Why Frustration Lingers in Okinawa 50 Years After US Occupation – NBC 6 South Florida

Okinawa on Sunday marks the fiftieth anniversary of its go back to Japan on May 15, 1972, which ended 27 years of U.S. rule after one of the crucial bloodiest battles of World War II was once fought at the southern Japanese island.

The day is being marked with extra bitterness than pleasure in Okinawa, which continues to be confused with a heavy U.S. army presence and is now seeing Japanese troops more and more deployed amid emerging China tensions.

The Associated Press takes a have a look at the disappointment that also lingers in Okinawa, 50 years after it returned to Japan.


U.S. troops, of their push for mainland Japan, landed on Okinawa’s primary island on April 1, 1945.

The struggle lasted till past due June, killing about 200,000 other folks, just about part of them Okinawan citizens, together with scholars and sufferers of mass suicides ordered by way of the Japanese army.

Okinawa was once sacrificed by way of Japan’s imperial military to shield the mainland, historians say. The island workforce remained below U.S. career for twenty years longer than maximum of Japan, till 1972.


The U.S. army identified Okinawa’s strategic significance for Pacific safety and deliberate to deal with its troop presence to discourage Russia and communism within the area.

A 1946 resolution by way of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, separated Okinawa and several other different southwestern faraway islands from the remainder of Japan, paving the best way for U.S. rule past April 28, 1952, when the San Francisco treaty took impact, finishing the seven-year U.S. career in the remainder of Japan.

According to the Okinawa Prefectural Archives, imperial marketing consultant Hidenari Terasaki informed MacArthur of Emperor Hirohito’s “opinion” that the U.S. army career of Okinawa must proceed to handle worries about Russia.

Economic, instructional and social building in Okinawa lagged in the back of as Japan loved a postwar financial surge that was once helped by way of decrease protection spending on account of the U.S. army presence in Okinawa.

Japan Okinawa

Koji Sasahara/AP Photo

File Photo: Relatives of sufferers of the Battle of Okinawa on the ultimate days of World War II contact the Cornerstone of Peace memorial in Itoman town at the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, on June 23, 2005. Okinawa on Sunday, May 15, 2022, marks the fiftieth anniversary of its go back to Japan on May 15, 1972, which ended 27 years of U.S. rule after one of the crucial bloodiest battles of World War II was once fought at the southern Japanese island.


During U.S. rule, Okinawans used the greenback and adopted American visitors regulations, and any journeys between Okinawa and mainland Japan required passports.

The base-dependent economic system hampered the expansion of native business. The native Okinawan govt had little decision-making energy, and government had no get entry to to the felony investigation of U.S. army group of workers.

Demands for reversion to Japan rose within the past due Nineteen Fifties throughout Okinawa over the confiscation of native land for U.S. bases.

Many Okinawans demanded tax reform, salary will increase and higher social welfare methods to right kind disparities between Okinawa and the remainder of Japan.

But the behind schedule reversion, the heavy U.S. army presence and mismanaged building price range from the central govt have hampered the island’s financial building, mavens say.


Many on Okinawa had was hoping that the island’s go back to Japan would support the economic system and human rights state of affairs. A yr prior to the reversion, then-Okinawa chief Chobyo Yara submitted a petition asking Japan’s central govt to make the island freed from army bases.

Today, on the other hand, a majority of the 50,000 U.S. troops based totally in Japan below a bilateral safety pact and 70% of army amenities are on Okinawa, which accounts for best 0.6% of Japanese land. The burden has greater from not up to 60% in 1972 as a result of unwelcomed U.S. bases have been moved from the mainland.

Okinawa’s moderate family source of revenue is the bottom and its unemployment is the very best of Japan’s 47 prefectures. If land taken by way of the U.S. army is returned to the prefecture for different use, it might produce 3 times extra source of revenue for Okinawa than the island now makes from bases, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki mentioned.

Because of the U.S. bases, Okinawa faces noise, air pollution, plane injuries and crime associated with American troops, Tamaki mentioned. A up to date NHK tv survey confirmed 82% of respondents in Okinawa expressed worry of being the sufferer of base-related crime or injuries.

The largest sticking level between Okinawa and Tokyo is the central govt’s insistence {that a} U.S. marine base in a crowded group, the Futenma air station, must be moved inside of Okinawa as an alternative of transferring it in different places as demanded by way of many Okinawans. Tokyo and Washington to begin with agreed in 1996 to near the station after the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by way of 3 U.S. army group of workers led to an enormous anti-base motion.

Despite 72% opposition in Okinawa’s 2019 referendum, Tokyo has pressured the development of a brand new runway at Henoko Bay off Okinawa’s japanese coast. Opponents have cited environmental destruction, structural issues and hovering prices. But the possibilities for finishing touch stay unsure.

Tamaki previous in May followed a brand new petition tough from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s govt a vital relief of the U.S. army on Okinawa, the fast closure of the Futenma base and the scrapping of the Henoko base development.

Adding to Okinawa’s fears is the fast deployment of Japanese missile protection and amphibious features on Okinawa’s outer islands, together with Ishigaki, Miyako and Yonaguni, which can be just about geopolitical hotspots like Taiwan.


Resentment over the heavy presence of U.S. troops runs deep. Many Okinawans imagine their sacrifice made conceivable the post-World War II Japan-U.S. safety alliance.

There also are historic tensions between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland, which annexed the islands, previously the impartial kingdom of the Ryukus, in 1879.

There are proceedings of discrimination and claims that Okinawans are pressured to serve an “expendable position to offer protection to mainland Japan,” mentioned Hiromori Maedomari, an Okinawa International University politics professor.

Some other folks have began calling for independence from Japan.

After seeing their requests many times unnoticed, many Okinawans, together with more youthful generations for whom U.S. bases are a part of their day by day lives, really feel there’s no use talking out, mentioned Jinshiro Motoyama, 31, a key organizer of the 2019 referendum.

There are worries that calls by way of ruling lawmakers for an additional army buildup amid emerging tensions round within sight Taiwan may build up the chance of struggle.

”I’m afraid plans are being made at the premise that Okinawan other folks may also be victimized in a battle,” Motoyama mentioned.

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