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JUNE 2017: In Memory of Former Okinawa Governor Ota Masahide

Former Okinawa Governor Ota Masahide died on Monday, June 12, 2017, at the age of 92. As a youth he was drafted into the Japanese Army and saw action in the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific War. After the war, he studied in the United States and became a professor at the University of the Ryukyus. From 1990 until 1998 he was governor of Okinawa and led a campaign to force the U.S. military to close its Futenma Air Base, located in a densely populated area. In 1996 U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale and Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Ryutaro reached an agreement on this issue. However, twenty years later the base has not been closed because the Americans insist it should be moved to a different, ecologically sensitive area in the northern part of the island, near Nago, which is unacceptable to local residents and most Okinawans.

On September 4, 1995, three American service men abducted and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl on her way home from school, triggering massive protests throughout Okinawa and the rest of Japan. In February of 1996, Chalmers Johnson, then President of the Japan Policy Institute, visited Okinawa at the invitation of Governor Ota and witnessed the extent of the American bases and their long-term effects on Okinawa. Johnson himself and a group of JPRI-funded scholars undertook research on the history of the bases and in 1999 published a book, Okinawa: Cold War Island. Although this book is now out-of-print, many of articles in it are available on the JPRI web site.

In 2013, Ota established the Okinawa Peace Research Institute in Naha. JPRI expresses its sincere condolences to the institute and the family of Governor Ota and the people of Okinawa on the death of this honorable and patriotic man.

Also, see obituaries in Japan Times and Asahi Shimbun.

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