21,000 Okinawans Protest US Bases

Over 21,000 people in Okinawa protested on Sunday to demand the removal of the US bases from the prefecture, criticizing the plan to only relocate the Futenma US air base from its current location of Ginowan City to the Henoko district of Nago City, also in Okinawa.  US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Japan on Friday, meeting Japan’s Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio.  The protest is meant to put pressure on the vacillating prime minister not to renege on his election promise to relocate the Futenma base out of Okinawa.  Ginowan Mayor Iha Yoichi emphasized: “We want Prime Minister Hatoyama to convey the importance of the Japanese citizens’ political choice to President Obama and tell him that the Okinawans, on whom the burden of the US bases has been imposed for 63 years, do not need another US base.”

ANN News Report on the Protest in Ginowan, Okinawa

Okinawa Solidarity Demo in Ginza, Tokyo

Meanwhile, Henoko activists are continuing their sit-in in opposition to base building.  The sit-in is now in its sixth year.  Speaking to Ota Hikari and Tanaka Yuji, the hosts of an NTV show (broadcast two days before the protest), the Henoko sit-in participants say:

  • “Okinawans said, ‘Get rid of Futenma.’  We didn’t say, ‘Bring Futenma to Henoko.’  Why do we need to find an alternative location for them?  It really pisses me off.” 
  • “From this island, we have witnessed US soldiers go to war.  It makes me extremely sad.  3 million dead in Viet Nam, 1 million dead in Iraq — we have seen munitions headed toward them being loaded up here.  There’s nothing sadder than that.  This island doesn’t want to be used for killing people.”
  • “America is a large country.  Why do they have to have their bases in Okinawa?  Why don’t they take them all back to America?”
  • “How does the Japanese government see Okinawa?  Does it see it as just a disposable tool?  Or does it see it as an island inhabited by human beings?  Does it have a soul that lets it see Okinawa as a part of Japan where blood brothers and sisters of other Japanese live?  That’s what I want to ask.  I don’t think it does.  Every Japanese administration has basically brought the same mindset to its Okinawa policy.”
  • “My husband died two years ago.  He had dedicated himself to this cause for ten years, as one of the leaders of the opposition to the US bases, from sunup to sundown.  The memory of his dedication is what motivates me to come here.  When the Democratic Party was an opposition party, Mr. Hatoyama came here to see the proposed site for himself.  I don’t want him to build a military base in such a beautiful sea.  Okinawa doesn’t need any military base.  ‘Take the bases back to the US’ — that’s what he should say when Mr. Obama comes.  Mr. Hatoyama, who has come here and seen the site, knows how beautiful the sea off Henoko is.  Does he think that it should be buried in landfills, destroying the environment and endangering dugong?  I hope he is opposed to that.  Just tell Mr. Obama that Okinawa doesn’t need any base.”

Voices of Okinawans

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