* Text sent by S. N in the Peace Philosophy Center on July 2, 2010. To see the videos and more images beside the writing, click the link.
'[T]he point is that the plan to build a new base in Okinawa is NOT about replacement of Futenma Air Station. The plan was always there, for fifty years, just waiting for an excuse.'
Assault on the Sea: A 50-Year U.S. Plan to Build a Military Port on Oura Bay, Okinawa
by Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting (Video) and Norimatsu Satoko (Introduction and translation)
So often, Okinawan voices go unheard outside of Okinawa. So often, probing TV documentaries on such sensitive issues as the Battle of Okinawa or on Okinawa-Japan-U.S. relations are shown once and archived, never to return to public view. So often, even if they are broadcast outside of Okinawa, they are aired at odd times. This was the fate of this documentary on Oura Bay, which TV Asahi scheduled at 2:40 a.m., but it deserves the attention of more than a few night owls. The documentary, “Nerawareta Umi: Okinawa,Oura-wan - Maboroshi no gunko keikaku 50 nen” (The Targeted Sea - A 50-year Unrealized Plan for a Military Port in Oura Bay, Okinawa), was produced by QAB (Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting) and broadcast in the first week of October 2009. This program reveals the little-known fact that the plan to build a large-scale U.S. military complex in Oura Bay, including a military port, was initiated as early as the mid-1960s. Oura Bay is located on the northeastern shore of Okinawa Island, adjacent to USMC Camp Schwab and Cape Henoko, where the U.S. and Japanese governments are planning to build the controversial “replacement facility” for the Futenma Air Station. While it is widely believed that this facility is being built as a substitute for the dangerous Marine airbase in a crowded residential area of Ginowan City, the evidence disclosed here confirms that the U.S. aims to take advantage of this opportunity to close an obsolete base and build (for the most part at Japanese expense) the brand-new military complex that it has sought to build since the 1960s.
Previous Japan Focus articles have examined the controversy over the base in detail. What this special report adds is its detailed and sensitive visual depiction of the subtle and mixed emotions of the local residents toward the base construction plan. Residents, including the uminchu (fishermen) who appear in this documentary, have been largely ignored by government planners. Over generations, those plans appeared in many different forms, ranging from coercive land expropriation, to the destruction of coral reefs in the name of “land surveys,” and rumors of hefty compensation for individual households. Henoko, which has hosted USMC Camp Schwab for the last 53 years, is now confronted with a plan for a new high-tech base – a “Futenma relocation” base. For the past six decades, the base issue has divided the remote fishing village, whose residents cherished the value of cooperation through cultural traditions like Kakuriki (Okinawan sumo wrestling) and the Henoko Tug-of-War Festival, events that have often welcomed the participation of USMC members.
This documentary was filmed before the historic regime change in Japan in September 2009, with the landslide victory of the left-of-centre Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) over the long-ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Viewers may notice the general apathy among residents over the base plan and their reluctant acceptance of their inability to stop it. They did not anticipate the dramatic turn of events in the offing after Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio took office, having pledged to reverse the previous government’s commitment to the base construction plan. After his failure to follow through on that pledge led to Hatoyama’s resignation in early June 2010, new Prime Minister Kan Naoto disappointed Okinawans by endorsing the Henoko base plan within hours of his appointment. At the Battle of Okinawa Memorial on June 23, Kan reinforced Okinawans’ fear and anger by expressing his “apology” and “appreciation” to the islanders for bearing the additional burden of the new base.
The Okinawan struggle to stop the new base construction will continue. This documentary sheds new light on the historical context of the controversy over the new base plan in Henoko/Oura Bay.
Since the documentary is in Japanese, an English summary is provided below, but the beauty of Oura Bay, and the richness and liveliness of such cultural expressions as Okinawan-style sumo wrestling and the Henoko Tug-of-War can only be appreciated by watching the video. See below for YouTube links.