In the southern part of the Japanese archipelago, near Taiwan, there is an island called Okinawa. Okinawa is also the name of one of the smallest of Japan’s 47 prefectures. *
Since 1996, the government of Japan and the government of the U.S. have been trying to build a new military base at Henoko, Nago-city, located in a less populated northern part of the island, under the pretext of “replacing” the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. MCAS Futenma is located in the center of crowded Ginowan-city and referred to as being “the most dangerous military base in the world”.
Henoko and Oura Bay, the planned site for the new enormous base with two 1800m V-shaped runways on a total area of 205 hectares dumping 21 million cubic meters of soil and sand, is well known as the “sea of treasures”, with Okinawa’s last fully intact and healthiest coral reef preserving world-class marine biodiversity (5,334 species of marine life, including 262 endangered species). And also in Henoko, there are important seagrass feeding grounds for the endangered sea mammal, the dugong. If a new U.S. military base is built, the habitat of dugong will be wiped off.
As the boring survey started in July 2014, Okinawan citizens and fellow peace activists from all over the country opposed to the construction of a new base at Henoko began to monitor and protest in front of the Camp Schwab Marine Corps Base Gate. With the aim of preventing the delivery of equipment and materials to be used for the boring survey and the construction of the base, citizens continue to monitor in front of the gate. The riot police (and the Japan Coast Guard at sea) has been seen harassing and even detaining citizens who are protesting. However, more and more people from both inside and outside Okinawa, as well as other countries, have visited Henoko to join the protest. The non-violent struggle against the construction of a new base at Henoko will never stop until the government of Japan withdraws the plan.
We’re only doing what we can, to protect the endangered dugong, the bio-diverse sea, and all the life. “Nuchi du Takara (Life is Precious)”.
* Okinawa was once independent as the Ryukyu Kingdom, before invasion by Japan through a series of events in the 1870s. At the end of World War II, 73 years ago, Okinawa became the site of one of the war’s most ferocious battles. An estimated 120,000 Okinawans (between one-third and one-quarter of the population) died between March 1945 and the time of Japan’s defeat. After the war, the presence of permanent U.S. bases has created friction between Okinawans and the U.S. military. During the occupation, U.S. military personnel were exempt from domestic jurisdiction since Okinawa was an occupied territory of the U.S. Even after Okinawa was “returned” to Japan in 1972, Japan immediately signed a treaty with the U.S. so that the American military could stay in Okinawa. Today, Okinawa is still burdened with more than 70 percent of the total number of the U.S. bases in Japan, even though it accounts for less than 1 percent of Japan’s land surface.