Monday, November 7, 2011

Moving Futenma ... ?

The original sin within Futenma

When U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came to Japan last month, the first thing he did was to urge Tokyo to move ahead with the relocation of Futenma Air Base from overcrowded Ginowan City to Henoko in northern Okinawa Island. It was an international agreement, he might insist, so that he would be justified to press Tokyo to expedite its early implementation.

But would he? On what legal and moral basis does he think the U.S. can demand Futenma's function be moved to Henoko with the increased function and capability the Marines have entertained to realize SINCE the 1960's? Probably, he might answer that the Henoko relocation is legitimate because it will be carried out in line with the bilateral agreement (the 2006 Roadmap) and that it is morally justified because the relocation will eliminate a highly dangerous situation under which Ginowan citizens are obliged to live their daily life.

This argument may sound rational at first glance. However, what one should never forget is that Futenma Air Base was originally constructed on illegally confiscated land during the Battle of Okinawa and afterwards. Private lands were encroached upon with impunity while area residents were herded into concentration camps. There were five villages there which together with two other villages constituted Ginowan Village (now Ginowan City) with a joint population of more than 12,000. The encroachment of land as well as the construction of the base were carried out in clear violation of an international law (Article 46 of the Hague Convention) and, above all, universal moral principles.

The U.S.'s "taken-for-granted" rights to the land where Futenma Air Base sits is thus like a fence's putative rights to stolen goods. Certainly, the U.S. cannot demand Futenma's replacement in exchange for such stolen goods. Dealing stolen goods is severely punished by law in any country, Japan or the U.S. The bilateral agreement is thus completely void in this sense.

Yoshio Shimoji

Naha, Okinawa


Sunday, October 2, 2011

A letter to the New York Times... close Futenma!

Close the Futenma Air Station immediately with no strings attached

Submitted to The New York Times September 16, 2011; The Japan Times September 20, 2011; The Washington Post September 26, 2011

Albeit knowing there's a strong local opposition, Washington cunningly cajoled Tokyo into agreeing to relocate the Futenma Air Station to Henoko, Nago in northern Okinawa. It was a government-to-government agreement and so Tokyo has every bit of international obligation to carry out the agreed-upon relocation plan as soon as possible, insists Washington.

Less than two months ago, former Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and the newly appointed U.S. Defense Minister Leon Panetta reaffirmed that "Tokyo and Washington will move forward with the plan to relocate the controversial Futenma base within Okinawa."

Last week (September 7), the Noda cabinet's newly-installed Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba made an inaugural telephone call to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which he assured her that Japan would "stick to the accord reached last year to relocate" Futenma to Henoko.

Gemba also said at his inaugural news conference that he would do his best to persuade Okinawa residents to accept the bilateral accord. How would he do it? By lavishly bribing Henoko, Nago City residents into consenting? Or else, Tokyo would probably have to resort to police force, invoking state power and thus causing bloodshed and social turmoil. By coercing Tokyo this way, Washington is actually instigating these dirty tactics, and would repeat its stock phrase: "It's Japan's domestic problem that has nothing to do with the U.S." A great democracy, indeed.

The meeting in New York on Wednesday (September 21) between Japan's new Prime Minister Toshihiko Noda and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session was the culmination of an array of such reassurance and confirmations. Noda assured Obama that he would do his utmost to implement the 2006 accord between Tokyo and Washington.

Futenma was constructed toward the end of WW II with an aim of attacking mainland Japan by B-29's in order to end the war quickly. But the war ended before that plan was actually carried out. Futenma should have been returned at that point; instead, it has continued to be in the firm grip of the U.S. military all these years to this day.

The U.S. military seized the land in clear violation of Article 46 of the Hague Convention, which states: "Family honour and rights, the lives of persons, and private property, as well as religious convictions and practice, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated."

There are more than 3 thousand so-called "military-land owners" for the Futenma Air Station. This figure tells everything about its history, that is, how it came into being. Futenma was constructed, while area residents were still herded into concentration camps during the ongoing Battle of Okinawa and after in the freely encroached-upon area where there were five idyllic villages with a joint population of more than 12 thousand.

Other U.S. bases in Okinawa, 33 in all, have more or less a similar history. In the 1950's additional land was requisitioned at bayonet point and by bulldozer to expand already existing bases. Take Iejima, for instance. Jon Mitchell writes in his recent article in The Japan Times: "With all of Okinawa under U.S. administration, the authorities started by tricking the landowners (in Iejima) into signing voluntary evacuation papers... But then, when some families refused to leave, 300 U.S. soldiers with rifles and bulldozers dragged women and children from their beds, tore down their homes and slaughtered their goats." ("Iejima: an island of resistance," May 22, 2011 Japan Times)

The illegality and immorality of Futenma would not disappear even if it were to be moved to Henoko or anywhere else in Okinawa just like dirty money would not become clean how many times it might undergo laundering.

Both governments, especially Washington, must realize this and search for an alternative solution, that is, to move it outside of Okinawa, most preferably, to the U.S. mainland. The Marines themselves may have known the criminality of their base, for they already had a blueprint for constructing a new base in Henoko in the 1960's which is strikingly similar to today's relocation plan.

I repeat: Close the Futenma Air Station immediately with no strings attached. Move it to the U.S. mainland. There's no obligation for the Japanese taxpayers, Okinawa residents in particular, to foot all the bills for reclaiming the pristine coastal waters off Henoko and constructing a new, advanced base complex including military port facilities for the U.S. Marines.

Yoshio Shimoji

Naha City, Okinawa


Thursday, February 24, 2011

US for OKINAWA statement on Takae

February 23, 2011

US for OKINAWA Statement

WWF-Japan and JUCON (Japan-US Citizens for Okinawa Network) Press Conference:

Halt the Construction of U.S. Military Helicopter Landing Pads that Destroy Biodiversity and Threaten Local Residents

Needless to say, as an American citizen, I find it ironic that at a time when the government of my country is urging countries in the Middle East to respect democracy, it is continuing to collude with the Japanese government to deny the people of Okinawa their right to the same.

Under the cloak of “lightening” the burden of military bases on Okinawa, Washington and Tokyo have promised to give back a portion of the land that has been appropriated from Okinawa in exchange for building a U.S. megabase in Henoko and 6 more large helicopter landing pads in Takae. Both of these areas have fragile biodiversity found only in Okinawa that will inevitably suffer great destruction as a result of these plans.

To us, the promise being made to Okinawa sounds like telling a man you will give him back an arm you have cut off only as long as you can remove his leg. How can the U.S. administration ask Okinawa to accept this kind of outrageous demand, when Americans—myself included—would never allow it? How can Tokyo politicians and officials call for this when they know people in mainland Japan would reject? Why is the voice of Okinawans not being reflected in Washington-Tokyo policies?

Another guise being used in this issue is the threat of North Korea. The U.S. has more than 800 military bases around the world, a stockpile of nearly 10,000 nuclear weapons, countless conventional weapons, and the largest navy in the world. American navy battle fleet tonnage greater than that of the next 13 largest navies alone combined. And yet, we are expected to believe that we can't face North Korea—an impoverished country smaller than many U.S. states that doesn't have a single military base outside of its border--without the construction of yet more helipads in Takae and an immense base in Henoko.

Clearly, the greatest threat in this matter is not arising from North Korea. On the contrary, it comes from officials in Washington and Tokyo who are flagrantly violating democracy; who are willing to destroy yet more of the Earth's biodiversity at a time when we are starting to keenly realize how much we need it to survive as a species ourselves; who are generating more unnecessary military buildup that profits a few while the health, education and other social structures of the rest of us crumble.

As a representative of U.S. and other citizens from around the world, I call for an end to the irresponsible actions of these American and Japanese officials. It's time for them to start carrying out their duty as representatives in service of democracy, as well as of peace and regional and global sustainability. Clearly, people worldwide are calling for new changes to old harmful policies, and the time has come for Washington and Tokyo to begin listening. Build peace, not more helipads in Okinawa.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Join the action to protect the biodiversity of Takae

Please Join Action for Takae at US Embassy! 高江ヘリパッド工事強行とテント損壊事件についてアメリカ大使館への抗議と申し入れへの呼びかけ


Please Join Us in Our Action for Preserving the Pristine Yanbaru Forest and People of Takae, Okinawa!

We invite you to join us in our protest at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo over the restart of the U.S. helipads construction in Takae, Higashi Village of Okinawa, and the destruction of the sit-in tent by a U.S. helicopter, either by sending us your message/request to the US Embassy by email by January 8, or physically joining our action on January 10 in Tokyo (see instruction at the bottom).

The Yambaru Forest is a habitat for endangered species such as Yambaru Kuina (Okinawan Rail) and Noguchi Gera (Okinawan Woodpecker). It is known internationally as a region rich in biodiversity. Takae, situated in Yambaru, is a small village of about 160 residents, including many who moved here for its pristine nature.

However, the U.S. Marine Corps has been using the Yambaru Forest for combat training. In 1957, th US military started using the area as “Northern Training Area” (Jungle Warfare Training Center), and currently there are 15 U.S. helicopter takeoff and landing zones (helipads) in Higashi Village. Residents of Takae have constantly suffered from the noise and the risk of helicopter crashes. To make matters worse, the Japanese and US governments decided to build 6 new helipads, surrounding the residential neighborhood of Takae.

Construction of new helipads will not only further endanger the livelihood and lives themselves of Takae residents, but also further destroy the precious environment with its wealth of species, forest and rivers. New military facilities also pave the way to the possibility of a new war. Residents of Takae have protested against the helipads construction for the above reasons. In 2006, we passed a resolution against the new helipads, and demanded of the relevant authorities that they review the construction plan. Takae residents and their supporters from across Japan and from around the world have continued to sit-in, monitoring the site and trying to persuade the government against the construction.

The Japanese and US governments, however, have not listened to the voices of opposition by the residents, and have not provided sincere explanation or proper opportunities for public hearing. The Japanese government even decided, all of a sudden, to prosecute some of the local protesters for obstructing traffic.

Just before dawn on December 22, 2010, at 6:30 AM, some 100 members of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, ignoring the ongoing court proceedings, barged into the site without warning to restart the helipad construction. On the next night, December 23rd, a US helicopter hovered only 15 meters above the sit-in tent, causing the tent to blow down. Such military exercise over a public road threatens the safety of local residents. The Japanese and US governments are harming the people of Takae by forcing through the construction work without sufficient explanation or consent by local residents. Such an approach by the two governments is unacceptable.

Residents of the Henoko district in Nago City, where the Japanese and US governments plan to build a replacement base for MCAS Futenma, have also been sitting-in for over 2,400 days, in order to preserve their life and the beautiful ocean. We urge you also to say “NO” to the new base plan in Henoko.

Following our protest to the Ministry of Defense on December 22 and the December 26 demonstration in Shinjuku, “Save Takae/Okinawa – an urgent appeal and demonstration against construction of helipads,” we will go to the US Embassy in Tokyo and the Japanese Ministry of Defense on January 10 (Mon.), 2011, to protest. We would like to collect as many requests/demands as possible and deliver them to the US government. We accept both individual and organizational messages. Just one sentence message, such as “We do not need US helipads in the pristine forest” will suffice, or a longer message is welcome too. The Takae and Henoko issues are not just about war and military bases, but they are also about environmental preservation, biological diversity, and an alternative, “slow-life” lifestyle. Please express your message in your own words. Please follow the below instruction and send your message by January 8, 2011.

With our voices and with our actions, let us stop the helipad construction in Takae, and the base construction in Henoko. Let us bring a peaceful and fulfilling life to Takae and Henoko!

(The original document in Japanese is at: Translated by Norimatsu Satoko and Gavan McCormack)

★Email your message/request to:

Please include in your email the following information:

*** Name (for an individual) or name of your organization
*** Your message/request (length is up to you)

Both Japanese and English messages will be accepted.

Deadline: January 8 (Sat.), 2011

If you can physically join our action at the US Embassy, please meet us in front of Toranomon JT building, at 3 PM on January 10, 2011. (Take Exit 3 of Subway Ginza Line “Toranomon” station. Walk four minutes straight on Sotobori Street, towards Tameike Sanno). We particularly appreciate participation of people from US!

Address: Toranomon JT Building, 2-1, 2 chome, Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo – see MAP here. Address in Japanese: 2011年1月10日(月・休)15時 虎ノ門JTビル前集合(地下鉄銀座線「虎ノ門駅」3番出口より、外堀通りを溜池山王方面へ直進、徒歩4分)

Organizer: Okinawa o fuminijiruna (Do not trample on Okinawa!) Urgent Action Committee; Yuntaku Takae; Okinawa One-tsubo Anti-war Landowners Association Kanto Bloc (URLs below)



沖縄・一坪反戦地主会 関東ブロック

★There will be another action on the same day at the Ministry of Defense. We will meet in front of the MoD at 6:30 PM. The organizer of this action is “Committee for Not Allowing Base Construction in Henoko.” See Map of MoD here:
In Japaneese, 1月10日18時半 防衛省前集合

★For the background information in English about the Takae issue, go to:

Voices of Takae (English version)

Postcard…from Takae, by Jon Mitchell

★ See a YouTube video of the Okinawan media reports on the December 23 incident of a US helicopter hovering above the Takae protest tent, which caused damage to the tent and some items in the tent.

Friday, November 26, 2010

US for OKINAWA featured in the JAPAN TIMES

News photo

Expat peace group studies embattled Okinawa ecology

US for Okinawa tour covers harmful impact of U.S. bases, both existing and planned

Special to The Japan Times

At first glance, the group of 15 young Japanese and foreigners gathered together in the arrival lounge at Naha airport look like just another package tour for a week of fun on Okinawa's tropical beaches.

News photo
Participants in a tour organized by US for Okinawa carry the group's banner on a hill overlooking the Oura Bay in northern Okinawa Island.

Drawing close enough to overhear their talk of nerve gas, land mines and unexploded bombs, however, it becomes clear that instead of working on their tans, they are more concerned about world peace.

These English teachers, interior designers and university students are taking part in a study trip organized by the group US for Okinawa to teach people about the environmental impact of American military bases on the islands.

"The name US for Okinawa has two meanings," explains Emilie McGlone, the group's cofounder and international coordinator for the nongovernmental organization Peace Boat.

"On one hand, it reflects the support of American citizens living in Japan for a base-free Okinawa. On the other hand, it shows that 'all of us' are dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers caused by the bases.

"We believe the best way to achieve that is to come here and talk firsthand to local residents about the problems they face."

Over the next four days, the participants will meet with a diverse range of Okinawan people — each with a different environmental horror story to share. In Ginowan, they will listen to a resident recount the 2004 crash of a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter and the subsequent scramble by the authorities to recover radioactive strontium-90 from sensors attached to the rotor blades.

Farther north, they will learn about the military mishap that strafed 1,500 depleted uranium shells across tiny Torishima Island — rendering its once bountiful fish stocks inedible for human consumption.

One of the most affecting encounters will occur in the village of Takae, where soft-spoken Ikuko Isa will describe her fellow residents' three-year campaign to block the construction of six new military helipads in the area.

As she discusses the daily stress of living next to the world's largest jungle warfare training center, she doesn't raise her voice in anger. Even when she describes recent revelations that, in the 1960s, the military likely tested the defoliant Agent Orange near rivers that supply the rest of the island with more than half of its drinking water, she remains calm.

"We're just ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives."

Belying the myths of a politically apathetic younger generation, the tour's participants fill their notebooks with the stories they hear. They pepper the local residents with countless questions, and back on the bus they compare notes to fill in any blanks they missed.

"I first came to Okinawa on a package tour three years ago," explains a young Japanese woman. "All we did was visit beaches and souvenir shops. I didn't know about these (environmental) problems. This trip is a real eye-opener for me."

On the third day, the group's devotion is put to the test. McGlone wakes them up at dawn, herds them onto the bus and then leads them on a 15-minute hike through thick jungle. From a hilltop overlooking Oura Bay, local resident Takuma Higashionna talks about the dugong — a relative of the manatee — that feeds on the sea grass in the waters below.

The dugong was once revered by Okinawans as a messenger of the gods, but now their numbers have dwindled to fewer than a dozen.

Higashionna is campaigning to establish a sanctuary in the area. He faces heavy opposition — Oura Bay is the proposed site for the relocation of U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma, and current plans call for two 1,500-meter runways to be built over the beds of sea grass.

In 2008, Higashionna sued the U.S. Department of Defense, arguing that the runway plans violate American laws protecting "natural monuments" (such as the dugong) wherever they live. Higashionna won the case, but Washington has failed to abandon the project.

"If this were the United States, it wouldn't be allowed to go ahead," Higashionna tells the group. "So why do they let it happen here?"

Following Higashionna's talk, the tour climbs aboard boats and heads out for a closer view of the area threatened by the new base. Half of the participants don scuba tanks to search for the telltale furrows of foraging dugong, while the rest snorkel among the bay's rare blue and "walking" coral.

Despite their failure to spot the elusive dugong, they bring back to shore a newfound sense of Oura Bay's fragile beauty. Nao Sokei, a native of Naha, was particularly impressed.

"Seeing all of that sea life made my love for this island deeper. Now I realize I need to think more about how to protect Okinawa."

On the final day, the tour participants meet with local campaigners dedicated to achieving precisely that. For the past 6 1/2 years, Inochi o Mamoru-kai (Association for the Protection of Life) has been staging a sit-in near Oura Bay to prevent the construction of the new base.

In 2007, elderly residents, fishermen and environmental activists waged a campaign of disruption against construction crews attempting to bore pylons into the seabed. They chained themselves to scaffolding, maneuvered kayaks in front of massive barges and wore down the laborers with a combination of heated negotiation and good humor.

Faced by the campaign and negative media coverage, the government called off the construction. However, with the May acceptance by then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to the relocation of the Futenma base to the area, the association expects the return of the construction crews at any time.

While Hiroshi Ashitomi, one of the campaign's leaders, is touched by US for Okinawa's support, the 64-year-old retiree has a word of caution: "If younger activists are arrested, they'll lose their jobs or the police record will prevent them from being hired in the future."

He gestures around the campaign tent to the elderly protesters sipping jasmine tea. "That's why there are so many retired people here. We're not afraid. We have our pensions. They can't take those away no matter what we do."

On their way back to the bus, some members of US for Okinawa review what they have witnessed over the past four days, and they wonder aloud why anybody would want to sign up for the military in the first place.

As if on cue, two young American soldiers emerge from the sea and sit on the harbor wall, peeling off their fins and snorkels. Some of the tour participants look startled to be suddenly confronted with the object of their antipathy, but as the Americans excitedly describe the coral and multicolored tropical fish they just saw in the bay, it appears that they share a common appreciation of the nature here.

One of the group tactfully steers the conversation toward why they joined the army and both men cite the lack of employment opportunities in their impoverished hometowns, combined with the lure of a free university education.

Bemoaning the lack of information they received when they first arrived on Okinawa, they say they're keen to learn more about the island. One of the group hands them his business card and invites them for a drink when they're next in Tokyo. The soldiers say they'll be in touch.

Back on the bus, the group fills their notebooks with details of the meeting. They say it was one of the most illuminating discussions of the trip in that it helped to dispel some stereotypes about American servicemen.

McGlone, too, seems pleased at the chance encounter. "When people talk to each other, you can see the wheels start turning on both sides. It's a great thing to watch. People learn best through face-to-face communication. That's what US for Okinawa is all about."

For information about upcoming US for Okinawa study tours, contact Emilie McGlone at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Takae, a place flourishing with biodiversity and in danger ...

(photo by Rob Pott in Takae)

US for OKINAWA is pleased to share Peace Boat`s statement for Biodiversity.

On October 18, 2010, the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) began in Nagoya, Japan. During our global voyages Peace Boat visits numerous places throughout the world including the Galapagos Islands, the Guiana Highlands, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and Antarctica, learning about and spreading the importance of biodiversity. Throughout this process, we have learned that biodiversity is not only an issue of nature, environment, animals and plants, but also of peace and human rights. We also emphasize that this issue is deeply related to worldwide poverty, the rights of indigenous peoples, and conflict. Noting that war is the greatest destruction to the environment, we insist that global military expenditure – which exceeds 1.5 trillion US dollars a year – be allocated instead to protecting biodiversity.

To Peace Boat, a world where biodiversity is protected is one where all living creatures can be free of the threat of extinction or the threat of being killed unreasonably, and can fulfil each one of their lives. Such a world cannot be achieved without joint and continuous efforts by governments and civil societies across the globe.

Peace Boat calls for the points below regarding biodiversity:

  1. No need for military bases that threaten all natural lives
    Military bases bring huge damage to the ecosystem. People living in Subic Bay in the Philippines still suffer from health and environmental problems even now, although the US military base was closed in 1991. In Ecuador, South America, US military bases were recently forced to withdraw, and Ecuador adopted a Constitution which prohibits any foreign bases or troops being stationed in their country. We need all countries to follow the lead of Ecuador in order to protect diverse lives.
    The sea of Henoko, Okinawa, is a rich treasure of biodiversity where creatures such as the endangered dugong and precious corals live. We oppose the construction of a new military air base in Henoko's Oura Bay, and call for an Okinawa free of military bases.

  2. Nuclear development and natural life cannot coexist
    Peace Boat has travelled around the world with more than 100 Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to talk about the devastation caused by nuclear weapons. Through our voyages we have learned that there are people who suffer over generations because of radiation from nuclear facilities and depleted uranium weapons. We have also learned that the common wish of ordinary citizens across the world is to live in a nuclear-free world. Nuclear waste is also a great concern. Nuclear weapons and development pose a threat to all living creatures on earth and to the environment. Citizens and governments must work together in order to realize a 'nuclear-free world'.

  3. Realize a world where the rights of indigenous peoples are ensured
    While indigenous people across the world have lived over generations in harmony with nature, they also have long suffered from violation of their rights. In British Columbia, Canada, a mass tourist resort development is violating the sacred land of the indigenous people, making it difficult for them to carry on their lives in the forest where they have always lived. There should be no human rights violations in the name of 'environmental protection' or 'development'. It is important that we learn to live in harmony with nature following the wisdom of indigenous peoples, and build a society where their lifestyles, cultures and rights are protected and respected. As an NGO based in Japan, we particularly pledge to learn from the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, and to deepen our activities in this field.

  4. Re-examine 'development'
    Through our global voyages, we have learned that our lives depend deeply upon the rich biodiversity existing throughout the world. Simultaneously, we have seen that mass development and deforestation have exacerbated environment degradation and poverty, and also the many people striving to improve such situations. It is time to re-examine the path of 'development' and 'modernization' we have taken, and to search for a sustainable solution for building the society. In order to realize this, all states must work together in cooperation for the global interest rather than confront each other in pursuit of short-term national interest.

Peace Boat calls on world leaders to deepen their discussions in Nagoya according to the above points, and for this to be an opportunity for citizens to consider these issues and take positive and effective actions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Recycle in Fashion event

■■■■ Recycle in Fashion ■■■■
for peace and a base free okinawa

Join us for a night of fashion to raise funds for the US for OKINAWA peace action network while helping to recycle your clothes & accessories. Come and enjoy music and drinks, meeting new people, and making a difference for a good cause.

...DATE: 10/20/2010 (WED)
TIME: 19:30 ~ 22:00
PLACE: Peace Boat / GET salon, Marin bldg. 4 FLR, Takadanobaba
MAP -->

ENTRANCE: 500 yen donation
* Limit to bring no more than 10 pieces of clothing /accessories in good condition. Everyone is welcome to join us, even just to come shopping, so it is not necessary to bring clothes.

** Organized by US for OKINAWA with support from Peace Boat



■■■■ リサイクルファッション ■■■■


曜日: 10/20/2010 (WED)
時間: 19:30 ~ 22:00
場所: ピースボート / GET サロン, マリンビル 4階, 高田馬場
MAP -->

入場料: 500円
* Limit to bring no more than 10 pieces of clothing /accessories in good condition. Everyone is welcome to join us, even just to come shopping, so it is not necessary to bring clothes.

** US for OKINAWA 主催、ピースボート支援