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Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Consider the Oceans of Okinawa Over Base Relocation

There has been great controversy over the closing of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma a United States Marine Corps base located in Ginowan City, on the island of Okinawa. It is home to approximately 4,000 Marines of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and has been a U.S. military airbase since the island was occupied following the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Marine Corps pilots and aircrew are assigned to the base for training and providing air support to other land-based Marines in Okinawa. Originally the land it occupies belonged to Okinawans before the US invaded to route out the Japanese from the island. After the war the military took the lands they needed as the spoils of war to build the bases they could use to strike the Japanese mainland. The US Military saw great potential in building bases on the island after the war because it provided a central point to conduct operations from in the pacific. Many islanders are paid money for the land that belonged to their families prior to the bases being built on it. This creates conflicts of politics on the island because there are those who don't mind getting a check from the government. But the time has come to say enough is enough.

Being a former US Airman I can see the strategic importance of maintaining bases in the region but feel that the problem is that there has been tremendous population growth and the island is pretty much at capacity as it is. Okinawa is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I scuba dived it's waters for many of the years that I lived there. It makes me sad to think that the United States does not have enough respect for the Okinawan people to respect their wishes. They seem to forget that Okinawa was conquered by the Japanese and when the Japanese were ousted from the island after the war the Americans did not see the Okinawans as the rightful owners of the land. When the Okinawans protested in the seventies after decades of being treated as second class citizens it took a riot to start the change in government back to Japanese from American control. Basically the Japanese were defeated but were given the rightful property of the Okinawan people. When I watch old film from WWII produced by the US Military they refer to the Okinawan people as natives. Evidently they knew they were the rightful owners of the land but didn't care because they gave it back to Japan. It doesn't make any sense to me.


When I first moved to Okinawa I was a young man of 18 and did not really understand the place that I had been sent. I saw hundreds of dump trucks everyday back then that were busy hauling earth from the north to locations all around the island. I later figured it out that they were filling in the reefs to create additional land for urban development. Military bases had plenty of spaces on them with wide open fields and space everywhere, which was in contrast to the close quartered conditions the civilian community lived in. I remember they were taking down a mountain on the motobu peninsula to get the materials to fill in the ocean. It was unbelievable the amount of land that was created by this process. Beautiful ocean that is now lost forever. Now they want to relocate the marine base by filling in the ocean. I would just like to express that I believe this is the wrong thing to do. The earth is a precious resource and shouldn't be frivolously destroyed to create space for concrete. Marine operations on Okinawa should be scaled back and relocated in multiple other locations around the pacific. I'm not saying that all military presence should be taken from Okinawa because the military does have a positive effect on the economy of Okinawa. I believe that they should condense the bases more though to allow more land to be given back to the Okinawan people. Kadena could possibly be one choice for part of the marine air wing, a choice that would not harm the marine environment any more than it already has been. Okinawans are not second class citizens they are the rightful owners of the Ryukyu Islands and should be given the respect they deserve.



Here is some information I obtained via the internet for those of you who may not know about the base relocation on Okinawa. It is followed by a film about the relocation. More info may be obtained by visiting the web site http://closethebase.org/ .



In December 1996, the Japanese and U.S. governments decided that the Futenma base should be relocated to an off-shore location in Henoko Bay in Nago, northern Okinawa. This was and remains a controversial decision, since the projected site involved construction on a coral reef and seagrass beds which are the habitat of the dugong, an endangered marine mammal protected under Japanese and U.S. law. In a referendum conducted later the same year, a vast majority (over 80%) of Nago residents voted against the Henoko plan. However, shortly afterward, they elected a mayor who campaigned on a platform of accepting the new facility. In March, 2006, a new mayor was elected on a similar platform, getting more votes than his two anti-relocation opponents combined. But opinion still remained divided between those who view the 'relocation' plan as a recipe for development in the northern part of the island, and others who consider it more likely to lead to the destruction of what remains of Okinawa's sub-tropical forests and undegraded coastal reefs.



On 26 October 2005, the governments of the United States and Japan agreed to move the relocation site for Futenma from the reef area off Henoko to the interior and coastal portions of the existing Marine infantry base at Camp Schwab, just a few hundred meters away from the offshore facility. The cited reason for the change is to reduce the engineering challenge associated with building a runway on reefs in deep water: experts estimate that rather than the 15-plus years required to construct a new airbase at the previous reef location, the new Camp Schwab plan will enable Futenma to be relocated within 6–8 years. These plans were also accelerated when a CH-53D Sea Stallion transport helicopter attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit lost tail rotor authority and spiraled into a local college building.





Reaction to the new plan for Futenma's relocation has been widespread in Okinawa. The local media, who are mainly opposed to relocations of military bases, claim the relocation is an unreasonable increase in burden of hosting bases. However, the newly-elected mayor of Nago (which hosts Camp Schwab) formally agreed to accept the relocation when he signed an agreement with Defense Minister Nukaga on 8 April 2006. Mayor Shimabukuro was later joined by all five of the major mayors of northern Okinawa. Although some all-Okinawa public opinion polls indicate that many Okinawans have reservations about the latest plan, residents of northern Okinawa have recently elected and re-elected leaders who have publicly accepted it. In fact, all 12 mayors of northern Okinawa have publicly accepted the new relocation plan. In this respect, the Futenma issue exposes a range of conflicting opinions among Okinawans: from those who maintain that military facilities and associated public works infrastructure benefit the island's economy; environmentalists, and those who either object or are critical to the U.S. military presence on ideological grounds or on rooted sentiments. Inamine Susumu (稲嶺進) the new mayor of Nago city as of January 24, 2010 is currently skeptical about the relocation plan and agrees to move Futenma outside of Okinawa.

2 comments:

  1. There's a great difference of thinking: americans (western) and okinawans. Not only difference of thinking but it differs the way we approach everything, we see the world, nature, people. And we see that, in this case, there is no easy solution.
    If the american government could understand uchinanchus as you do, things would be different.
    very nice post, this issue has to be always reminded.

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  2. We cannot classify everyone as western thinkers or eastern thinkers based on where they live anymore. In modern society there are people all over the world in many cultures that are able to think outside of the box. Unfortunately govenrment is driven by money and the economy and sometimes the big picture is lost because of greed.

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