Postcard from…Henoko

Original text HERE

Japanese translation below.

Postcard from…Henoko
By Jon Mitchell

The devil makes work for idle hands, but the people of Okinawa never guessed that the devil would act so quickly in the case of Kevin Maher. The day after the senior U.S. State Department official was fired for denigrating the islanders as lazy and manipulative, a massive earthquake struck the mainland – resulting in Maher’s overnight rehabilitation into one of Washington’s key players in its aid mission, Operation Tomodachi.

The Department of Defense has been busy all week feeding copy to the media on its undeniably heroic work in northern Japan. However that same press machine has been slower to report on another of its military projects currently underway in Maher’s former stomping ground of Okinawa. Since January 2011, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has been building a 50 million yen ($600,000) barrier between Camp Schwab and the public beach at Henoko. The concrete wall replaces the ribbon of barbed wire that became emblematic of the local residents’ seven-year sit-in movement to prevent the construction of a new air base over the fragile bay. Busloads of visiting school children used to tie messages of support to the wire, citizens’ groups hung banners – and the fence formed the backdrop for the annual Peace Music Festa.

Both the Japanese and US governments are remaining silent as to the purpose of its new barrier, but in the nearby sit-in tent, protesters are sure. According to one elderly man, “After they’ve finished building that wall, they’ll be hidden from sight. And then they’ll be free to do whatever they want.”

In addition to the barrier, the U.S. military has recently embarked on an array of other projects on Camp Schwab, including new administrative buildings and plans for a deep-water port for loading ammunition. These changes suggest that both Washington and Tokyo are confident that they can close the old Futenma airbase and build its replacement in Henoko.

Despite their anger at the construction work, the members of the sit-in have decided not to oppose the construction of the new barrier. Many of them sympathize with the financial plight of the laborers. “We know they oppose the bases, too, but they need the money,” said one of the sit-in’s members. “They receive 8000 yen ($100) a day for their work – and that’s a lot during tough times like this.”

Henoko’s already-depressed economy was dealt a blow last December when Tokyo declared that it was withholding millions of yen in base-hosting subsidies due to the area’s refusal to collude with its plans to relocate Futenma. However, the protestors’ personal money troubles were far from their thoughts as they listened to the radio announce the latest death toll from the earthquake and tsunami.

Everybody was adamant that the new wall’s 50 million yen budget would be put to much better use in the devastated region. One elderly member seemed to disagree when she said that she wished the military success with its new buildings. Pausing for effect, she added, “Then the United States should get out of Okinawa and hand over all those big bases to the tsunami’s survivors. They’re the ones who really need housing right now.”


「暇をもてあそんでいると悪魔に使われる」[暇にしていると、つい悪行に手を出してしまうというようなことわざ、訳者注]というが、ケヴィン・メアの一件 で、悪魔の仕業は、沖縄の人びとの予想を上回る素早さだった。島の人びとを怠惰でごまかしの名人だと誹謗したこの国務省高官が解任された翌日、大地震が本 土を襲ったのだが、その結果、メアは一夜にして地位を回復し、救済任務「トモダチ作戦」の主要な役割の一端を担うことになったのである。

この一週間というもの国防総省は、日本北部における疑いの余地のない英雄的仕事について、メディアへ配信するのに忙しくしている。しかし、おなじ報道マ シーンは、メアがかつて足跡を残した沖縄で現在進行中の、米軍の別の計画についての報道では後れを取っている。2011年1月以降、沖縄防衛局は5000 万円(60万ドル)をかけてキャンプ・シュワブと辺野古の浜の間に防壁を建設中である。有刺鉄線のリボンが、コンクリートの壁に取って替わる。新しい航空 基地建設から壊れやすい湾を守る、地元の人びとの7年に及ぶ座り込み運動の象徴となってきたものだ。バスツアーで訪問した生徒たちが応援メッセージを結び つけ、市民運動団体が横断幕を掲げ、毎年開催されるピース・ミュージック・フェスタの舞台背景となってきたのも、このフェンスだった。


防壁に加えて、米軍は近年、キャンプ・シュワブ内で別の工事にも着手している。管理棟のような新しい建物を建設中なのである。また装弾場付きの軍港敷設の 計画もある。こうした進行状況が指し示すのは、ワシントンもトウキョウも、古い普天間飛行場を閉鎖し、辺野古に代替施設を建設できると確信しているという ことだ。

建設工事への怒りはあるが、座り込みの人びとは、この新しい防壁工事に反対しないことにしている。多くは、建設労働者たちの経済的困難に心を寄せている。 「かれらも基地に反対しているのだと思う。だがお金は必要だから」、座り込みのひとりは語った。「この仕事で日当8000円、この苦しい時期にはよい金額 なんですよ」。

久しく不況がつづく辺野古の景気だが、普天間移設計画への協力を拒んだことを理由に、トウキョウが数億円にのぼる再編交付金を停止したため、さらに打撃を 受けた。だが、地震と津波の最新の死者数の発表をラジオで耳にしたとき、個々の人びとへの金銭的不安は想像を上回るものとなった。

みんな、新しい防壁建設の5000万円の予算は、壊滅的被害を受けた地域のためによりよく遣われるべきだと強く主張した。高齢の参加者のひとりは、少しも 同意していないそぶりながらも、[キャンプ・シュワブ内の]新しい基地施設の建設がうまく運べばよいのだと言った。「そうすれば、米軍は当然、沖縄から出 て行くのだから、この巨大な基地は全部、津波の被災者に渡すことができるでしょう。いま、住むところをもっとも必要としている人たちなのだから」。




US Diplomat’s disparaging lecture on Okinawa

Kevin Maher, the head of Japan Affair at US Dept. of State and former U.S. Consul-General of Okinawa has been accused of his remarks on Okinawan people in his lecture he gave to American University students in December 2010. 14 students were given his lecture prior to their visit in Okinawa during their winter break. After a visit to Okinawa, the students assembled their notes from Maher’s lecture, brought them forward to accuse his words. The lecture notes clearly shows false information on Okinawan people Maher has given, and suggests that a US imperialist discourse on Okinawa has resurfaced. Maher’s remarks include: “Okinawans are too lazy to grow goya (bitter melons, a famous produce of Okinawa)”, “Okinawans are masters of ‘manipulation’ and ‘extortion’ of Tokyo.” Anger spread rapidly all over Okinawa as soon as news agencies reported this incident. “Maher’s statement ruined our friendship with Japan,” said one of the students who accused of Maher’s, told Asahi Shinbun:

[I] met a lot of people in Naha and Nago. Okinawan people were honest, studious and sincere. There were no manipulators but families who hope for a safe, clean and healthy society for their children.

Back in December, Japanese TV reported the students’ impression on their visit on the island:

Detailed post from Peace Philosophy Centre including the full notes from Maher’s lecture:

Japan Times Online:

Early Wednesday morning, Takae

Photos from (Report from Yanbaru Higashi-son, Takae)

Over 100 workers rushed in from 6am to bring bags of gravel into the planned sites. It was a surprise attack in the early morning, thus the number of protesters were fewer than usual. The Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) expanded the number of the crew, many younger workers are seen. The protesters say that the newly hired workers are being provocative to protesters and there seem to have been rough scenes between the two groups. This is one of the tragedies of the military expansion, that local Okinawans are often forced to be divided into two enemy groups.

This crisis in Takae needs attention from outside. Please take a moment to let the word out to your local media and your friends and people who care, and people who simply are not informed of this violence. Again, the situation in summery is: Japan Defense Ministry is forcing the construction of new US military helipads in the abundant forests of northern Okinawa. It is in the middle of the irreplaceable habitat area of many endangered species. Not only the plan never met with local residents’ consent, but some helipads are planned to be built very close to the residential area and schools. The local residents, along with their supporters, have continued their sit-in protest to stop the construction for nearly 4 years.

US-based NGO “Close The Base” released a statement regarding US military base in Okinawa (in English and Japanese). PLEASE CHECK THIS LINK because it’s very very informative, and please also spread the word. In any small way that you can do.

List of media contacts in the US

If you are in NYC area…

Go see ANPO, a film about Japanese resistance to US military bases, at MoMA, Friday 2/25.

It’s a great, moving and beautiful film and it features Okinawa too. “Anpo” is a short for “U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty” signed in 1960. US bases continue to exist in Japan because of ANPO. The film shows inspiring footage, interviews, artworks and stories of the huge resistance in 1960’s Japan. It will probably make you want to go out and shout. Visuals and music are striking features of the film as well.

Unless you are a MoMA member, purcase your ticket at MoMA ticket counter on the day of screening.

Forward from the Director Linda Hoaglund:

On Friday, February 25th, at 7PM, the Museum of Modern Art will screen ANPO: Art X War, as part of its Documentary Fortnight series.
ANPO: Art X War, a feature-length film, depicts the untold story of resistance to U.S. military bases in Japan through a collage of electrifying paintings, photographs and films by Japan’s most respected artists. The artists and their art convey the devastating impact of the struggle against the U.S. military presence, which erupted into a democratic national uprising in 1960 and festers to this day.
ANPO: Art X War was featured in the January 2011 issue of Art in America:
“Shot in lavish high-def digital ANPO: Art X War offers as many opportunities for aesthetic appreciation
and art-historical discovery as it does for insight into social and political history.”
“The movie’s interviewees make up a who’s who of postwar Japanese art.”
ANPO: Art X War premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and has been widely released in theaters throughout Japan.
For more information on the MoMA screening, including how to purchase tickets, visit:
For more information about ANPO: Art X War, visit:
I hope you will take this opportunity to watch ANPO: Art X War on the big screen.
Linda Hoaglund
ANPO: Art X War

Protect Yanbaru Forest and Local Community from Helipad Construction

Forwarded from: Citizen’s Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa

A great summery of the situation surrounding Takae since February 2011, and further background information on US bases in Okinawa.

Please utilize the contact list of authorities, including the local Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) that’s conducting the violent construction in Takae every day. A phone call to ODB I made recently suggested that they are becoming even more one-sided and stubborn defending themselves and criticizing the protesters. The representative that I spoke to clearly showed me his ignorance on the situation and indifference to the local residents; he insisted (as if he was preaching me who is from outside Okinawa) that he never had problems living next to the US base. He certainly lives and works in a safe noise-proof building.


Two congressmen call for pullout from Japan

An Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich and a Texas Republican Ron Paul have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Japan. (From The Mainichi Daily News)

Whether or not in relation to what former Japan Prime Minister stated recently, Ron Paul “dismissed the view that U.S. forces in Japan serve as deterrence, saying this is an “excuse” to maintain a U.S. military presence in the region.” The former PM Hatoyama made a confession last week that during his time he expediently used the word “detterence” to describe the presence of US Marines. Hatoyama, who, at the beginning of his term, had promised a relocation of an existing base to outside Okinawa, has come out to make some kind of apology for his mistake and this act should be somewhat appreciated.

Considering what Kucinich describes the U.S. military bases in Japan as “really part of a bygone era,” I cannot help but wonder over and over again, if Okinawa Defense Bureau right now is following a very outdated manual and sending workers out to construct those helipads.

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) — Two veteran U.S. congressmen have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Japan amid the ballooning U.S. budget deficit.

“It’s becoming a financial issue,” Ron Paul, a Republican House of Representatives member from Texas, said in a recent interview with Kyodo News, indicating that maintaining U.S. forces in Japan has become a financial burden for Washington.

Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat member from Ohio, said in a separate recent interview with Kyodo News, “The United States truly cannot afford to construct the new base in Okinawa. Nor can it afford to have a military presence across the globe.”

Kucinich and Paul are heavyweights in the House, and both have experience of seeking the presidency. Paul, an advocate of isolationism, is supported by conservatives, while Kucinich is popular as one of the most liberal figures among the Democrats.

Last week, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff unveiled their latest National Military Strategy report pledging to maintain a strong U.S. military presence in northeast Asia for decades.

Some members of Congress say it is important for the United States to keep forces in Japan as China’s military presence is growing in the region while North Korea continues to act provocatively.

The two lawmakers, however, are opposed to continued stationing of U.S. forces in Japan.

“China’s interested in making money, not war,” Kucinich said.

Paul argued Tokyo should end its dependence on U.S. forces for its defense, saying, “It’s time for Japan to assume all of their own responsibilities.”

He also dismissed the view that U.S. forces in Japan serve as deterrence, saying this is an “excuse” to maintain a U.S. military presence in the region.

“For a long time I was probably the only one” who proposed such a view, he said, adding, “Now we’re getting more support.”

Kucinich is also critical of the current U.S. military strategy. “We don’t have the money to be the policemen of the world. And we should stop pretending that we do,” he said.

Describing the U.S. military bases in Japan as “really part of a bygone era,” Kucinich urged the two countries to move away from a relationship prioritizing military cooperation.

“We have a strong friendship with Japan. That friendship is not dependent on a military presence,” he said.

Both Paul and Kucinich said they can understand the feeling of local people in Okinawa Prefecture where a host of U.S. bases are located. Local opposition remains strong against a plan to relocate a U.S. base within the prefecture.

“What if China wanted a base in New York City? We’d be furious,” Paul said.

The problem in Okinawa is not U.S. Marine troops but “the people in Washington that send them there,” Kucinich said, adding, “This is an issue that Congress must take up with the White House so that we can make sure that the concerns of the residents of Okinawa are taken into consideration.”

(Mainichi Japan) February 16, 2011

To keep asking WHY and saying NO

In the world where we got so many problems, we tend to hear many voices like: “well, the situation will not change after all” or “there’s nothing can be done to change the reality.” We also tend not to get encouraged to ask why this is bad or why that needs to change. Unless you are bookmarking alternative news resources or following public intellectuals on twitter, it seems, you can’t get informed of “important matters”. Whether or not it is the case, what we need to do is quite simple, as the wonderful people from Egypt showed us. This historical event was achieved by ordinary people going out in the streets to fight for their rights. Even though Twitter and Facebook are accounted to have been a “help” in the Egyptian revolution, what mattered eventually was people that came out to the streets, didn’t go back inside their doors until their “NO” was heard correctly.

Okinawan people and their supporters are outside and voicing their NO as well. For quite a long time now. They never stopped saying NO since 2007. Why on the earth would you want to live next to a helicopter landing zone, Why would you wanna walk just underneath a helicopter that might crash on your house, or on your kids’ school?

Still from “Message from Yanbaru”

A short documentary film “Message from Yanbaru” (2007) shows a crucial protest against destruction of our basic right to live. The first few minutes into the film show the rich natural environment Yanbaru boasts of, the area where new US helipads are being built.

The northern part of Okinawa’s main island, surrounded by abundant forests, is called “YANBARU”. The irreplaceable habitat area of endangered spicies, many of which are listed in the Red Data like NOGUCHI GERA (woodpecker), and YANBARU KUINA (rail). There’s also a valuable water reservoirs, which provide 60% of city water on the entire island. Local District TAKAE is located in the middle of such YANBARU.

Takae is a small district with population of 150, 20 % of which are children under 15 years old.

Still from “Message from Yanbaru”

Takae residents surely live surrounded by such beautiful nature. In the film children run about cheerfully and the grandpa feeds his goats their favorite mulberry leaves. Their life suddenly changes in the summer of 2007 when Japan and US began bringing on a construction of 6 new helipads that are closely located to residential houses, the community center and schools in Takae. They soon start their sit-in protest, forming human chains and having talks with the local Defence Agency workers, many of who are also Okinawans. One manager from the Agency in the film cannot even help showing his sympathy to protesters’ calls. He probably is an Okinawan also. Naturally the Agency must have thought the manager was too soft, and now assigns a new guy who acts much more aggressive on people.

After the police intervenes and the Agency finally stops their aggressive operation, Mr. Teruo Ohnishi, a former schoolteacher, starts a conversation with the Agency personnel. This actually doesn’t sound like a conversation, since the Agency guys just stand there speechless. Mr. Ohnishi’s story is a message to all of us. Because we all need to know how the whole movement originates to a long history of oppression in Okinawa. Mr Ohnishi mentions how rapes on girls are caused by US soldiers, and how, for dacades, human life is not permitted in large part of the Okinawan land because of the presence of US military. His message tells us how the Takae protest springs out from a very basic account of human rights.

The film “Message fom Yanbaru” will soon be available with English subtitles. Please check back for updates.