Okinawa musicians against United States military base


This video is called Lucy Nagamine: Okinawa‘s folk music heritage.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Okinawa‘s musicians provide a focus for Japanese protest against US bases

With Barack Obama visiting Japan in April, resentment at plans for the US Futenma military base is finding a musical voice

Justin McCurry in Okinawa

Thursday 17 April 2014 15.50 BST

If an island of 1.4m people can be summed up in a sound, it is that of the sanshin. Where there are people on Okinawa, a Japanese island almost 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, the distinctive tones of the three-stringed instrument are never far away.

Music is deeply rooted in Okinawa’s tragic place in Japan‘s history and the conduit for its modern grievances against the glut of US military bases on the island. As Barack Obama prepares to visit Tokyo to meet Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, later in April, the anti-war message of sanshin players such as Shoukichi Kina and Misako Oshiro is back in vogue as the subtropical island confronts its biggest political challenge since it reverted from US to Japanese rule in the 1970s.

In his mid-60s, Kina cuts a controversial figure as spiritual leader of Okinawa’s activist musicians. Since the release of their first single Haisai Ojisan (Hey, Man!) in the 1970s, Kina and his band Champloose have done more than any other artists to secure Okinawan music against competition from mass-market Japanese J-pop and the more innocent musical motifs of the mainland folk genres minyo and enka.

“Our job as musicians should be to celebrate the good and do something about fixing the bad,” said Kina, who some have called Okinawa’s answer to Bob Marley. “That’s why I hate the military bases here, but I love Americans.”

Though it accounts for less than 1% of Japan’s total area, Okinawa is now home to about 75% of US bases in Japan and half its 50,000 troops. Military facilities take up a fifth of the island. Obama and Abe are expected to discuss the controversial relocation of Futenma, a sprawling US marine base, from a heavily populated part of Okinawa to an unspoiled location on the island’s northeast coast, as the allies attempt to lessen the island’s military burden. The move is opposed by most islanders, including the residents of Nago, whose city lies near the proposed site for the new base.

The spirit of resistance pioneered by Kina is to be found in the more eclectic music of Tatsumi Chibana, a quietly spoken 33-year-old university graduate and perhaps the most visible of Okinawa’s new generation of rebel artists, fusing traditional sounds with rock, reggae and hip-hop.

After a US military helicopter from the Futenma US marine base crashed into Okinawa International University in 2004, Chibana was moved to write his best-known song, Tami no Domino (People’s Domino), a collaboration between his band Duty Free Shopp and local rapper Kakumakushaka.

The incendiary lyrics reflect the feeling of many residents towards the ever-present threat to safety posed by the island’s 27,000 US troops and their hardware: “Surrounded by weapons in the land of disorder; what the hell can you tell me about peace in a place like this?”

Most of Chibana’s music eschews the sanshin and other traditional instruments, but his background looms large, he said. “I’m always aware of my Okinawan identity when I make music. OK, so I wasn’t brought up listening to folk songs, but the spirit of that old music is in mine. It doesn’t matter whether I play reggae, hip-hop or rock, it’s still Okinawan music.” …

Like Kina, Chibana occasionally sings in the Okinawan language Uchinaguchi – an artistic choice that renders his lyrics unintelligible to many Japanese, but which exemplifies the island’s historical and emotional sense of detachment from the mainland.

In the 16th century, where the sanshin’s origins lie, Okinawa was part of the Ryukyu kingdom, which, while politically independent, had tributary relations with Ming dynasty China. Forced annexation by Japan came in the late 1800s, followed in the 1940s by the carnage of the Pacific war.

Less than a century after it was forcibly made part of Japan, Okinawa was the scene of one of the second world war’s bloodiest battles. An estimated 240,000 Japanese and Americans died, including more than a quarter of Okinawa’s civilian population, after US forces invaded in June 1945. Japanese troops distributed grenades to civilians, urging them to commit suicide or risk being raped and murdered by American soldiers.

“There are lots of songs about how terribly the Okinawans were treated in the war,” said John Potter, the author of the only English-language book on Okinawan music and a prolific blogger on the subject.

Okinawa’s return to Japan in 1972 – almost three decades after the war – fuelled the local sense of “otherness” from the mainland.

Not all Okinawan musicians draw inspiration from the island’s bloody past, Potter said. “Many songs come back to what a fantastic place Okinawa is. Lots of artists sing about their culture and being island people, and their pride in being different.”

Poverty – Okinawa is Japan’s poorest prefecture – and the looming clouds of conflict sent many people in search of new lives overseas, creating a diaspora whose youngest members are making their presence felt on the island’s contemporary music scene.

Lucy Nagamine, a Peruvian-born singer whose grandparents left Okinawa shortly before the war, learned classical Ryukyu music from her grandmother and picked up her deceased grandfather’s sanshin at the age of 10.

Before settling in her ancestral homeland several years ago, Lucy often sang for Okinawan immigrants in Peru who were desperate to preserve the emotional ties with home. “Now I’m here in Okinawa, away from the country of my birth, I know how my grandparents and other immigrants felt,” she said in between songs at her regular venue, a restaurant in Naha.

“In those days immigrants had nothing to do except sing and play the sanshin. It was a central part of their existence, and why music and the Okinawan lifestyle are closely intertwined, even today.”

Less polemic are Nenes, a group of four whose lineup has gone through several reincarnations since they were formed by the legendary artist and producer Sadao China in 1990. Nenes perform classic Okinawan songs for groups of tourists from the mainland.

One rare departure from their otherwise “safe” repertoire is their stirring version of Keisuke Kuwata’s Heiwa no Kyuka, which simmers with resentment over Okinawa’s bloody wartime sacrifice. “Who decided this country was at peace,” the song asks, “Even before the people’s tears have dried?”

“Now that we’re confronting the base issue again, this is a good time to sing about peace,” said 24-year-old Mayuko Higa. “It’s important that the people who come to see us perform know why it’s an important subject here.”

Nenes’ tourist-friendly melodies can seem a world away from Kina’s ceaseless quest for social and political change, an artist who implores the world’s armies to swap their weapons for musical instruments. His decade-old feud with NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, proves that Japan’s mainstream media and firebrand politics can be uncomfortable bedfellows.

“They demanded that I drop any references to peace from my performance,” Kina said, his arms in motion again as he recalls his incredulity. “I refused, of course, and they haven’t invited me back since. The message for Okinawan musicians has always been that if you want to get on in this industry, then keep your mouth shut. But I’ll say what I like.”

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US soldier accused of beating Japanese child


This video is called Okinawa-Island of Protest- Part 1.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

US serviceman accused of punching teenage boy

Friday 02 November 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Japanese leaders were fuming today after a drunk US serviceman allegedly broke into a flat and punched a 13-year-old boy on Okinawa.

The 1am attack came as US personnel were supposed to be subject to a night-time curfew after two US sailors were arrested for allegedly raping a woman two weeks ago.

The 24-year-old airman fell from a third-floor window after the assault and police are expected to arrest him when he leaves hospital.

Japanese Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto called the incident “unforgivable” and lodged a formal complaint with US ambassador John Roos.

After meeting Foreign Ministry officials Mr Roos said: “It is incredibly unfortunate that the purported actions of a few reflect badly on thousands of young men and women here in Japan, away from their homes, that are here for the defence of Japan.”

But the alcohol-fuelled assault is just the latest in a long line of US service members’ alleged crimes on the island, which have become a running sore with the local population.

The Japanese Communist Party said US forces have officially committed nearly 5,800 crimes since returning Okinawa to Japanese control in 1972, which they said was “the tip of the iceberg” as many more victims are scared to come forward.

US bases on Okinawa take up roughly 18 per cent of the island’s land and host more than half of the 52,000 US troops in Japan.

The injured attacker is based at the Kadena Air Base, itself a long-standing source of friction with Okinawa locals.

More than 100,000 people demonstrated in September against the deployment of the Osprey hybrid aircraft on the islands.

The aircraft has been involved in a number of safety failures and many object to it being stationed so close to built-up civilian areas.

It’s a particularly thorny issue as the US agreed to shut the base more than a decade ago after mass protests erupted following the rape of a schoolgirl by three US servicemen.

Base officials said they were “fully co-operating” with Okinawa authorities “to ensure justice is served.”

US soldiers accused of Okinawa rape


This video from Japan says about itself:

Anger has spread among residents of Okinawa Prefecture in the wake of the arrest of a U.S. Marine for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl from a local junior high school.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Two US sailors accused of Okinawa rape

Case worsens US military’s relations with Japanese islanders amid continued furore over stationing of Osprey aircraft

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Wednesday 17 October 2012 06.16 BST

Two American sailors have been arrested on suspicion of raping a woman in Okinawa, raising the possibility of further protests against the US military presence on the southern Japanese island.

The suspects, named as Christopher Browning and Skyler Dozierwalker, both 23, were arrested after allegedly raping the woman as she walked home in the early hours of Tuesday.

The alleged victim, who is in her 20s, later identified the sailors at an off-base housing complex, local media said. The two men, who are in Japanese police custody, had reportedly been drinking before the alleged incident.

The case has come at a particularly sensitive time for relations between the US military and residents in Okinawa, which hosts more than half of the approximately 47,000 US military personnel in Japan.

Lingering resentment at the large US military footprint on the island turned to anger recently following the controversial deployment earlier this month of 12 Osprey aircraft at Futenma, a marine corps base located in the middle of a densely populated city.

“This [the rape case] is the worst possible timing,” Kyodo quoted an aide to the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, as saying, adding that Tokyo had lodged a strong protest with the US authorities.

Japanese islanders against unsafe military aircraft


This video is called Over 50,000 Okinawans to protest Osprey deployment.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

100,000 Okinawa islanders tell US to keep ‘unsafe’ Osprey plane away

Sunday 09 September 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Up to 100,000 Japanese activists rallied against US plans to deploy Osprey hybrid aircraft at their base on Okinawa today.

The protesters gathered at a seaside park on the southern island to demand the scrapping of plans to deploy 12 MV-22 Osprey aircraft, insisting that they are unsafe.

The US plans to deploy the Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, to replace the older CH-46 helicopters currently there.

Long-standing safety concerns increased after Osprey crashes in Morocco and Florida earlier this year and an incident in North Carolina last week – euphemistically called a “precautionary landing” by officials – further aggravated the sentiment.

“We refuse to accept a deployment of Osprey that have already proven so dangerous,” said Atsushi Sakima, mayor of Ginowan City where the US intends to base the Ospreys.

“Who is going to take responsibility if they crash onto a populated neighbourhood?”

Activists cheered in support, waving red banners and placards with a message saying “Osprey No!”

The tilt-rotor aircraft have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US insists that they have a solid record.

But Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima has asked Japan’s central government to seek a full US investigation into the Osprey crashes and suspend their deployment until the aircraft’s safety is verified.

The Osprey deployment plan has also reignited long-running anger over the heavy presence of US troops on Okinawa and has become a headache for officials in Tokyo and Washington hoping to calm anti-base sentiment.

Okinawans are particularly angry because the Ospreys will be deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which the two countries agreed would be shut down more than a decade ago.

The base has remained in operation because a replacement site hasn’t been found.

Earlier in the year, the US it would delay flights of Osprey in Japan until it won the country’s confidence, but the US military appears to have run out of patience in the face of continuing protests.

US Agent Orange scandal in Japan


This video is called Decades On, Agent Orange Still Stalks Vietnam.

By Jon Mitchell, The Asia-Pacific Journal:

US Military Defoliants on Okinawa: Agent Orange

Thursday 15 September 2011

Introduction

On August 19th, 2011, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in response to recent media coverage about the US military’s use and storage of defoliants (including Agent Orange) on Okinawa during the Vietnam War. MOFA announced that, although it had requested the US Department of Defense to investigate these allegations, Washington had replied that it was unable to find any evidence from the period in question. As a result, Tokyo asked the US government to re-check its records in more detail. This was the first time that the Japanese government had asked the US about military defoliants since 2007 – and its refusal to accept the Pentagon’s stock denial was rare. The current announcement arose after two weeks of unprecedented press reports which alleged that these chemicals had been widely used on Okinawa during the 1960s and ‘70s.

With fresh revelations coming to light on a regular basis, this is still a rapidly developing issue. However in this paper, I will attempt to unravel the situation as it currently stands. Starting with a brief overview of the role of Okinawa during the Vietnam War and the military’s use of defoliants during the conflict, I will then explore the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rulings of 1998 and 2009 that appeared to offer official recognition of the presence of these defoliants on the island. Following this, I will summarize US veterans’ accounts of their experiences handling these defoliants on Okinawa – including their transportation, storage, spraying and burial. In conclusion, I will assess the obstacles that these veterans and Okinawan residents face in winning an admission from the Pentagon – plus possible signs of hope that, while difficult, such an acknowledgement is achievable.

Children of Agent Orange: here.

“Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam”. Fred A. Wilcox, Seven Stories Press: “The old soldier wears a long-sleeved shirt and shorts. His feet are bare and when he talks he appears to be listening carefully to his own words. Once, he says, this area of Cu Chi was covered with mangrove forests and jungles. Then, the spray planes appeared, moving slowly and quite low over the trees, back and forth until everything shriveled up and died”: here.

It’s Time to Compensate the Victims: Looking Back at Vietnam and Agent Orange. H. Patricia Hynes, Truthout: “In ‘Waiting for an Army to Die,’ Fred A. Wilcox … recounts the stories of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and also of Oregon mothers, Arizona potters, and others living near sprayed public lands, all of whom were suffering from a plague of cancers, nervous system effects, miscarriages and birth disorders of their children…. Wilcox takes us inside the tragic, yet gutsy lives of young, working-class vets who were left to die by ‘government stonewalling, bureaucratic shell games and the contempt of multinational corporations’”: here.

A mere 34% of 1940-1960s US Vietnam war records have been released: here.

Britain: Shocked MPs are organising a Westminster fundraising event for young Vietnamese victims of US defoliant Agent Orange after witnessing tragic suffering in a Ho Chi Minh City hospital: here.

Japan’s Illegal Environmental Impact Assessment of the Henoko Base. Sakurai Kunitoshi, The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus: “Before dawn on December 28, 2011, with the end of the year looming, the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) delivered a load of cardboard boxes to the office of the Okinawa Prefectural Government. The boxes contained copies of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for a base in the Henoko district of Nago that is planned as the replacement for the US Marines Corps Air Station Futenma”: here.

The United States has announced its intention to pull 9,000 marines out of Japan’s southern Okinawa and redeploy them to other locations in the Asia-Pacific region: here.

Japanese Social Democrats say US base out of Okinawa


This is a Japanese video about protests in Okinawa against the US military base.

From Kyodo news agency in Japan:

Fukushima hints at quitting coalition if Futemma remains in Okinawa

TOKYO, Dec. 3

Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima hinted Thursday that her party may leave the ruling coalition if the government decides to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futemma Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture.

Will the U.S. military do right by the dugong? Here.