Saturday, March 19, 2016

Okinawa's Beautiful Resistance To Rape Of Women And Environment

Okinawa resistance movement messages. Photo credit: Satoko Kojo
Okinawa is generally considered to be part of Japan, but it really isn't. Okinawa is an island in the Pacific Ocean that is as close to China's coast as it is to Japan's. And, until the end of WWII and the Allied invasion, Okinawans successfully resisted the domination of Imperial Japan by an alliance with China.  Following its defeat of Japan in 1945, the U.S. occupied Okinawa until 1972. The Pentagon's biggest military presence in "Japan" is actually in Okinawa.

Massive resistance to the U.S. military presence in Okinawa has heated up recently. The increased resistance is partly due to yet another rape committed by personnel coming from the military bases. 

From an editorial last week in the English-language version of the online Ryukyu Shimbo:
As long as the U.S.-Japan security treaty allows some 20,000 and several thousand US military personnel to be stationed in Okinawa, soldiers who cannot control themselves, and attack women in a vulnerable position, will continue to be among the stationed troops.
Nicholson apologizing to Okinawa's Governor Takeshi Onaga, who ran on a platform opposing the expansion of U.S. military bases and swept to power over the candidate backed by Japan's ruling party. Photo credit:
Lt. General Lawrence Nicholson was reported in StarsandStripes.Okinawa to have apologized to Okinawa's governor for the rape of a Japanese tourist by a sailor stationed there, and his apology described the U.S. presence in Okinawa as even larger:
Today, I came here to represent 27,000 uniformed members, 17,000 families, 4,000 civilians, 50,000 Americans. The allegation against the specific individual is a great shame and dishonor of us all.
Resistance to the U.S. presence in Okinawa has also increased in response to plans to expand the Henoko base into an offshore presence controlling the waters of Henoko Bay. 
Photo credit: AP
Anthropologist Hideki Yoshikawa reported extensively in Counterpunch on the difficult process of ramming through official approvals in the face of massive opposition by the actual people who live there.  Bases are heavily polluted sites, and the Pentagon recently blocked release of its own environmental study of a different base it is returning to Okinawans. As reported by Jon Mitchell in the Japan Times:
The U.S. military is refusing to release a report detailing environmental contamination at Camp Kinser, a 2.7-sq.-km U.S. Marine Corps supply base near Okinawa’s capital, Naha, that is scheduled for return to civilian use. Since April 2014, U.S. Pacific Command has repeatedly stonewalled a Freedom of Information Act request for the 1993 report, titled “USFJ Talking Paper on Possible Toxic Contamination at Camp Kinser, Okinawa.”
Indigenous people everywhere love their land and waterways, and revere their traditional ways of life. When they win territory back from U.S. control, it is often too polluted to support those ways. 

Okinawa's indigenous resistance is inspiring -- and that is why the corporate media in the U.S. make sure that most people never hear about it.
June 28, 2014 Boat Rally at Henoko. Via Masami Mel Kawamura/Okinawa Outreach.
Photo: Toyozato Tomoyuki

For news of their beautiful resistance, you can follow the Facebook community page I Expose the Expansion of US Bases in Okinawa.


Devin said...

I'm glad to see articles like this in English. It's something that people in the States (and mainland Japan) have a shocking lack of knowledge about. One point of contention about the article, the sentence "And, until the end of WWII and the Allied invasion, Okinawans successfully resisted the domination of Imperial Japan by an alliance with China" is not true, and seems to trivialize the very real domination the Okinawans faced from Imperial Japan following their absorption by the Satsuma clan, and later official annexation by the Meiji government in 1872. The "japanization" of Okinawa amounted to the systematic destruction of their culture as they were forced to adopt Japanese names and restricted from using their own language, and of course indoctrinated with state Shinto and propaganda to make them good children of the Emperor (all these techniques were then repeated in Korea), which had disastrous results during the land battle there in WWII, with thousands of civilians coerced into mass suicide to avoid the shame of capture. (Honorable suicide was another Japanese cultural import with no native precedent.)

And today, while one could rightly place blame on the US military, their presence on the islands wouldn't be feasible without the active collusion of Tokyo and weak position in Japanese society that Okinawans have always faced for being an ethnic minority.

Granted, there was a time in the 17th and 18th centuries, prior to the annexation, when the Ryukyu kingdom had been part of the tributary system of China, but was coerced into being a vassal state of Japan as well, so maybe that is the source of confusion. The wording in the article makes it seem like everything was peachy until the American occupation, when in reality the people of Okinawa have been getting shortchanged in the geopolitical machinations of imperial powers for a more than a century.

Lisa Savage said...

Thank you, Devin, for adding to my knowledge about Okinawa's history as a distinct culture. I did not mean to imply that everything was peachy prior to the Allied invasion in 1945. I struggled with how much history to include in a post that a supporter of Okinawa's resistance had urged me to write. My audience knows very little about the history of Okinawa, and I feel too ignorant to write knowledgeably about it. With the time available to me, I try to bring some information to people living in the wasteland ruled by the corporate media. But you are right in observing that I am rather ignorant.