinking Water

Andy Tully at Oil Price: "Humanity May Face Choice By 2040: Conventional Energy or Drinking Water," via Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism:
A set of studies based on three years of research concludes that by 2040, the need for drinking water and water for use in energy production will create dire shortages. Conventional electricity generation is the largest source of water use in most countries. Water is used to cool power plants to keep them functional. Most power utilities don’t even record the amount of water they use.

“It’s a huge problem that the electricity sector do not even realize how much water they actually consume,” says Professor Benjamin Sovacool of Denmark’s Aarhus University, one of the institutions involved in the research. “And together with the fact that we do not have unlimited water resources, it could lead to a serious crisis if nobody acts on it soon.”

The research, which included projections of the availability of water and the growth of the world’s population, found that by 2020, between 30 percent and 40 percent of the planet will no longer have direct access to clean drinking water. The problem could be made even worse if climate change accelerates, creating more heat and causing more water evaporation.

That means humankind must decide how water is used, Sovacool says. “Do we want to spend it on keeping the power plants going or as drinking water? We don’t have enough water to do both,” he says...

So how to prevent this conflict? The studies agreed on starting with the simplest solution: Alternative sources of electricity that don’t require massive amounts of water.

The recommendations are improving energy efficiency, conducting more research on alternative cooling mechanisms, logging water use at power plants, making massive investments in solar and wind energy, and abandoning fossil fuel facilities in all areas susceptible to water shortages.

This last proposal may be the most difficult to implement because parched areas now include half of Earth. But Sovacool says it would be worth the investment.

“If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage – even if water was free, because it’s not a matter of the price,” he says. “There will be no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we’re doing today. There’s no time to waste. We need to act now.”

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Earthjustice: Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Construction of U.S. Military Airstrip in Japan That Would Destroy Habitat of Endangered Okinawa Dugongs

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Construction of U.S. Military Airstrip in Japan
That Would Destroy Habitat of Endangered Okinawa Dugongs

Marine Base Threatens Survival of Manatee Relative

SAN FRANCISCO— American and Japanese conservation groups today asked a U.S. federal court to halt construction of a U.S. military airstrip in Okinawa, Japan that would pave over some of the last remaining habitat for endangered Okinawa dugongs, ancient cultural icons for the Okinawan people. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is the latest in a long-running controversy over the expansion of a U.S. Marine air base at Okinawa’s Henoko Bay. Preliminary construction on the base began earlier this year.

Dugongs are gentle marine mammals related to manatees that have long been revered by native Okinawans, even celebrated as “sirens” that bring friendly warnings of tsunamis. The dugong is listed as an object of national cultural significance under Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, the equivalent of the U.S. National Historic Protection Act. Under this act and international law, the United States must take into account the effect of its actions and avoid or mitigate any harm to places or things of cultural significance to another country.

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

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has listed dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there may have been as few as 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world; more recent surveys have only been able to conclude that at least three dugongs remain in Okinawa. Although the Defense Department acknowledges that this information is “not sufficient,” and despite the precariously low dugong population even under the most conservative estimates, the Defense Department has authorized construction of the new base.

The Nature Conservation Society of Japan reported earlier this month that it had found more than 110 locations around the site of the proposed airstrips where dugongs had fed on seagrass this spring and summer.

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

Today’s legal filing, which supplements a suit filed in 2003, seeks to require the U.S. Department of Defense to stop construction activities on the new airstrip until it conducts an in-depth analysis aimed at avoiding or mitigating harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong. In April 2014 the Defense Department concluded that its activities would not harm the dugong, but that conclusion did not consider all possible effects of the new airstrip and ignored important facts. In addition, the department excluded the public, including local dugong experts, from its analysis.

For years many locals have protested and opposed the base-expansion plan for Okinawa, where 20 percent of the island is already occupied by U.S. military.

“Basic respect demands that the United States make every effort not to harm another country’s cultural heritage. U.S. and international law require the same,” said Earthjustice attorney Martin Wagner. “The Defense Department should not allow this project to go forward without making every effort to understand and minimize its effects on the dugong. That means fully understanding the state of the entire Okinawan dugong population, how it depends on the seagrass beds around the proposed airstrip, and how construction and operation of the base might harm it. To ensure that no relevant information is excluded, the process and all related information must be fully open to the public.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the U.S. organizations Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network; the Japanese organizations Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation and the Save the Dugong Foundation; and three Japanese individuals.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Asahi: Unique, unknown species living in Oura Bay & Sea of Henoko ("treasure trove" of biodiversity) under threat of destruction, extinction...

A newly discovered species of a parasitic conch 
(Via Asahi, via Diving Team Snack Snufkin)

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%.

10 years ago, 889 coral scientists from 83 countries, attending the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, signed a resolution calling on the govs of Jp and the US to abandon their joint plan to construct a base at Henoko.

Coral reefs and lagoons used to be major source of cultural distinctiveness in traditional Okinawa, as with other indigenous cultures in the Pacific islands. Coral reefs are called the "rainforests of the sea" because they nourish a rich abundance of biodiversity. Worldwide, coral reefs only comprise 0.1% of the global ocean area, yet they contain a quarter of all marine species. Reef-building coral, fish, shellfish, sponges, and other marine life gather to create a unique ecosystem. They are of incomparable value for food and eco-tourism destinations.

Almost 400 types of coral form Okinawa’s reefs, which support more than 1,000 species of fish, marine mammals, including the beloved dugong, and hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles.

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%. This is part of a global trend: coral reefs will become the first ecosystem that human activity will completely destroy by global warming, pollution and landfill, in just a few decades.

The beautiful and vital Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay ecoregion is an exception to the trend of dying coral reefs in Okinawa and the world.

Takao Nogami's Asahi article outlines the incredible (largely undiscovered) biodiversity that will be destroyed if the Japanese and US governments landfill and build an airbase over Oura Bay and the Sea of Henoko:
Researchers are raising new alarms about the ecological threat posed by land reclamation work planned for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture in a bay where 10 new species have been discovered since 2007...

...these newly discovered species as well as countless others that still remain unknown could be destroyed forever by the construction work, which would not only reclaim land but also change currents and could adversely impact the coral ecosystem...

The unique structure of Oura Bay is believed to be the major reason many rare species live in the ecosystem...the entrance to the bay not only has a well-developed coral reef, but the area is also shallow. However, the bay becomes deeper, and that unusual structure is believed to allow many unknown species to survive there.

Two rivers empty into the bay and the river mouths are covered in mangrove forests and mudflats. Beyond that area is a wide variety of environments, such as seaweed beds, sandy bottoms, muddy areas and coral reef...the interlaying and connecting of such different environments, each of which has its own ecosystem...

Makoto Kato, chairman of the nature preservation committee of the Ecological Society of Japan, said Oura Bay was especially important because it contains the last coral ecosystem in Japan that has remained relatively undisturbed by human development.

"The presence of unrecorded species, such as huge sea cucumbers, shellfish and crustaceans, is but one example of how valuable that ecosystem is," said Kato, who is also a professor of environmental studies at Kyoto University. "While Japan does not have much in the way of underground mineral resources, its marine biodiversity is its true treasure. Unfortunately, political leaders in Japan do not realize that fact.

"The coral ecosystem and biodiversity of the Ryukyu archipelago is undoubtedly Japan's largest treasure trove, and land reclamation work in such waters would be an act of stupidity that would be irreversible."
Nogami's entire article is a must-read for all interested in marine life preservation.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marine biologist Dr. Katherine Muzik diving at the Sea of Henoko, the best (one of the few still living) coral reef in all of Okinawa & Japan


Katherine Muzik diving at the Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay, July 2013

10 years ago, 889 coral scientists from 83 countries, attending the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, signed a resolution calling on the govs of Jp and the US to abandon their joint plan to construct a base at Henoko.

Coral reefs and lagoons used to be major source of cultural distinctiveness in traditional Okinawa, as in other South Pacific islands. Coral reefs are called the "rainforests of the sea" because they nourish a rich abundance of biodiversity. Worldwide, coral reefs only comprise 0.1% of the global ocean area, yet they contain a quarter of all marine species. Reef-building coral, fish, shellfish, sponges, and other marine life gather to create a unique ecosystem. They are of incomparable value for food and eco-tourism destinations.

Almost 400 types of coral form Okinawa’s reefs, which support more than 1,000 species of fish, marine mammals, including the beloved dugong, and hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles.

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%. This is part of a global trend: coral reefs will become the first ecosystem that human activity will completely destroy by global warming, pollution, and landfill, in just a few decades.

The beautiful and vital Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay ecoregion is an exception to the trend of dying coral reefs in Okinawa and the world.

Katherine Muzik via JT on May 2, 2014:
Having lived in Okinawa and worked there as a marine biologist for 11 years, long ago (1981-1988) and more recently (2007-2011), I have dived the entire Ryukyu archipelago from Amami and Kikai in the north to Yonaguni in the south. I can therefore assure you there is no comparable reef ecosystem remaining such as the beautiful reef at Oura. It is indeed miraculous that it is still surviving. Aki samiyo (“Oh my goodness!” in Okinawan)! There is no disease nor bleaching there! It has so far avoided the troubles that continue to plague and destroy coral reefs worldwide, whether in the Pacific or the Caribbean. (I am sure that you are quite painfully aware that reefs all over the world are dying, thus making any coral reef alive anywhere a truly sacred place.)

Oura Bay is a unique and spectacular ecosystem, including mangroves, a river, a sandy beach with crabs, numerous patch reefs in shallow water (where my specialty, blue corals and red sea fans, thrive), not to mention threatened dugongs and all of the species of clownfish in Japan, shallow beds of sea grasses beyond count, and, most amazingly, a very spectacular deeper reef, nicknamed the “Coral Museum,” with countless gorgeous corals...

Crushing these beautiful and quintessential corals just must not, cannot happen...

Last July, I returned to Okinawa from here in Kauai at the request of the Okinawan Environmental Network. I was asked to dive at Oura Bay and to lend my support to its protection. During my visit I met with the mayor of Nago, who is valiantly opposed to construction/destruction at Oura...

I am deeply honored to have met him [the Emperor] and the Empress several times at their palace during the time I lived in Okinawa. He is a marine biologist too, and since his goby fishes often find their home on the branches of “my” octocorals, I collected some for him to study...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sherry Nakanishi: "Music vs Militarism: OKINAWA"


"Music vs Militarism: OKINAWA" by BY SHERRY NAKANISHI

In total, 150,000 Okinawans died during the final battles of the Second World War, a third of the civilian population. The number exceeded the total of American and Japanese dead during the same period.

Things start off quite innocently. I receive two tickets from a colleague at school. On them is printed “Okinawa LIVE.” On the appointed day I arrive at the venue, Higashi Honganji, a large Buddhist temple in midtown Kyoto.

My husband, child, and I cross the vast pigeon-thronged gravel spaces of the temple precincts, reach the correct hall and are greeted warmly by monks...

The auditorium is large, and filled. Hundreds upon hundreds of people have come to hear the Okinawan message. On center stage, a man stands alone, holding a sanshin, the traditional Okinawa three-stringed instrument. “We can only fight through our music, it is all we have,” he says. And an hour and a half passes by as the truth of Okinawa’s recent history spills out, accompanied by intermittent notes played on the sanshin — sounds of nodding agreement.

The speaker is Chibana Shoichi, an Okinawan. Labelled an “anti-base activist” by Time Magazine [April/May 1997], perhaps he is more of a peace activist; one who out of love tries to protect the children, the people, the land, and the sea from being misused and ill-treated....

In ancient times Okinawa was independent, and known as Ryukyu Onkaku, the Ryukyu Kingdom. Before being annexed by Japan in 1865 this peaceful kingdom had no army. Looking into Ma-chan’s youthful face, I recall Chibana telling me how young Okinawans are picking up the traditional instruments, shamisen , jamisen, and sanshin, and proudly carrying on their culture. Okinawa has remained connected with its ancestral soul through its music, and this is how it has responded to an unimaginable military onslaught — with songs that are the spiritual poetry of peace, prayers for nature and for people.

We bow again, he departs; I am left holding the hope of Okinawa — the ancient teaching of the sanshin, the music and song of Okinawa; its gift to the people of Honshu, and the world.

I have a friend in Kyoto, a former soldier whose mind remains disturbed by his intensive military training. He knows he’s crazy, and travels the world sporadically, soul- searching for the truth. I tell him what I have learned about Okinawa, and ask for his response. He says:

This — as all things —
does not exist to be changed,
but for us to change.

His words send a shiver through me.
“I didn’t say it — it came from up there,” he says, pointing to the sky.
Read this rest of Sherry Nakanishi's beautiful essay at Kyoto Journal.