Sunday, April 25, 2010


More than 1,000 people gather for the Candle Action for a Base Free Okinawa, held at Meiji park in Tokyo

The Candle action was organized by a coalition of well-known Japanese individuals, including university professors, authors, artists, lawyers, educators, commentators, musicians and representatives of NGOs including Peace Boat, WWF Japan, PangeaSeed, Greenpeace Japan and US for OKINAWA.

Peace Boat staff and US for OKINAWA member, Emilie McGlone from the United States, encourages a more peaceful means to improving diplomatic relations between the United States and Japan.

Support for Okinawa's Citizens' Rally Echoes from Across the Seas

On April 25, 2010, tens of thousands of Okinawans gathered to call for the closure of Futenma, a U.S. Marine air base that has regularly exposed local people to intolerable noise pollution, deprived them of the opportunity to develop land in the city for more effective, profitable and peaceful purposes, and subjected them to base related accidents and crime for more than 60 years. They also rallied to oppose U.S. pressure to construct greatly expanded and modernized U.S. military facilities at the expense of taxpayers in Japan in Henoko, an area in Okinawa that is environmentally sensitive and diverse.

To express support for this Citizens Rally, Peace Boat and US for OKINAWA Peace Action Network organized a gathering onboard Peace Boat during its current 69th Global Voyage for Peace. Citizens from all around mainland Japan, as well as from the U.S., England, Canada, Australia, and Spain joined Okinawans in calling for peace to built on Okinawa rather than military bases.

During the gathering, a school teacher from Okinawa described how bases such as Kadena were built by force of bulldozers and rifles, and were imposed upon local people against their will at a time when their homes and livelihoods had been destroyed by war, and opposition was impossible. Now, however, she emphasized, the people of Okinawa will never allow another base to be built in the region. This is not only because of the heavy burden they place on Okinawan people, she added, but because military bases are places where attacks are planned on other countries—attacks that deprive people of their lives and right to live in peace. She noted that Kadena Air Base was used to launch attacks on Da Nang, Viet Nam, a port Peace Boat had left just two days earlier, and a place where many Peace Boat participants had the opportunity to directly meet Agent Orange victims and others who are still suffering the effects of the Vietnam War today.

Another speaker who was born and raised in Tokyo said he didn't think U.S. military bases were necessary in Okinawa or any other region of Japan, and instead called for Japan's Article 9, which renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and the maintenance of bellicose potential, to be exported to the rest of the world as a more effective means of establishing peace and security. Lastly, an American citizen addressed the crowd and spoke of the need to reallocate our world's resources away from military bases and weapons toward mechanisms and endeavors that will make our world truly sustainable and secure in the face of looming problems such as climate change, natural disasters, poverty, and dwindling natural resources.

In addition to the gathering onboard, gatherings and rallies were held the same day in Tokyo, Washington, San Francisco and Hawai'i to support the Okinawan Citizen's rally.

This is an indication that more and more people in mainland Japan, the United States and other nations around the world are starting to realize how much harm military bases are inflicting upon communities and the natural environment in Okinawa, and supporting Okinawans' call for a change.

Solidarity Statement for Okinawa
Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI) Steering Committee

April 25, 2010
Seoul, Republic of Korea

The Steering Committee for the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI), currently meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea, expresses its solidarity to the Okinawan people on this day of action and our support for their call for peace, demilitarization and respect for the will of the people. NARPI provides peacebuilding training, in both theory and practice, for Northeast Asian people, using education to transform a culture of militarism and violence to a culture of peace.

We, the representatives from China, India, Japan, Mongolia, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and Russia, acknowledge that the existence of armaments and military bases promote rather than deter conflict; and that particularly considering the remnant Cold War structures in Northeast Asia, the global realignment and build-up of US military forces poses a serious threat to the region. The presence of these bases, as experienced throughout Northeast Asia, only serves to exacerbate violence, conflict, pollution, environmentaldegradation, and the escalation of existing conflicts and an arms race within the region. We are deeply concerned that the external military presence in the region hampers progress towards regional solidarity, cooperation and peaceful cooexistence.

Furthermore, if the vast resources expended on the military in Northeast Asia – including on the hosting of US bases - were diverted to human needs, many of the urgent issues of potential conflict, disparity and development within the region could be addressed.

We believe that sustainable peace can be created through respect for local democratic processes, disarmament and demilitarisation, developing humanrelationships and education for peace. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution and the Mongolian Single State Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone are viable alternatives to shift from military security to human security.

We, of the civil society in Northeast Asia, therefore support the overwhelming call for the closure of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, and call on the Japanese and United States Governments to honour the democratic decision of the Okinawan people. Furthermore, we express our opposition to any new military base construction in Okinawa or anywhere else, including Gangjeong Village in Jeju Island, Republic of Korea. We stand in solidarity with the people of Okinawa, and their hundreds of thousands of supporters throughout Japan, Northeast Asia and the world, to pledge to work together for a base-free Okinawa, and for the creation of a demilitarised, sustainable peace for Northeast Asia.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

US for OKINAWA at Earth Day, Tokyo

Earth Day at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo - April 17-18th, 2010

US for OKINAWA joined together with Peace Boat staff members and PangeaSeed artists and activists during one of Tokyo`s largest environmental events to promote a base-free Okinawa.

During the two day event at Yoyogi park, we were able to network with many groups who continue to work towards promoting a healthy environment in Okinawa, protecting the Dugong (a now endangered species), and educating others about the US Military base issue in Japan. Organizations such as Green Peace Japan, WWF, SDCC "Save the Dugong Campaign", Green Action Saitama, and other civil society organizations joined together to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the nature in Okinawa and preventing yet another military base from being built in one of the most diverse and fragile ecosystems of the world.

For more info about Earth Day, visit their official website:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Candle Event "NO BASE! OKINAWA"

沖縄に基地はいらない 全国同時アクションTokyo
A huge event will be held in Okinawa on April 25, with people
gathering from all over the prefecture and Japan.
No more bases forced on Okinawa!
People all over Japan will gather together to spell out with
candles the message "NO BASE! OKINAWA" and send their support
to the Okinawan people.


NO BASE! OKINAWA ~キャンドルで人文字をつくろう!

☆日 時:4月25日(日)18時~
APRIL 25th, from 6 pm

☆場 所:明治公園 新宿霞岳町、渋谷区千駄ヶ谷一丁目

☆アクセス:JR「千駄ヶ谷」下車 徒歩5分
地下鉄大江戸線「国立競技場」(E25)下車 徒歩2分

☆内 容:歌、スピーチ、キャンドルによる人文字

☆協賛:沖縄一坪反戦地主会関東ブロック/WORLD PEACE  NOW


☆ Event:
Simultaneous actions for a base-free Okinawa
Candle event spelling out "NO BASE! OKINAWA"

☆ Date: April 25, 2010 (Sunday)

☆ Time: From 6 pm

☆ Place: Meiji Park, Sendagaya Icchome / Shinjuku Kasumigaokamachi

☆ Access: 5 mins walk from Sendagaya station, JR Sobu Line
2 mins walk from Kokuritsu Kyogijo station, Oedo Subway Line
15 mins walk from Gaienmae station, Ginza subway line

☆ Contents: songs, speeches, candle action
※ Donations of 500 yen for candles requested!

☆ Organised by Simultaneous actions for a base-free Okinawa Tokyo
☆ Co-sponsored by the Kanto Block of landowners against military bases

☆ Contact:

★ Appeal ★

Is the issue of military bases in Okinawa an "Okinawan problem?"
Next April 25, a people's gathering will be held in Okinawa to call
for the early closure of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma,
the return of the land, and to oppose the construction of an
alternative base elsewhere in Okinawa,

It is the US-Japan Security Pact signed by the mainland Japanese
government that has led to the burden of bases to be forced onto
the people of Okinawa, leading to the destruction of Okinawa's
rich environment, and dangers everyday from sound pollution,
accidents and crime, and the linked dangers of war.

The problems of the bases in Okinawa are not a problem of Okinawa,
but a problem of those of us from the mainland who are forcing
this burden onto the people of Okinawa.

We must seriously consider this issue now, even more than ever.

If nowhere in mainland Japan is willing or planning to accept the
bases in its own territory, then this burden must not be forced
onto Okinawa. We cannot push the problem around within Okinawa
and pretend that we are not aware that this is happening.

The Marine Corps must withdraw, and the Futenma Air Station
must be closed.

The people of Okinawa are united in their opposition to the
forced placement of the Futenma base in Okinawa.
On April 25, on the same day as their prefectural event,
actions will be held simultaneously all over Japan and hopefully
the world to join our voices together with Okinawa in solidarity
to oppose new base construction in Okinawa.

This action is being called for by a coalition of well-known
Japanese individuals, including university professors, authors,
artists, lawyers, educators, commentators, musicians and
representatives of NGOs including Peace Boat, WWF Japan and
Greenpeace Japan.

Citizens around the world are also called upon to hold events
on the same day, and send messages and photos in support
and solidarity.
We thank you for your cooperation!

【Same day event!】

Tokyo Event to send our message to the April 25
Okinawan People's Gathering
★ A demonstration will be held after the event
Date: April 25 (Sun), from 3 pm
Place: Miyakezaka Hall, Shakai Bunka Kaikan
(4 mins from Nagatacho Station,
Yurakucho/Hanzomon Line)
Organised by the Kanto Block of landowners against military bases
Co-sponsored by the Organising Committee against base construction in Henoko


Wednesday, April 7, 2010


FALL 2010 (Tentative dates Sept 22 - 26th)

If you love the ocean and love to learn through direct experience...this study program is for you. Please join us !

沖 縄・辺野古の海は、ジュゴンなどの海洋ほ乳類やウミガメが生息し、国際的 に絶滅の危機にあるサンゴが広く育つ海洋生物の宝庫です。この地に新しく基 地が建設されることになれば、大浦湾が埋め立てられ、マングローブなどの野 生生物に取り返しのつかないダメージを与えることになります。これは、一帯 の貴重な海洋生物多様性に対する重大な危機です。

「US for Okinawa」では、沖縄の状況をより深く知ることのできるスタディツ アーを計画しています。ぜひご参加ください!
* photo by Rob Stewart *

Okinawa Peace Project Study Program Outline:
* Learn more about the US Military bases in Okinawa
* Participate in our Ocean Conservation study program
* Scuba diving and Snorkeling exploration trip
* Canoe, beach clean-up, visit the mangroves
* Art & Music event in Okinawa

★2010年秋 沖縄ピースプロジェクト スタディプログラム★

- This program is not limited to certified Scuba divers -
CONTACT Emilie McGlone at

The sea in Henoko is a treasure trove for marine life, where the large marine mammal the Dugong and the sea turtle live, and internationally endangered species of coral grow widely. In November 2009, 36 species of new strains of shellfish were discovered in the area. The construction of replacement facilities for Futenma Air Station means that this area will be landfilled in order to construct the new base, rendering as yet unknown environmental damage to the surrounding areas and wildlife.

There are only about 10 to 20 dugongs left off the coast of Henoko in Ohura Bay, Okinawa. Dugongs are now believed to be an endangered species in Japan. In 2006, WWF Japan designated 2010 as "International Year of Dugong." This year, we hope to join them in raising awareness about the plight of this graceful mammal. The vibrant biodiversity found in Ohura Bay, on the east coast of Okinawa, may be in danger. The plan to build the new military facility, which would likely involve land reclamation activities in Ohura Bay, could lead to the destruction of the area’s precious marine biodiversity.

OBJECTIVE: As well as directly learning about the situation of the military bases in Okinawa, this study tour will examine dangers of the the Futenma Base which we are now seeking to be closed, meet people protesting against the proposed relocation of the base to Henoko in Nago City, and seek ways to strengthen solidarity of voices against the military bases from now. US for OKINAWA, together with other environmental and conservation organizations such as PangeaSeed, WWF, and Peace Boat seeks to create an Ocean Conservation study program based on the necessity to raise awareness about the fragile aquatic ecosystem in Okinawa and the threat being posed by the construction of new military facilities on the island by the United States government. Volunteers will work in partnership with local divers and water enthusiasts to combat these challenges through environmental education at the local and international levels, beach clean-ups, coral reef conservation, monitoring and data collection of the Okinawan dugong`s habitat and local ecosystem. We are committed to the conservation of the Okinawan land, water and aquatic life that is the livlihood of the people who inhabit the islands.

VIDEO by Green Peace about the Dugong in Okinawa

Organized by:

US FOR OKINAWA: A deliberate double entendre, US may be read both as "us" (you, me, everyone), as well as U.S. (reflecting the proactive stance of Americans in Japan who support a base-free Okinawa). US for OKINAWA was organized out of shared concern regarding the danger that the U.S. Futenma Air Base poses to the people of Okinawa, as well as the pressure exerted by the U.S. on the new Japanese administration to construct a replacement facility for the base in Henoko, an environmentally fragile area on the eastern part of the island.

『US for OKINAWA』は、在沖米軍基地の縮小と撤廃を求める新しいネットワークです。ここには日本に住み、沖縄のことを気にかけるアメリカ人、日本人、カナダ 人、ニュージーランド人、オーストラリア人、ウェールズ人、メキシコ人とその他の市民が集まり、都内を中心に活動を始めています。(USは私たちという意 味ですが、同時にここでは基地のない沖縄を目指す日本在住のアメリカ人たちを意味しています。)
『US for OKINAWA』は、米軍基地・普天間基地が沖縄の人々に与える危険性と、アメリカ政府が日本の新政府に対して貴重な自然環境が残る辺野古への移転を強く 要請していることへの共通の懸念から組織されました。辺野古基地建設はジュゴンの絶滅を招くばかりか、汚染・騒音公害・安全性の問題や(米軍兵による)犯 罪をただ県内の別の地域に移動するだけになります。

PANGEASEED: PangeaSeed is a Tokyo-based grassroots organization dedicated to educating and raising international awareness on the plight of sharks. Through volunteer activism and various mediums including art, music, film,and photography, PangeaSeed aims to create an open dialog with the global community to develop an understanding of the need to preserve and protect sharks and their habitat.

PangeaSeedは、地球を愛し、サメを愛する、ボラン ティアグループです。私たちは、社会の意識を高め、極めて重要な問題に光を当てるため、国や地域を超えたアート・音楽・映像を組み合わせたスペシャルイベ ントを企画開催しています。現在、誕生してから4億年以上の歴史を持ち、「生きた恐竜」とも呼ばれるサメが、フカヒレ料理の材料とするための乱獲や海洋環 境の破壊によって絶滅の危機に瀕しています。


Monday, April 5, 2010

Study Program Days 3 & 4

Study Program Day 3:

We left our guesthouse in Ginowan early in the morning and headed toward the Henoko region of Okinawa, where locals have been struggling for about 13 years to stop Futenma's Air Field from being transferred (along with a plethora of other new construction). A number of different plans have been proposed over the past decade, starting with the construction of an air field inside of Camp Schwab, which is located on a cape in Nago City next to Oura Bay, Henoko. However, this plan was overwhelmingly rejected because it would simply transfer the problems of noise pollution and safety risks from Ginowan City to Nago City. So the plan changed to a large airfield that would be built in a section of Oura Bay (right over its coral reefs!), but local people--mostly elderly men and women--resisted this plan so strongly (by holding daily sit-ins that continue even today, by occupying a platform in the bay that was erected to start planning the construction, and by paddling sea kayaks in the way of the motorized boats that came to carry out the construction) that it was finally scrapped. Then the plan changed to expanding the perimeters of Camp Schwab so that it would extend out into Oura Bay, and building the runway on this extension. Locals have fought this plan, too, and now the government is talking about building the runways inside Camp Schwab--the very same plan that was rejected more than 10 years ago!

In Henoko, our first stop was to Tent Village on the shoreline of Oura Bay, where locals were marking more than 2,100 days of consecutive sit-ins. One of their representatives, Onishi-san, used photos to tell us about the history of their non-violent struggle (which, incidentally, was inspired by the non-violent resistance of Martin Luther King Jr.). Then we walked over to a beach that is divided by a long stretch of curled razor wire that functions as a border to Camp Schwab. Peace lovers had covered just about every inch of the wire with colorful ribbons and banners calling for no war, no killing, no bases, protection of the dugong, and so on. Apparently, the U.S. military used to regularly remove these ribbons (once, even by setting fire to them all!), but people kept retying them with such persistence, that the military finally gave up trying to remove them. One funny aside: on the way to the beach, we passed by a municipal sign that said: "Keep this beach clean--please take your garbage home with you." To this sign, locals had pencilled in the word "base," so that it read: "Keep this beach clean--please take your base and your garbage home with you."!
At the beach, we were joined by three young Japanese people, two of whom are Okinawan university students. All of them are just starting to learn about the base issue themselves, and it was their first time to visit Henoko. We were inspired when Onishi-san said he wants the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to be voided and replaced with a Japan-US Peace and Friendship Treaty, so before leaving Henoko, we decided that rather than waiting for our governments to do this, we would initiate such a treaty ourselves at the citizen level, and inaugurated this new symbolic treaty on the beach with the university students (see photos later).

From Henoko, we travelled to the Takae and Yambaru Forest area to see the U.S. military's Northern Training Area, which the U.S. military has used for jungle warfare training since 1956--initially to prepare for jungle warfare in Vietnam (to our shock, we learned that the U.S. military even forced local villagers to play the role of Vietnamese people in their jungle warfare trainings!). This training area occupies thousands of hectares, much of which wasn't being used, so the U.S. military finally agreed to give part of it back to Okinawa. However, the part they agreed to give back has seven aircraft landing pads, and the construction of 7 new landing pads elsewhere was made requisite for its return. Unbelievably, the area chosen for the new construction is rich in biodiversity, and home to endangered species such as the Okinawan woodpecker and Okinawan rail. Opposition to this plan finally led to it being discarded, and a new plan was drafted: this time the landing pads would be built around a small village of fewer than 150 people. However, this village is already surrounded by 15 other landing pads, and the people were opposed to more being built around them, because of the danger and noise problems that they pose. So they went to Henoko, and learned from the people of Henoko how to build a sit-in tent and carry out resistance activities. Again, unbelievably, the government sued 14 people for stopping the construction work from beginning (charges were later dropped against 12), and the case is now making its way through the court. In other words, instead of using civil law to protect citizens, the government is using civil law to prosecute them, and our local guide explained that this sets a very dangerous precedent around the nation, because if it gets established, people who protest against things the construction of nuclear power plants or big dam projects in their communitities can also be sued by the government.

What's worse, the villagers are being sued under the Hatoyama administration's government, which is an enormous betrayal for them (and for us!), because they had voted for him and his party after he promised to lighten the burden of the military bases on Okinawa. We asked them if they planned to countersue, but they said it's difficult because their numbers are so small, it's difficult to balance a livelihood and stay fully active at the same time, all expenses would have to come from their own pocket, and it takes them 3 hours just to get to Naha, where the district court is located. (So we want to hold a fundraiser for them this year!).

With heavy hearts, we left the Takae area and returned to the Henoko area just in time to participate in a peace candle night in front of Camp Schwab. Peace candle nights have been held in front of Camp Schwab every Saturday evening for the past 6 years, and were started by a base-protester who wanted to give young children and others who could not participate in physically risky resistance activities a way to get involved in the movement. The organizer explained that flames symbolized the soul, and that many souls have been lost because of the bases in Okinawa, given that they have been used to attack Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other areas. So he taught his three young children to hold the candles carefully, and to see them as souls that need caring and should be cherished. At this event, we held our US for OKINAWA banner on the sidewalk in front of the base, and waved to all the cars passing by, including those that were leaving the base carrying military members. A television cameraman was on hand and recorded us as we also made appeals such as "Base Free Okinawa!", "Save the Dugong, "Peace not War," "Americans for a base-free Okinawa," etc.

After participating in this action, we headed to the guesthouse we would be staying at that night--a haven next to the sea that was lovingly built by a longtime base resister named Mr. Teruya. He built it largely from recycled wood, and decorated it beautifully with driftwood and polished glass he had picked up from the coastline. In the garden area of the guesthouse, an underwater photographer set up a screen and gave us a slideshow presentation of all the rich, beautiful life that can be found in Oura Bay, as well as in the mangrove lined rivers feeding into Oura Bay. It's hard to believe that anyone could consider pouring dirt and concrete over such rich and rare biodiversity--and of course, those who are proposing to do so are far removed from it, in offices in Tokyo and Washington. After the presentation, Teruya-san prepared a delicious barbecue for us, and we cracked open some local Okinawan beer and spent the rest of the night talking, drinking, and celebrating Okinawa's baseball team victory at Koshien Stadium earlier that day.

Day 4 Morning:
On our final day, we headed to the Save the Dugong Center to meet with Takuma Higashionna, who has been working tirelessly to protect the dugong and other sea life in Oura Bay and to raise awareness of the issue inside and outside Japan. He told us about how U.S. and Japanese officials always shift the responsibility to one another when he presses them about protecting Oura's biodiversity from base construction. Japanese officials claim that the U.S. is ordering the construction in Henoko and that they have no choice to follow it, and U.S. officials claim it's Japan that insists on this site and wants the construction for its security--so much so, that they are even willing to pay for it. Higashionna-san led us to a beach across the bay from Camp Schwab, and told us how he and others have dived extensively in the bay in order to map out all its coral reefs and delicate points in order to gain a better understanding of how to conserve its ecosystem and vitality. He looked across the bay and pointed to Camp Schwab, noting where its barracks, ammunition storage area, and firing ranges are located, and said it was his dream for Japan and the U.S. to one day work together to covert the camp into a nature conservancy center for all to enjoy and learn from. He also invited us to dive with his members in the future, and we eagerly accepted that invitation (more on this to come!).

After this, we headed to Naha to catch our flights in the afternoon. We had a bit of time in the city, so we used it to record everyone's impression of the program and thoughts on the issues before heading off to munch on some Okinawan specialties, such as pig ears, taco rice, and salt cookie ice cream. After that, we dispersed to catch our flights, but with a strongly united feeling that we wanted to continue working together to share what we saw, learned and felt with others in order to not leave the people of Okinawa alone and unsupported. They are not the ones who created the enormous base problems that they have to face everyday, and they shouldn't be expected to try to undo them singlehandedly. Now, more than ever, it's time for U.S. citizens and mainland Japan citizens to get involved in the issue. As Dani Pierre said several times, citing a quote she once heard, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." From this study program, we felt very keenly the need to stand up for justice, democracy, peace and environmental sustainability in Okinawa so that our entire world doesn't fall into greater darkness.

April 6th and 7th, we will hold meetings to discuss what we can do from here. In Okinawa, when we asked what we could do, everyone said the same: Please continue to tell people you know what is happening here in Okinawa, and please try to bring people here again to witness the conditions with their own eyes. We already have a number of ideas brewing about how we can help get the word out further, and we're already working with PangeaSeed to evelop a second study program to Okinawa in September. This second program will let people dive or snorkel in Oura Bay to experience its beautiful diversity and to see the dugong's habitat up close. It will also allow them the opportunity to participate in Save the Dugong Center's efforts to map the entire bay for conservation purposes.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Our second day in Okinawa was inspirational, to say the least...

Upon viewing Futenma from an aerial perspective, we were struck by its location - right in the middle of the city. One member from US for OKINAWA, Danielle Pierre told us about her life growing up in Colorado Springs, USA, surrounded by various army bases, the Air Force Academy, and other military facilities, but she never felt that the military presence adversely affected her daily life. "I can't imagine, however, that the Futenma locals feel the same", she said. A sizable military base was placed right in the middle of their lives, bringing with it planes and helicopters that fly in a pattern nearly double the radius of the original agreement. Not only that, but a representative of Ginowan City Hall stated that these planes fly on average every 5 minutes near the base. Can you imagine trying to carry on a normal life with that noise?

Another shocking fact, upon many, that we learned from the Mayor Iha himself is how many accidents happen near Futenma. He provided us with a map that depicts various accidents such as helicopter crashes, and we were appalled at the result. Crashes ave occurred at a University, near elementary schools, and just about all over the extended circumference of the base! Not only is it hard enough to live a normal daily life with the noise, but to live in fear of the next accident causes such distress amongst the local population.

Altogether, what we've learned so far highlights the necessity for Futenma to be closed. Having a conversation last night with a foreigner living in Okinawa reminded us that it is also important to think about what happens next, and not to leave Futenma in a vacuum after so many years of having a military base that stimulates the local economy. Thankfully, Mayor Iha has already taken sizable steps in the next direction. He explained his outline to restore the area to its original form, rebuilding a valuable avenue that was once lined with native pine trees and land that was once a source of livelihood for local farmers.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Study Program: Day 1

Here is a little insight into our trip to Okinawa...

Up at 03:30 AM and off to Okinawa to experience what is really happening with our own eyes. There has been a lot of news recently dealing with the Futenma Air Base issue and what should/will be done in Okinawa regarding its relocation or closure. We are here to learn as much as possible while visiting the island, through interviewing locals and talking with those on the front lines, in order to make our own opinions on the subject.

Immediately upon arrival we noticed that Naha wasn't your typical airport. Self-defense and U.S. military planes line the runway while fighter jets screamed overhead and men with military backpacks wait in the airport for their flights. We tried to keep a tally of the number of military aircrafts that we heard; 6 helicopters and 4 jets in the first hour that we were there...we lost count half-way into the third hour. Emilie noticed how strange it was to hear but not see the various military aircrafts.

During a taxi ride I asked the driver how he felt about so many foreigners in Okinawa. His initial response was that he liked the business but upon further inquiry he admitted that he could do without the bases.

Just a few images: nice people who are proud of their prefecture's representative high school baseball team at Koshien, beautiful ocean, orchids and tales of a 600 day sit in to protect Henoko from being converted into a new military base...