Governor Takeshi Onaga takes questions from reporters in advance of the
two-year anniversary of his inauguration as governor on the afternoon
of November 28 at the Prefectural Office.
November 29, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
On November 28, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga held an interview with
multiple news outlets in advance of the two-year anniversary of his
inauguration as governor on December 10. Regarding the plan to return
slightly more than half of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area in
Higashi Village and Kunigami Village, the return being conditioned on
construction of new U.S. military helipads, Onaga said, “This is the
ultimate painful decision. It is difficult to object to the return of
roughly four thousand hectares of land,” essentially expressing
acceptance of the helipad construction.
NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Four men were
arrested Tuesday for obstructing work on moving a major U.S. military
base within Okinawa, police said, despite local pressure for it to be
shifted outside of the island prefecture.
The four men are suspected of piling around 1,400 concrete blocks at
the gate of the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab from Jan. 28 to 30,
blocking the passage of vehicles used for construction work, the police
The four also allegedly obstructed the movement of trucks hauling
construction materials by standing in front of the vehicles, and had
other protesters sit on the blocks on Jan. 30.
Camp Schwab is located close to where Japan is building a replacement facility for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Attendees of the symposium listening intently to speakers’ statements on November 26.
November 27, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
On the evening of November 26, at a youth assembly hall (Okinawa-ken
Seinenkaikan Horu) in Naha City, an Okinawan group opposing military
base relocation within Okinawa held an urgent symposium on protecting
the whole of Yambaru from becoming a danger zone in the Ie-jime, Takae,
and Henoko triangle. Two hundred and fifty people attended the
symposium. During the panel discussion problems such as helipad
construction, Henoko base construction, and Ie-jima landing strip
extension were examined from various angles, including construction
illegality and environmental destruction.
Takeshi Onaga explains the base issues in Okinawa at a study group of
governors from around the country on November 21 at the Prefectural
Assembly Hall in Tokyo
November 22, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
(Tokyo) At an assembly of nationwide governors on November 21, the
first meeting of a study group established within the governors’
association with the aim of reducing the burden of U.S. bases on Okinawa
was held at the Prefectural Assembly Hall in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. At
the meeting, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga explained that it is a
misunderstanding to think that U.S. bases bring economic and financial
wealth, explaining that rather, the bases pose the greatest obstacle to
economic development in Okinawa. Onaga explained that 18% of Okinawa
Island is used for U.S. bases, and implored the other governors to
imagine that 18% of their own prefecture were taken up by bases.
The study group consisted of eleven members, including Saitama
Governor Kiyoshi Ueda, who served as chair of the meeting, Kyoto
Governor Keiji Yamada, who is chair of the nationwide governors’
association, and Kanagawa Governor Yuji Kuroiwa, who is chair of a
liaison council of governors with U.S. bases in their jurisdictions.
The Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) has made an external informational
document publicizing photographs of the citizens opposed to the
construction of helipads who have entered land provided to the U.S.
military. The distributed document judges the citizens’ behavior as
“heinously illegal acts.” A lawyer commented that would be possible for
the ODB to indicate damages to the police and request an investigation
into the matter. However, the lawyer went on to say that the ODB has
gone too far by widely supplying such information at a time when there
is general inquiry concerning these citizens’ actions.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs hold signs in front of the Okinawa
branch of the Naha District Court after the judgement was issued in the
second Futenma noise lawsuit on the morning of November 17 in Okinawa
check to monitor the level of coral bleaching. Chibichiriishi of Oura
Bay in Nago (Photograph provided by the Nature Conservation Society of
A group named “The Association for Fishers who Protect and Harness
Beautiful Sea” conducted a survey on the coral reef in Oura Bay, Nago
City, on November 16. The group consists of those who are involved in
fishery and are against the construction of the Henoko base. Together
with the director of the National Conservation Society of Japan, Mariko
Abe, the group conducted a reef check to monitor the condition of the
coral in Oura Bay. Although coral bleaching was observed all over the
area, the coral was deemed to be in “healthy” condition.
On November 16, the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) submitted a
written statement of opinion to the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB)
regarding the plans for returning more than half of the Northern
Training Area (NTA) back to Higashi and Kunigami Villages. The statement
involved 33 demands, such as the thorough removal of contaminated soil
and unexploded bombs. It also calls for another Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA) specifically on the U.S. Marine Corps transport
aircraft MV-22 Osprey, in relation to the U.S. helicopter landing zone,
or helipad, currently being built in the NTA. Moreover, one of the
demands involves the withdrawal of Ospreys via an early reassignment to
prefectures outside of Okinawa. For the OPG to mention the continued
operations of U.S. bases while also discussing the plans to return the
land back to Okinawa is unprecedented.
the forest where private helicopters brought down materials in the
background, fisherman Yoshikatsu Yamashiro talks about his experience of
Okinawa’s base issues on November 14 in Aha, Kunigami Village.
November 15, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
On November 14, a protest boat took to the sea for the first time in
the protest movement against the U.S. military helipads being
constructed in Takae. The protest boat was manned by fisherman
Yoshikatsu Yamashiro, age 72. Yamashiro waited on the boat for his
friends, who landed their kayaks at the mouth of the Ukagawa River and
went to join the protests. Shortly past noon, several protesters could
be seen from the boat climbing onto the cliffs aiming for the place
where materials had been brought in by air. “The ocean is our father.
The forest is our mother. If the forest is destroyed, red soil flows to
the ocean, and both die,” says Yamashiro, furrowing his brown and
looking up at his friends.
Yamashiro has been a fisherman for fifty years. In order to protect
the forests, which he considers to be a pair together with the ocean, he
is expressing unwavering opposition to the helipad construction.
In 1959, from the second floor of Ishikawa Junior High School, which
he was attending, Yamashiro saw a jet plane rapidly approaching,
spitting fire, as it crashed into Miyamori Elementary School. He also
participated in the Koza Riot. It has now been fifty-seven years since
the Miyamori Elementary School accident. “Okinawa has gotten worse since
returning to Japan. Before, our enemy was the United States, but now we
are facing discrimination from Japan as well,” Yamashiro said with a
look of anguish on his face. Even so, he says, “I won’t give up until we
win. I will never forget the pain we have suffered.” He turned his face
to look straight at the forest. (Yo Kakazu)
and equipment being hauled in through the main gate to the Northern
Training Area viewed from the sky in Higashi Village, Takae.
The first oral proceedings and the second hearing of a case brought
to the Naha District Court by 31 residents of Takae, Higashi Village,
took place on November 10. The case concerns to the construction of
helipads in the Northern Training Area that span Higashi and Kunigami
Villages. During oral proceedings the 31 residents requested that the
Japanese government halt construction, and during the hearing they
motioned for a temporary injunction on the case.
Sekisei shoko coral reef covered with bleached coral colonies and dead coral.
The Ministry of the Environment’s Naha Office announced results from a
survey on Sekisei shoko coral reef, one of the largest coral reef in
Japan. The reef was being monitored for bleaching due to long-term high
water temperatures this summer. The result was made public on November
9. The result shows that 97 percent of the coral reef is bleached, of
which 56.7 percent is considered to be “a totally dead colony.” The
ministry will conduct another survey in the same area by end of the
year, warning “the result is anticipated to be extremely serious with
more dead colonies.”
On December 21, at Henoko, Nago City, Muneyoshi Kayo objected to new base construction in Henoko
At 8:45 a.m. on November 3, Muneyoshi Kayo, who was a member of
sit-in protest group “Inochi wo mamoru kai,” which protests the
relocation of the Futenma Air Station to Henoko, Nago, passed away at a
hospital in Ginoza Village at the age of 94 due to pneumonia. Kayo was
from Henoko, Nago City. The memorial service has not yet been
determined. The hearse left the house at 10:45 a.m. on November 5.
On November 1, it was learned that the Ministry of the Environment
(MOE) has decided not to disclose any documents detailing communications
with the U.S. military from 2013 onward regarding the registration of
Amami/Ryukyu as a world natural heritage site. The Amami/Ryukyu area
that would be registered includes Yambaru National Park, which is
adjacent to the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area. In response to
an inquiry about the reason for its decision, the MOE listed concerns
that disclosure of the documents would damage Japan’s relationship of
trust with the United States, and explained that the documents
themselves had been prepared on the condition of confidentiality with
the U.S. military. The MOE has also not revealed a list specifying the
undisclosed documents, nor the number of such documents that exist.
The circumstances of the arrest last week of two activists
opposed to the construction of a replacement facility for the U.S.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture raise questions
about the propriety of the arrest as well as suspicions that the U.S.
military is about to crack down on protesters in general.
Such a perception could intensify local resentment against both the
United States and the Japanese government, which is pushing the
construction, possibly fueling more protests and confusion. The Abe
administration should seriously think whether it is wise to stick to the
construction plan against Okinawan people’s opposition, which has been
clearly expressed in a recent series of elections.