Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Current Okinawan Movements

Current Okinawan movement
Within this framework of nonviolence, Okinawans have continued to build capacity and struggle to end the military occupation of their land. The norms of antimilitarism and nonviolence, established by Okinawa’s culture and history, lead Okinawans to “resent and actively oppose the presence of U.S. bases” (Cooley & Marten, 2006, p. 570). Since the U.S. military rule continues to be the primary perpetrator of environmental, social, and economic injustices, “all struggles carried out by Okinawan people had to take on the nature of an anti-U.S. and anti-base struggle” (Arasaki, 2001, p. 103). Based on these injustices and stimulated by continued devastation, Okinawa’s nonviolence movement has reacted strongly to incidences including the rape of a 12-year-old school girl in 1995, environmental contamination and destruction of critical habitat, failure to live up to agreements, and continued expansion of the military presence (Taylor, 2006).

One-Tsubo Anti-Base Movement
In 1982, a new movement was launched by anti-base activists called the One-Tsubo Anti-Base Movement (tsubo is a Japanese unit of area equivalent to 36 square feet). The group bought small lots of base land from the original landowners and refused to renew lease contracts. The movement continues to this day under the slogan: ‘Military land back to us for use for our production and daily lives’ (Arasaki, 2001). The purchase of these small plots of land serves as both a clever tactic to oppose the base presence and a symbolic gesture that connects each protestor with the land (Cooley & Marten, 2006).

Okinawan as an Indigenous Minority
The subject of land ownership in Okinawa is tightly linked to Okinawans’ identity as an indigenous minority, and has historically been viewed within the contex
t of subjugation by mainland Japan and the U.S. While Japan has been increasingly forced to acknowledge naturalized Koreans and Ainu (an indigenous group from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido) as minorities within the largely homogenous Japanese society, recognition of Okinawans as an indigenous minority has been almost completely refused (Kingston, 2001). This issue of ethnic discrimination is seen in light of mainland Japanese and American subjugation and linked to the imposition of military presence and poverty on Okinawa (Taylor, 2006; Minority Rights Group International, 2008).

1995 Protest

In 1995, the abduction and gang-rape of a 12-year-old school girl prompted much anger and acti
on, including a protest of more than 85,000 people, demands by women’s groups to publicize crime and increase protection for women, calls by landowners for return of their land, and a promise by Governor Masahide Ota to pressure Japan to eliminate the U.S. military presence in Okinawa (Johnson, 1999; Angst, 2001). In addition to protests on the islands, peace activists told their grievances at United Nations conferences, U.S. congressional hearings, and to other peace groups in the U.S. (Cooley & Marten, 2006). As noted by Arasaki (2001), the movement in 1995 was characterized by a “struggle for peace, human rights, and self-reliance” (p. 107).

Governor Masahide Ota
In response to the 1995 rape case, Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota launched an aggressive political campaign against the U.S. military presence, demanding the military leave Okinawa entirely by 2015. He organized Japan’s first-ever prefecture-wide referendum, which was overwhelming supported by nearly 90% of voters. Ota refused to sign land lease renewals in 1996, effectively making the U.S. base presence illegal (Cooley & Marten, 2006). This action resulted in overt and covert pressure by the Japanese government on Ota, eventually leading to a supreme court hearing in which the Japanese government overruled Ota and signed the lease agreements in his place (Arasaki, 2001; Cooley & Marten, 2006). So, despite massive popular support and Okinawa prefectural government support to reduce and remove the base presence, the major power holders in the struggle ignored local control and upheld the base presence.

Angst, L, I. (2001). The Sacrifice of A Schoolgirl: The 1995 Rape Case, Discourses of Power, and Women’s Lives in Okinawa. Critical Asian Studies, 33, 243-266. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from Routledge.
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.
Cooley, A., & Marten, K. (2006). Base Motives: The Political Economy of Okinawa’s Antimilitarism. Armed Forces and Society, 32, 566-583, Retrieved April 7, 2009, from Ebsco Electronic Journals Service.
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.
Minority Rights Group International. (2008). World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous People: Japan: Ryukyuans. Retrieved April 28, 2009 from UNHCR Refworld,
Taylor, J. (2006). Environment and Security Conflicts: The U.S. Military in Okinawa. The geographical Bulletin. 48, 3-13.

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