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23 January 2016

Being Rosa Parks at US Marine Camp Schwab in Okinawa

From last December to beginning of this month, I was in Okinawa to join protest activities of locals who are opposed to construction of new military base runways in US Marine Camp Schwab in Nago city, Okinawa.

Why we are opposed has been described in this blog for years. Please read the posts clicking the tag Okinawa.

Especially, this article gives you outline of what is going on there. My letter to US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK.

While I joined the protest, I used picket board that says "We are Rosa Parks."

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Rosa Parks as you may know, is the symbol of refusal to unjust matters. A Black woman who refused to give front seat to white passengers in a bus and was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955. But her action sparked bus boycott protest led by Dr. Martin Luther King. 9 years later, civil rights Act was passed. A year after that, Dr. King led peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery to call for enactment of voting rights bill. Black people in the Southern states were blocked at voting registration office.

What surprised me was marines reaction to the picket board. Young marines looked positive. I asked one security guard, who was a young white man inside the camp premise, if he knew what it meant. He said smilingly "I know what it means." One Black man driving a car looked at me, smiled and gestured his support. "Rosa Parks" is known to every American.    

I saw the movie, "SELMA" after I got back home in Tokyo. It was a great movie. I found how hard it was for him to do this. A lot of people were hurt and even killed. But he and his followers never gave in.

Interesting thing to know was Dr. King was a very smart man so that he once retreated the march to avoid bloodshed by local police. He filed lawsuit against the Alabama state that bans peaceful march. Then the court made an order to allow the march. He prevailed.

Just like Rosa Parks and Dr. King. we did peaceful protest at the gate of Camp Schwab. Sit-in-protest at the gate that construction vehicles passed through.

Police came and took us from the gate. We never foughtback but just kept sitting down on the ground. I was carried by the police from shoulders to toes.

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Protestants do every day. It has been going on for years. There were several injuries and arrests. But we still keep doing this. We cannot stop the construction but at least we are delaying that. We will never give in.

While I joined in the sit-in protest, I really felt like Rosa Parks, Dr. King and their followers in their times. We may be backed up by their souls. 

Thank you, Dr. King and Ms. Rosa Parks. I am proud of being part of this protest activity.

The US government should hear the voice of protestants and halt such stupid construction project. It is as stupid as segregation laws. It is actually what is happening in your own yard. 

 

22 April 2015

Dear Fellow Americans, JFK Exhibit is held in Tokyo

I went to the exhibition of John Fitzgerald Kennedy at National Archives of Japan located near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

 

history, JFK, war, homosexuality, gay, lesbian,

 

 

I went there with one old American couple whose young days were when JFK were alive as US President. They told me that the assassination was shocking to them because he was very popular at that time.

 

The admission was free. It has been held since early March and is scheduled to end May 10, 2015. The description of exhibits are mostly Japanese. So I explained to them what each one of exhibits was about. Actually they knew what they were because those things were very familiar with them already.

 

I focused on one corner. The exhibits that relate to his relationship with Japan before he became a politician.

 

history, JFK, war, homosexuality, gay, lesbian,

 

 

A cononut paperweight and a letter to former enemy.

These things come from his war-time experience in Solomon islands, Southern Pacific 1943. JFK was on torpedo patrol boat with his crews at night. The boat was hit by Japanese naval destroyer, Amagiri and sunk. JFK and his men were all thrown out to the sea but they swam to one island. There they met locals. JFK asked them to deliver a coconut which the message of calling for help was written on to the US military corp. Then he and his men were all saved. By that incident JFK was awarded medals.

After the war, JFK made the coconut into paperweight as a memorial. JFK wrote the letter to former captain of the destroyer, Hanami telling him that he wanted to meet the captain because yesterday’s enemy turned today’s friend. Later JFK invited him to his presidential election campaign. The captain could not go to the US but his best friend, Onozaki, who was also a crew of the destroyer went. The photo that Onozaki and JFK together were printed out in newspapers in US that might help JFK win the election.

 

He might have felt saved by the Japanese military. I speculate that the enemy did not shoot at them though they found them in the sea or even gave them a rescue boat or some way to save their lives?

 

JFK to me has weird relation. When I was in US two decades ago as a college student, some of my classmates said to me that I look like JFK. I was glad to hear that.

 

I remember when I went to Arlington cemetery in Washington, I could come to his grave without knowing the route, seemed like he invited me.

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 He and I have things in common. I am Catholic and have back pain problem from young days still struggling with it some time. He and I are very much interested in civil rights advocacy.

 

 The memorable thing I saw in the exhibit was his speech film on Civil Right Act in relation to Alabama state’s defiance to Federal court order to admit Afro-American students to its state university.

 

He said,

 

“We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.”

 

That speech sounds like current President Mr. Obama’s endorsement on gay marriage.

 

After a half century, a new type of civil rights movement seems to be on. The same rhetoric are used for both pros and cons. Majorities vs. Minorities. Conservatives vs. Liberals.

 

Federal protection law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been on debate.

 

Just like that State of Alabama rejected court order to provide marriage licenses to gay couples.

 

That is why Obama is called, Black Kennedy. He succeeded JFK’s will to protect civil rights.

 

Interestingly enough, unlike race matter, sexual orientation matter is common worldwide. So America can be a good role model for this issue.

 

In relation to it, this coming weekend April 25 & 26, 2015, Tokyo celebrates gay pride event in Yoyogi Park that includes street parade. I will actually join it. Last March one ward of Tokyo, Shibuya passed an ordinance that provides partnership certificate to gay couples. The first political accomplishment in Japan’s gay movement.

Japan’s public opinion regarding gay issue has recently changed.

According to the recent poll conducted by Mainichi Newspaper, majority of Japanese support gay rights, especially among younger generation. More people approve of gay marriage than those who oppose it.

 

Is it due to what has happened recently in the U.S. ?

Good role model. Hope US keep being good role model for us.

 

Since I think of JFK, there are 3 songs that come up with. The songs released in the year he was assassinated. Did he hear the songs and enjoy them?

 

One is related to civil rights movement, "Blowing in the wind", one implies coming of Vietnam war, "Green Green." The other implies the oppression I am facing with many other people regarding US policy which current US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy (JFK’s daughter) has to deal with.

 

31 July 2014

Puff the magic dragon, lived by the sea, in the land called "HENOKO"

I saw the dragon there, in Henoko, Okinawa prefecture, southernmost chain of the islands in Japan.

You might not believe that. This is the proof.

dragon,

Yes, it looked like rainbow. But the sea is known to be sacred place for the dragon. The locals worship it and established a shrine on the sea coast.

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Recently the dragon seems not very comfortable living there because of construction project going on his or her place. On the sea coast is US Marine training camp base, Camp Schwab. There is a plan to expand the base by reclaiming the sea where he/she lives.

 

The locals oppose the plan because their environment would be deteriorated as well. However, US military and the Japanese government never mind local resisitance movement.

 

Will he/she leave as the things are? I doubt it.

 

The sea reminds me of what I experienced 3 years ago in Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi prefecture in the mainland of Japan. Actually I learnt about that town when I joined environment activists meeting in Henoko. I met Kaminoseki activists who protest the construction project that reclaims the sea to build nuclear power plants there. They did the same things as locals in Henoko do, kayaking the sea to prevent construction work from proceeding.  

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So I visited Kaminoseki later. There I saw the same scene.

Activists on the beach calling for the halt of the project but the authorities and power company never minded their voices. The project was about to be proceeded and the beach might be destroyed sooner.

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I felt something when I was on the beach. I sympathized, and then prayed to call for the help.

 

Two weeks later a big earthquake and tsunami occurred in Fukushima. 4 nuke plants were destroyed by the nature and massive radioactives were released to the environment.

 

Now the construction is halted in Kaminoseki (not yet terminated.) No nuke plants are operated in Japan at present.

 

In that town, there enshrined the sea dragon.

 

Was it just an coincident? I just don’t think so. That is why I’ve been feeling fear.

 

16 February 2014

Dear Madame Ambassador Kennedy, Re: Okinawa Issue

Surprising thing happened in Okinawa. US Ambassador to Japan met with mayor of Nago city and visited the controversial construction site for new US Marine base.

Maybe because she responded to the below editorials of local newspapers.

EDITORIAL [Dear Madame Ambassador Kennedy] Please Meet with Mayor Inamine

[Editorial]Dear US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy: We want the US government to change its Futenma replacement policy and cancel Henoko landfill

However, I wrote the letter to her. That might have worked as well, I guess.

The below is what I wrote to her early this month and is a progressed version of a letter I wrote to her last November.

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February 3, 2014

 

My name is Masagata, a Japanese man living in Tokyo. I used to study at San Francisco State University, where I majored in International Relations. I am now working as a translator using the English knowledge I acquired in the US.

 

I am writing this letter to tell you about a matter that is very important to both of our nations. I am sure that you are well aware of many issues between the two nations. I would like to mention the most important of these: a matter that might result in long-term deterioration of the current healthy relationship between the two nations. I urge your government to rethink its ways of dealing with this issue.

 

The matter in question is the relocation of the US Marine Base from Futenma in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan’s southernmost tropical islands, which are a little like Hawaii. In 1996 both the American and Japanese governments agreed to relocate Futenma base to Camp Schwab to get away from the densely populated area around Futenma. Camp Schwab is on the coastline of the island, in an area called Henoko.

 

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There has been a local resistance movement since the relocation plan was announced. Locals near Camp Schwab are concerned about the deterioration of their living environment. Many environmental activists also oppose the plan because of the abundance of forms of wildlife that are unique to the area around Camp Schwab.

 

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okinawa, military, dugong 

 

I took the photo of one of the above when scuba diving in the nearby sea. It shows clown fish swimming above the coral reef like in the film “Finding Nemo”. The other photo is of a dugong, an endangered marine mammal that eats grasses in the sea. I enclosed purple paper craft of dugong made by locals.

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It is just ridiculous that the nation that protests Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic Sea – and even dolphin hunting in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture – is helping to threaten another marine mammals that live in Japan.

 

On November 22nd, 2013, in Nago City (to which Camp Schwab is attached), the city council made a resolution demanding the Okinawa Governor not to permit landfilling of the sea. However, the governor permitted the landfill in December even though a majority of Okinawans disapproved his decision.

 

The following month, in January, Okinawa Prefectural Council made a resolution demanding the Governor’s resignation. Okinawan protest activists announced legal action against the prefectural government in order to cancel the permit. Later, on January 19th, the mayor of Nago City, INAMINE Susumi, was re-elected because of public support for his policy of the city’s refusing corporation with central and US governments regarding construction of the new base project.

 

If the project is implemented as planned, the sea will be reclaimed and dugongs and other creatures’ lives would be threatened. Dugongs’ sea grass is found in the reclaiming area. They will lose their feeding place. Then what will happen is that your nation will be accused of helping to diminish such wonderful and rare creatures for the interests of the few. The few, you might know, are certain businesses and government people who want some gains from the project. Actually, the Japanese Ministry of Defense carried out an environmental assessment in which it was claimed that there are no dugongs in the sea. But the environmental organizations such as WWF and The Nature Conservation Society of Japan claim that the MoD’s assessment was wrong and the organizations’ own research found clear traces confirming the existence of dugongs. Recently, Okinawa’s local newspaper revealed the news that the MoD was aware of the finding but had covered it up.

 

You might say this is something to be handled by the Japanese government, and that it is not the responsibility of the US military. But that sounds very hypocritical. The US military is the one that uses the facility. The US government can cancel that project and find another relocation site outside Okinawa. If the US continues to attribute this to the Japanese government, it is just like what Japanese conservative politicians say when it comes to the “Comfort Women” issue: “The Japanese Imperial Army was not responsible for kidnapping women in Asia during the war period in the early 20th century, it was what outsourced local brothels did.” 

 

There may be casualties and incidents resulting in bloodshed during protest activity against construction. Such news will be broadcast all over Japan. The construction will take several years to complete. Resentment will continue to build. Your military and diplomats will have to deal with such problems for a very long time.

 

In fact, the US military presence in Okinawa and even nationwide is becoming nothing but troublesome. More of us know that the US military presence no longer functions as defense or deterrence like in the Cold War era. China is said to be a new threat but we know that US-China relations have become more vital for your nation since China owns more US treasury bonds and buys more US goods than Japan does. China has become a larger economy than Japan these days. President Obama spends more time having dialogues with Chinese leaders than with the Japanese Prime Minister.

Plus, US needs China for negotiation with North Korea in terms of nuclear missile issue.

 

Recent incidents indicate US reluctance to defend Japan from China. In 2010 a Chinese fishing ship collided with Japan’s coast guard ship in the sea near the Senkaku Islands, a disputed territory between Japan and China. The captain of the ship was arrested by the coast guard. The US Secretary of State said it would have no involvement in this matter and the captain was later released. Last year China announced expansion of its Air Defense Identification Zone to the Okinawa area. Japan objected to it and demanded China to cancel the expansion, but the US did not follow what Japan did to China but requested US private airliners to submit flight plans in that zone to the Chinese authorities, precisely opposite to the Japanese stance.

 

We can easily predict that the US would not help Japan even if China and Japan became involved in a dispute for some reason such as the territorial right to the Senkaku islands. The US cannot send troops to assist Japan fighting against the Chinese military because such action might cause great losses for your national interests. China has many ways to sanction your nation.  

 

Military experts say that the biggest reason that the US military forces stay in Japan is to cut cost of their own because Japan provides host nation support fund, which we call “Sympathy Budget” that accounts for more than 70% of total expense for the US bases in Japan. There are more than 130 facilities of US military in Japan. Most of the troops are stationed in Okinawa prefecture that accounts for less than 1 % of total of Japan’s territory. Okinawa has been occupied until 1972, which is 20 years after mainland Japan regained sovereignty and was the only place that experienced ground battles within Japan, causing 200,000 civilian casualties during WW II.

 

Deploying your military so much in our country, especially Okinawa is just causing growing distrust against your country. I believe the Okinawa issue presents the perfect timing for your nation to rethink its military deployment in Japan in order to improve the relationship between the two nations. Constructing a base on reclaimed land in the Henoko sea is the worst possible idea.

 

US military presence functions to apply American influence on our nation. Yes, it did work that way but you really have to know this may be working negatively. The image of your country itself is no longer positive like in the past. In other words, the US is no longer a powerful land of dreams, nor is it any longer a role model for us. One example of this can be seen in a recent best-selling book on your country’s poverty issue. The title of the book is “Hinkontaikoku America” (Poverty Superpower, America). It was written by a Japanese journalist, TSUTSUMI Mika. The book describes how Americans are struggling with poverty in a plutonomy society and explains how Japan should not follow suit.

 

We know that a lot of young Marine troops stationed there come from poor families that cannot afford college education and have problems like domestic violence. They join the Marines by system, so called, Poverty Draft. That is why they cause troubles with Okinawa locals.

 

The interesting thing to note is that Japan was democratized and the wealth of the nation was redistributed from pre-war plutonomy by the US occupying forces. Thanks to them, Japan has become the most egalitarian society among industrialized nations. We do appreciate that. We are always good friends to you as long as you are what you should be. So please keep being a good friend to Japan.

 

Below is a photo of me, taken in Washington 20 years ago when I was attending university. I remember some of my classmates told me that I looked like JFK when I made a presentation on his foreign policy. I have many wonderful memories from the time I spent over there. People were very friendly and kind to me. I do not want to feel betrayed any longer.

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Sincerely,

 

I hope that she saw the scenery like that over there.