JPRI Critique Vol. V, No. 3: March 1998
Okinawan Activists in Their Own Words

Nago Citizens Act Against the Nago Heliport: A Brief Chronology
by Miyagi Yasuhiro

Human Rights Violations and Environmental Destruction Caused by Stationing U.S. Troops in Okinawa
 by Takazato Suzuyo

On One-tsubo Antiwar Landlords
by Arasaki Moriteru

Seeking to present the views of Okinawan anti-base activists undiluted by interpretations from the LDP, the American Embassy in Tokyo, or defense pundits around the world, JPRI asked three prominent leaders of the movements of popular protest in Okinawa to explain their organizations. Our three authors are Ms. Takazato Suzuyo, member of the Naha City Council and Co-chair of Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence; Mr. Miyagi Yasuhiro, spokesperson for the Nago Citizens Act Against the Heliport Campaign; and Professor Arasaki Moriteru of Okinawa University, spokesperson for the One-tsubo Landlords Campaign. Their remarks were written in Japanese and translated for JPRI by Mr. Nakamoto Yoshihiko, an advanced doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and a member of JPRI.

JPRI Staff

Nago Citizens Act Against the Nago Heliport: A Brief Chronology
by Miyagi Yasuhiro

April 1996 The Interim Report of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) says that Futenma Marine Corps Air Station is to be returned in five to seven years if Japan makes available "adequate replacement facilities."

June Nago City Council passes a unanimous resolution "against any future replacement of the Futenma Base with a heliport" in its offshore waters.

July The mayor of Nago City holds an "anti-heliport rally of Nago citizens."

November The Director General of Japan's Defense Agency states that they are considering Nago and the offshore area near Camp Schwab as a possible site for the heliport. The government calls it a "heliport," but it should be called a "floating air base" since it would have a 1,300-meter runway and many support facilities.

Nago City Council passes another unanimous resolution "against any future replacement of the Futenma Base with a heliport offshore of Camp Schwab."

July 1997 The U.S. and Japanese governments reach an agreement to construct a heliport offshore of Camp Schwab. Thirteen districts in the eastern coastal area where the heliport will be constructed turn in an anti-heliport petition to Nago City.

April The mayor of Nago City accepts the Japanese government's feasibility study for a floating heliport.

June The Nago Citizens Act For a Heliport Referendum is established.

August The Nago Citizens Act For a Heliport Referendum acquire more than the necessary signatures (about one fiftieth) of eligible voters to demand a referendum.

September A pro-heliport group, calling itself Citizens Act For Revitalization of Nago City, is established.

October The Nago City Council approves the referendum but adds two conditional choices, such as "I agree [with building the heliport] because promised anti-pollution and economic measures can benefit the community." The referendum is scheduled for December 21. Nago Citizens Act For a Heliport Referendum is replaced by a new organization, Nago Citizens Act Against the Heliport.

November The Japanese government unveils a policy proposal for promoting the economic revitalization of Nago City. It also holds six meetings to explain to Nago residents its "Basic Plan for the Offshore Heliport." These meetings revealed that the Japanese government could not really answer many questions raised by people. Nor did the government reply to an open letter from Nago Citizens Act Against the Heliport.

December Officials of Japan's Defense Agency go from house to house in Nago, urging residents to support the heliport. Corrupt practices are spreading and about 10 percent of the eligible votes are bought by the construction companies and others via absentee ballots. The election laws are not applied to the referendum despite protests and requests from various democratic groups. Despite the Japanese government's illegitimate interventions, more than half of the eligible voters oppose the heliport. The opinion of the people in Nago is now clear to everyone, except the mayor of Nago City, who recklessly tells the Japanese government that Nago will accept the construction of a heliport and then resigns as mayor.

February 1998 A new mayor-Kishimoto Tateo-is elected in Nago. Two days before the election Governor Ota Masahide makes public his opposition to the floating heliport, infuriating the LDP and eliciting threats from Tokyo of retaliation against Okinawa Prefecture. Kishimoto was the LDP candidate but is leaving policy on the heliport to the governor. Kishimoto is also a one-tsubo landlord.

We believe that all of Futenma Base should be unconditionally returned and that the U.S. Marine Corps should be withdrawn back to its home country. In light of the end of the Cold War, we contend that arms reduction should be implemented, and that the U. S. and Japan should avoid any crisis of war by deepening their peaceful dialogues with other Asian countries. This is why we oppose any new military bases in Okinawa. People in Japan and the United States should act together to urge their governments to stop such construction.

Human Rights Violations and Environmental Destruction Caused by Stationing U.S. Troops in Okinawa
by Takazato Suzuyo

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in August 1995, reaffirmed that the rape of women in situations of armed conflict constitutes a war crime. We Okinawan women who attended the conference held a workshop on the "Structural Violence of Armed Forces and Women." We shared our experiences of fifty years of listening to the roar of airplanes from U.S. military bases, training plane crashes, environmental destruction, and above all sexual violence against women.

Shortly after we returned home from the conference in Beijing, we were confronted with the rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three American servicemen. People were moved by her courageous statement that "I do not want anything like this to happen to other children." So we women established the Rape Rescue Center of Okinawa and Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence. We are now collecting data concerning all the rape incidents by American servicemen over the past fifty years. During the Korean and Vietnam wars there were cases of the rape and murder of girls and gang rapes, and there are still many rape incidents occurring. We made a tour of the U.S. to promote the American people's understanding of these issues, and we also held a conference on "Armed Forces and Human Rights: Women and Children" in which female scholars and activists from the Philippines, Korea, and the United States participated.

However, the U. S. and Japanese governments skillfully replaced our appeal for a reduction of military bases on Okinawa with their plan for a 'readjustment' of military base functions. The final draft of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) does not refer to any reduction of military forces and offers only a cosmetic "burden reduction" in Okinawa. The proposal to move Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to an offshore 'floating heliport' in northern Okinawa, is probably more because the U.S. wants to replace the aging air station with an up-to-date base.

The referendum in Nago, the chosen site, on the construction of the offshore base was held on December 21, 1997. With 82.4 percent of 38,176 eligible voters (83.45 percent of the female voters and 81.09 percent of the male voters) casting their votes, 53.83 percent of them opposed the construction. Partly because of women's determined action against the construction of this new military base on Okinawa's beautiful sea, people showed their will not to succumb to power or money. What is needed now is a reconsideration of SACO, including a genuine reduction of the Marine Corps troops in Okinawa.

On One-tsubo Antiwar Landlords
by Arasaki Moriteru

Mr. Uehara Taro, one of the antiwar Okinawan landlords (those who refuse to offer their land for U.S. military bases), once said, "American forces may have taken our land by 'bayonet and bulldozer' but they can never trample our feelings." It was in 1953 that Mr. Uehara and others were forced from their land at bayonet-point. The American Forces did pay rent for the land and put aside the money for those who rejected the contracts (the antiwar landlords). But now the Japanese government is trying to force the antiwar landlords to accept these contracts by using every means at its disposal, such as stirring up conflict between the landlords who accepted the contracts and those who refused them. In the ten years after the return of Okinawa to Japan, the number of antiwar landlords was reduced to about 100, one thirtieth of the original number. To encourage the antiwar landlords and to spread their message to the grassroots, the One-tsubo Landlords' Campaign was started.

It began by buying and sharing some of the land of the antiwar landlords. One tsubo is a Japanese measure equal to 3.3 square meters or 40 square feet, about the size of two tatami mats. It is a symbolic expression in this instance because with the number of people who have joined the movement, the actual size of each piece of land is smaller than that. This is why Foreign Minister Kobuchi and director general of the Defense Agency Kyuma ridicule one-tsubo landlords by calling them "cushion landlords" or "handkerchief landlords."

The basic idea of the One-tsubo Antiwar Landlords' Campaign is expressed in its slogan, "Change the military bases into places for life and productivity!" We have been surprised to see how many old people, who had been regarded as quite cautious about antiwar campaigns, have joined the movement. They include Mr. Nakasone Seizen, Professor Emeritus at the University of the Ryukyus, who saw some of his female students barely survive the war; Mr. Taira Ryosho, the mayor of Naha, who had emigrated to Peru and then was interned during the war in the United States; Mr. Toyohira Ryoken, former President of the Okinawa Times; and Ms. Gushi Yae, a former war nurse. Most of them share historical experiences with the antiwar landlords, and they are in sympathy with antiwar landlords' desire for peace. They also worry that the antiwar landlords may be increasingly isolated as the memories of people's wartime experiences fade. [For a complete list of the one-tsubo landlords, see the monthly magazine This Is Yomiuri, June 1997, pp. 129-41.]

At the beginning, we limited members of the campaign to people who live in or are from Okinawa. Some argued that we should welcome everyone, but the majority felt that we Okinawans should do this ourselves rather than expecting solidarity with the Japanese mainland. However, we received many requests from mainlanders who have become concerned about Okinawa, and so we decided not to reject any applicants who feel strongly about antiwar and Okinawan issues. The movement suddenly began to catch the Japanese media's attention when the governor of Okinawa, after the rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three American servicemen, refused to sign the documents that would force unwilling landowners to renew leases on key parcels of land now used by American bases. Japan's Land Expropriation Act entrusts local governments-i.e., each prefecture's committee on expropriation-with the task of judging whether land expropriation and compulsory leases are appropriate. Faced with strong resistance from the antiwar landlords and their one-tsubo supporters, the Japanese government has decided to enforce compulsory land leases by taking away a large amount of power from the prefectural committee on expropriation, and by strengthening the power of the Minister of Justice.

The Japanese government has thus decided to ignore the will of local citizens and instead serve the American forces. This is against the Constitution of Japan, which stipulates respect for property rights and local autonomy, and it is a denial of the legal system of land expropriation. The strife between the Japanese government and one-tsubo antiwar landlords will take various forms, including litigation. But this campaign will never end so long as huge military bases exist in Okinawa.

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