Wednesday, March 24, 2010

US for Okinawa at Spring Love festival in Tokyo

For the second year in a row during the first weekend of April, amidst cherry blossoms at their peak and near-perfect (if slightly chilly) weather, the Spring Love Harukaze festival transformed Yoyogi Park into a space of positive energy and peaceful vibes. The event featured some of Japan’s top musical talent, as well as a series of talk sessions related to various peace and environmental issues. In addition, the festival included a flea market with natural and eco-related goods, food stalls with organic and various world cuisines, tents with information from peace and environmental NPOs/NGOs, a DJ tent where young dancers enjoyed chilled-out grooves, and various jam sessions/performances spontaneously organized by festival-goers that seemed to crop up all over the venue throughout the weekend.

Spring Love website: (Japanese)
Event on Facebook (English)

The event featured two stages: the main Spring Stage, where most musical acts and peace talks took place; and the smaller, cozier Love Stage, which housed DJs, smaller musical acts, and presentations from representatives of several of the NPOs and NGOs in attendance. One such group was US for Okinawa, made up mostly of foreign residents in Japan who are committed to demonstrating their support for a base-free Okinawa. In addition to introducing themselves on the Love Stage, the group organized a booth at the event with a photo exhibition, FAQ sheetFlier-Why%20Bases%20Don%27t%20Protect%20Japan.Jp.pdf, and petition all aimed at making clear the destructive impact of U.S. military bases. Coincidentally, many of the network's core members were actually on a study tour to visit U.S. bases in Okinawa on the very same weekend as Spring Love—their report of their very fruitful tour may be read here.


Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin at the Senate hearing on Pacific command, with signs of "Out of Okinawa"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

US for OKINAWA and Peace Boat create Study Program to Okinawa!

Are you interested in learning more about the U.S. military base issue in Okinawa? Do you want to help prevent the dugong from becoming extinct in Japan? Do you want to hear the reason for local people's opposition to military bases with your own ears? If you answered yes to any of these questions then please join *US for OKINAWA Peace Action Network* on an active study program of Japan's subtropical south this April.

US for OKINAWA is joining local residents in Ginowan City, Okinawa in asking the U.S. government to shut down the dangerous Futenma Air Base located right in the middle of their city. The base has endangered the lives of the local residents through military accidents, and lacks a buffer zone around it to protect surrounding schools, homes, hospitals and businesses. The U.S. and Japanese governments have agreed that the base poses an unacceptable safety risk to Ginowan City, but the U.S. government insists that closing Futenma is contingent on constructing--and Japan paying for--a new military facility elsewhere on Okinawa island. Because nearly 20% of Okinawa is already occupied by U.S. military facilities, this demand does nothing to lighten the burden on the local people.

In addition, new construction plans include inundating the environmentally fragile bay around Camp Schwab, the Henoko district, with dirt and concrete to vastly expand the base at the expense of unique coral reefs and the feeding ground of a gentle ocean mammal called the dugong. The U.S. (as well as some Japanese officials) insists that the construction must go through, despite fierce opposition by the majority of residents in Henoko. We want to listen to the voices of the local people and help them be heard both in Washington and mainland Japan.

In cooperation with Peace Boat and local partners in Okinawa, US for OKINAWA is organizing a study program to Okinawa from *April 1st to April 5th*. The goal of the study tour is to witness firsthand what is really happening in Okinawa, and to help raise more awareness of the base issue both in mainland Japan and in the U.S. and other countries.
We will be visiting U.S. military installations in Ginowan, meeting public officials in Ginowan and Henoko, listening to local testimonies, and visiting the beautiful bay of Henoko that is scheduled for destruction.

If you are interested in the study tour please contact Jonathan Yamauchi of US for OKINAWA at: jonathan.yamauchi[a] Please note that this program is not-for-profit, and costs are being kept to a strict minimum. Organisers are now in discussions with local partners to set the price of the programme, and more information will be available soon.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, and for further detailed information about the program.

Niheideburu, thank you!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

US for Okinawa supports launch of new Japan-US network

A new network called JUCO-NET (Japan-US Citizens for OKINAWA) was launched on March 3, 2010 at a meeting at the House of Representatives. Core members of JUCO include Greenpeace Japan, WWF Japan, the Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation (JELF), Peace Depot, Peace Boat, Okinawan activists, and a network of NGOs and think tanks in the U.S. One of the network's first aims is to take out a large ad in a leading U.S. newspaper to call attention to the issue of Futenma and Henoko.
The JUCO-NET home page, with further information is now online here (Japanese only).

US for Okinawa joined JUCO-NET at the press conference today as a supporting organization, and presented the following statement on behalf of the group.


JUCO Statement
March 3, 2010
Rose Welsch, US for OKINAWA representative

My name is Rose Welsch, I'm a U.S. Citizen and also a foreign resident of Japan. As someone with experience on both sides of the Pacific, I oppose more bases in Okinawa, and I am not alone.

That's why I and other citizens from the U.S. and from around the world formed US for OKINAWA Peace Action Network. The “US” in our name has two meanings. One is “me, you, him, her—all of us who are concerned about what is happening in Okinawa, and the other is “U.S.” as in United States citizens who support the closure of Futenma and the halt to new and unnecessary military construction in Henoko.

Even though there are some government officials in the U.S. who are strongly pushing for this construction, they don't reflect the will of the American public. Why not? Well, to be honest, because most Americans have never even heard of Futenma or Henoko. Most Americans aren't aware that U.S. Military bases occupy 20% of Okinawa.

When U.S. citizens do learn the facts, however, we are appalled. The more we learn the truth, the more we start to feel strongly that we don't want our government to operate an enormous, dangerous base in the middle of a densely populated city—something that would never be allowed in our own country. We start to strongly feel that don't want our government to destroy a vital marine ecosystem in order to create an unnecessary base in our name. And we don't want the voices of local people who have to live with U.S. bases next to them to be ignored in our name. What we DO want is both the Japanese and U.S. Governments to respect local people, halt new military construction anywhere in Okinawa, and close Futenma.

So, that is why US for OKINAWA is supporting the placement of an opinion ad in a major U.S. newspaper in order to help raise more awareness of this issue. That's why we are writing letters to government officials and in Japan and the U.S. That's why we're circulating a petition and information about Henoko and Futenma in English on the internet. That's why we're also campaigning for better ways to spend $14 billion dollars in taxpayer money—paid by both Japanese citizens like yourselves, and foreign residents like myself in Japan--than on new base construction. Surely there are definitely better ways to spend billions of dollars than on destroying more of Okinawa's biodiversity.

Finally, that's why we are organizing a study program to Okinawa in April, so that more people can see the bases with their own eyes, hear testimony from local people with their own ears, and start a very necessary dialogue on how peace—genuine peace and security--can be constructed in East Asia and the rest of the world, rather than more military bases.

US for Okinawa in the media

US for Okinawa was featured in today's Japan Times - see below for the article!

Group hopes U.S. ad raises awareness of Futenma

Staff writer

Concerned about the lack of information in the U.S. regarding the relocation of a marine base in Okinawa, a network of Japanese and U.S. citizens and nongovernmental groups announced Wednesday plans to take out a full-page ad on the controversial issue in a major U.S. newspaper.

Established Wednesday by various academics, journalists and NGO members, the Japan-U.S. Citizens for Okinawa (JUCO) network is allied with organizations in the U.S. including the Cato Institute, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Biological Diversity.

According to the organizers, the network is aiming to raise ¥6 million to place a full-page ad in a major U.S. newspaper by the end of March, before the Japanese government finalizes its decision on the relocation site for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The members are now considering several newspapers to decide which would have the biggest impact on U.S. citizens.

"One of the reasons why (the Futenma relocation issue) is not moving forward is because it is an issue unknown to most U.S. citizens and politicians," said Jun Hoshikawa, the executive director of Greenpeace Japan. "This is a common problem among both Japanese and U.S. people and we decided to join hands and form a network to bridge Japan and the U.S."

Rose Welsch, a Tokyo resident and representative of U.S. for Okinawa, a peace action network made up of foreign and Japanese nationals residing in Japan, said most Americans are unaware of the Futenma issue and contends it is not their will to build more military facilities in Okinawa.

"But when U.S. citizens do have the chance to learn about what's going on, we are appalled, absolutely appalled," Welsch said. "And the more we learn the truth, the more strongly we start to feel we don't want our government to operate an enormous, dangerous base in the middle of a densely populated city, which is something that would never be allowed in our own country."

Under the original agreement between Japan and the U.S., the Futenma aircraft operations were to be moved to Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago, in the northern part of Okinawa Island.

But World Wide Fund for Nature Japan's Shinichi Hanawa said international attention has now focused on preserving the biodiversity of Oura Bay near Henoko. Hanawa added that the United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity and that Nagoya is to host the 10th Conference of the Parties in October.

The Japan Times: Thursday, March 4, 2010
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