Friday, May 22, 2009

The History of Okinawan Response

The History of Okinawan Response
The struggles of local Okinawans against the U.S. military presence has existed as long as the bases themselves, and takes many forms – from the reversion of the country to Japan to modern feminist critiques of the unequal burden placed on women by the bases. These movements have been informed by a wide variety of ideologies, objectives, and concerns, but a common thread to all has been a philosophy of nonviolence (Arasaki, 2001). From the first anti-military movement in 1951 through to the modern struggles, Okinawans have fought for recognition and justice without weapons and in a spirit that eschews violence.

1951 Return to Japan Movement
The first major people’s movement, advocating for the return of Okinawa to Japan, used as its slogan: ‘We want to return to the country of the Peace constitution.’ Okinawans were upset at Japan achieving independence with a pacifist constitution while aba
ndoning Okinawa to a militarized existence under the rule of the United States (Arasaki, 2001). The movement began in 1951, and despite gathering signatures from the vast majority of Okinawans asking for reversion to Japan, leading agricultural land-use protests, and rallying against the use of Okinawa as a starting point for American bombings in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, the governments of the U.S. and Japan ignored the people’s will until 1972 (Arasaki, 2001; Arasaki, 2005; Shimada, 2004; Johnson, 1999).

Okinawan People's Struggles Against the Expansion of Military Base
Throughout the 1950
’s, the expansion of military bases pushed farmers to organize and fight for the survival of their way of life. Displaced farmers formed alliances and turned their issue into an island-wide struggle against the military expansion. The movement subsided only after achieving some victories – including assurances of land ownership and large increases in land rent prices (Arasaki, 2001).

The Withdrawal of the B52 Movement during the Vietnam War
Anti-military movements
were especially prevalent during the Vietnam War, with direct action on the part of students’ and citizens’ movements frequently being directed at the bases (Muto, 2004). In November of 1968, a fully loaded B52 bomber crashed immediately after taking off from Kadena Air Base, sparking a large campaign to withdraw B52 bombers from Okinawa’s military bases. This incident marked the first time the Union of Military Base Workers (Zengunto) spoke out against the bases, and a coalition of over 140 labor unions, women’s groups, and other community organizations, known as the Prefectural People’s Joint Struggle Coalition for Life, was formed (Shimada, 2004).

The organized struggles of Okinawans against the military presence on their land since the 1950s have garnered recognition, in Japan as well as internationally, of the issue of military occupation and the plight of Okinawa at the hands of the American military. Within Japan, the movements have “produced a grudging recognition of minority rights as well as an instructive model of participatory politics for other local residents’ movements to follow” (Mulgan, 2000, p. 160). And, as the issue continues to present problems for Okinawa, the movement has expanded to develop rigorous opposition on environmental, community safety, and cultural grounds. Organizations such as the Association of Anti-Base Landowners, Save the Dugong Foundation, the Union of Military Base Workers (Zengunro), and Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence continue to use nonviolent direct action methods to work toward restricting and eliminating the U.S. military presence on Okinawan soil (Shimada, 2004; Makishi, 2001).

Arasaki, M. (2001). The Struggle Against Military Bases in Okinawa: Its history and Current Situation. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 2, 102-108. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from Routledge.
Arasaki, M. (2005). Okinawa Gendaishi. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
Johnson, C. (1999). The 1995 Rape Incident and The Rekindling of Okinawan Protest Against the American Bases. In C. Johnson (Ed.), Okinawa: Cold War Island, 5-9, 109-129, 215-232. Cardiff, CA: Japan Policy Research Institute.
Makishi, Y. (2001). Okinawaha Moudamasarenai. Tokyo: Koubunken.(His website is in Japanese)
Mulgan, A, G. (2000). Managing the U.S. Base Issue in Okinawa: A Test for Japanese Democracy. Japanese Studies, 20, 159-177. Retrieved April 9, 2009 from Routledge.
Muto, I. (2004). U.S. Military Presence in Mainland Japan and Okinawa. U.S. military Bases in Japan, 1-2. Retrieved April 7, 2009.
Shimada, M. (2004). U.S. Bases in Okinawa. U.S. military Bases in Japan, 1-2. Retrieved April 7, 2009.

1 comment:

  1. the worst part is the stupidity of an american war guarantee--if the chincs attack japan, the us must defend! how stupid. get rid of the base, and let the japs defend themselves.