Okinawa zwischen Krieg und Frieden

Ein Besucher aus Vietnam:
"Okinawa bedeutet in Vietnam die Furcht selbst."

2014: Two Elections and Okinawa's Unwanted Base

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Febuary 9, 2014.
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.

"Two Elections and Okinawa's Most Unwanted Base" and "A Democratic Victory in Nago, Okinawa"

Feb. 09, 2014
Hier download als pdf. 

I. Video by Michael Penn, Shingetsu News Agency

followed by an essay by C. Douglas Lummis
The embedded video is Michael Penn's report on the Nago, Okinawa mayoral election. Penn follows Inamine Susumu who was reelected after a fiercely contested race on January 19. Nago is the center of Japanese and American government plans to build a new military base on Okinawa and both Inamine and Penn highlight the significance of this election for Okinawa and for Japanese democracy.

For more coverage of the American bases in Okinawa and other news from Japan, please visit Shingetsu News Agency.

II. Two Elections and Okinawa's Most Unwanted Base
C. Douglas Lummis

Naha, Okinawa

The 2010 Governor’s election in Okinawa was a game changer.  Up to then the pattern of elections here had been, a progressive candidate clearly opposed to the US military bases on the island vs. a conservative candidate who was not positively in favor of them, but took the attitude, if we can’t get rid of them we might as well make a little money off them.

In 2010 the issue on the table was not all the bases, but what to do with the US Marine Air Station at Futenma, in the middle of densely populated Ginowan City and the site of a 2004 helicopter crash into the adjacent university.  In 1996 the US and Japanese Governments had announced that they would close it down, but only on the condition that the 1st Marine Air Wing, which it houses, be moved to a new base to be built offshore from the fishing village of Henoko in the less populated northern part of Okinawa.  This construction has been fiercely opposed by Okinawans.  Pacifists argue that the base should be abolished from the face of the earth; ecology-sensitive people point out that construction would be devastating to the coral-rich Oura Bay, habitat to the endangered sea-mammal the dugong and precious rare coral; Okinawans generally feel that the Government’s insistence that the new base be located on their island amounts to discriminatory treatment.  Okinawa comprises 0.6% of Japanese territory, but just under 75% of all US bases in Japan are located here.  More and more people are using the word “colonialism” to describe this.  Thus since the 1996 announcement, the Okinawans, by means of rallies, demonstrations, lawsuits, petitions, sit-ins, and direct action civil disobedience, have so far prevented construction from beginning.

In 2010 the incumbent conservative Governor Nakaima Hirokazu who had been elected on the If you can’t fight them, join them ticket, was advised that the electorate had changed, and that he could not be reelected unless he changed his position.  This he did, saying that now he favored moving the Futenma base to mainland Japan.  This enabled him to pick up the support of conservatives who are not ready to oppose  US bases altogether, but who resent the unequal treatment they receive from Japan.

The result was an election in which both the progressive and the conservative candidates opposed moving the Futenma base to a different location within Okinawa, differing only on what should be done with it, the progressive candidate Iha Yoichi saying it should be moved out of Japan and hinting that Guam would be appropriate, Nakaima saying that mainland Japan would be appropriate.  There was a third candidate, from the crackpot Happiness Realization Party, who supported the US-Japan plan to move the base to Henoko.  The progressive and conservative candidates between them got 97% of the votes; the only party that supported the US-Japan plan got a little over 2%.  It’s not often that you see that kind of agreement on the central issue in a free election. In that election the US-Japan plan was supported only by the crazies. Governor Nakaima, supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and campaigning on the slogan Move the Base to the Mainland, was re-elected.

For three years after that, Governor Nakaima put on a pretty convincing performance.  Again and again Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, Defense Ministers came to his office trying to persuade him to accept the Henoko base plan, and again and again he sent them packing, sometimes after only a few minutes. (One of them, I think it was a Foreign Minister – these fellows have been changing like a game of musical chairs in recent years so it’s hard to remember – was caught on TV looking at his watch to see how much time he had got, as the Governor walked out of the room.) During that period not only the governor, but many Okinawan Liberal Democratic Party politicians, defying their Party headquarters in Tokyo, came out against the base plan. People began to talk about an All Okinawa Anti-Base Movement.  Increasingly anti-base activists, instead of appealing for sympathy, were calling the plan “impossible”.

In 2012 the Tokyo Government, after completing a survey of Oura Bay, wrote up an environmental impact report and in the last days of December handed it to the Governor for his approval, without which they cannot legally begin reclamation work in the Bay.  He set up a committee, and they fiddled with it for the next year.  Many people believed, I among them, that Nakaima would reject it in the end: why would anyone want to put their name on a document that claims that dumping several million tons of dirt and junk into a coral bay will have no detrimental effect on the environment?  But at the end of December last year, he approved it, which opened the way for construction to begin. Most people were stunned, though there was also a minor chorus of I Told You So.  In exchange the Governor claimed to have gotten some major gifts and concessions from Tokyo, a mess of pottage that turned out to be mostly promises that won’t be kept and aid money that Okinawa Prefecture was entitled to anyway.  It continues to amaze me that a person presented with the opportunity to become a hero whose name would be passed on in Okinawan culture for generations, would instead choose to be remembered as a liar and a turncoat. The Prefectural Legislature has passed a resolution calling for his resignation.

It seemed that Okinawa was in danger of falling into despondency and resignation.  But there was one more test coming up.  Just a couple of weeks after Nakaima’s collapse, on January 19, there was the election for Mayor of Nago City, of which Henoko is an administrative part.  The incumbent Mayor, Inamine Susumu, had been elected on the public promise that he would oppose new base construction in the city. Two candidates declared against him, both supporting base construction.  For the Abe Shinzo Government, this was a must-win election.  First they sent down a gang of top Party and Government officials to persuade one of the pro-base candidates to stand down – a very unusual case of interference in local politics (of course, they were successful).  Then when campaigning began they sent down Party and Government superstars to join in the electioneering.  A lot of dubious money is said to have been passed around.  Nago is the home of several of the construction companies which would likely get a share of the reclamation contracts, and which also have political clout in the city.  Presumably a lot of pressure was put by those and other companies on their employees.  In the last days of the campaign the Liberal Democratic Party’s Secretary General Ishiba suddenly announced that if the pro-base candidate won Nago would be rewarded with 50 billion yen (about $500 million) in extra aid.  It was the town of Nago, population 62,000, vs. the state of Japan, and to the last moment no one knew which side would win.

Inamine, running a campaign under the banner of an “Association for a Nago City to be Proud Of”, won by a healthy margin.  Okinawa’s temptation to despondency ended after just a few weeks.  This has got to be remembered as one of the great election victories in the history of democracy.  Nago would not be bought; the voters took the aid offer as an insult.  Immediately after the election, Inamine announced that he would use his powers as Mayor, not to appeal to Tokyo to reconsider its plan, but positively to prevent it from going forward.  Concretely, he said he would prohibit any construction-related use of roads, harbors or rivers that are under the City’s administration, and that he would not participate in any negotiations that presuppose base construction. Inamine, incidentally, is not a professional politician or an ex-movement activist.  Before he ran for Mayor he was an official in the City’s Board of Education. To this day he goes out every morning to work as a traffic safety volunteer at a corner where kids cross the street on the way to school.  There is a good lesson in politics here:  You don’t need charisma; all you need is to be able to say “no”. It’s also a lesson in popular sovereignty.  The Tokyo Government says, We will decide.  The people of Nago reply, No, we have decided.  Like they say, it takes a village.

The Abe Shinzo Government has painted itself into a corner.  It continues to tell the US Government, and the world, that it will build the new base at Henoko anyway.  It says it will “persuade” Inamine, but it looks like that can’t be done.  Will it rewrite the law to take away the Mayor’s powers?  Will it send in the Riot Police, or maybe the Self-Defense Forces?  Will it revive the method used by the US military to get land for bases right after the Battle of Okinawa, the method known here as “bulldozers and rifles”?  Of course all these are possible, but they will be made less possible the more the Nago situation comes to the attention of people around the world.  That’s why it’s a good thing that some overseas supporters of the Okinawa anti-base movement, beginning with Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, who visited Okinawa last year, after the election drafted a letter of solidarity that has been signed by over 100 writers, scholars, movie makers and others from many countries.  This has evolved into a general petition campaign on the internet.  I have no illusion that submitting this petition to President Obama and Prime Minister Abe will have any effect on their consciences.  What it will do is send a message to the people of Nago that they are not isolated.  And by making clear to both heads of state that the whole world is watching it will make it difficult for them to use dirty tricks or violence to get their way in Nago.

The petition can be accessed at

C. Douglas Lummis, a former Marine stationed on Okinawa, is the author of Radical Democracy and other books in Japanese and English. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal Associate and formerly taught at Tsuda College.

Asia-Pacific Journal articles on related themes include:

> Gavan McCormack, The Front Line in the Struggle for Democracy in Japan - Nago City, Okinawa
> C. Douglas Lummis, The Great Betrayal
> Hiyane Teruo (translated by McCormack and Norimatsu), LDP Okinawa Chapter Revokes its Electoral Pledge - History Repeats Itself in Punishment Drama
> Ihara Katsusuke and Jin Pil-su, Former Iwakuni Mayor Ihara Reflects on the Problem of US Bases in Japan

Michael Penn & C. Douglas Lummis,
"Two Elections and Okinawa's Most Unwanted Base" and "A Democratic Victory in Nago, Okinawa" 
The two reports on the significance of the Nago, Okinawa election for Japanese democracy and US-Japan plans to construct a new base at Henoko complement one another. The embedded video is Michael Penn's report on the Nago, Okinawa mayoral election. Penn follows Inamine Susumu who was reelected after a fiercely contested race on January 19. Nago is the center of Japanese and American government plans to build a new military base on Okinawa and both Inamine and Penn highlight the significance of this election for Okinawa and for Japanese democracy.
Michael Penn is Director of the Shingetsu News Agency, an independent foreign video news agency based in Japan ( The SNA specializes in the politics, diplomacy, and economy of Japan and the wider Asian region. He is a Japan Focus Associate.

C. Douglas Lummis
, a former Marine stationed on Okinawa, is the author of Radical Democracy and other books in Japanese and English. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal Associate and formerly taught at Tsuda College.  

Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.


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Präfektur Okinawa

2.273 km2 Fläche
98 Inseln
1,36 Mill. Einwohner
41 Gemeinden

Hauptstadt Naha
3 Universitäten
Große Militärbasis der USA

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No Base !

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