By Veterans for Peace, World BEYOND War, November 8, 2022
Mensõrē fellow shimānchu from around the world; welcome back to your nmari-jima, your ancestral homeland!
Seventy-seven years after the Battle of Okinawa, and 50 years since “reversion,” or disposition back to Japan, military occupation continues to entangle us in wars: Korea, Viet Nam and Afghanistan to name a few. After decades of Okinawan governmental and legal appeals, resolutions, environmental activism, mass demonstrations, and civil disobedience to protect our land and children, it is as if war never ended in Uchinā. A Kyōto University study finding concentration of PFOS, an extremely cancerous chemical, in the bloodstream of Ginowan residents to be four times higher than the national average symbolizes how Okinawans continue to be casualties in the wars of others.
Centuries of deadly experiences with wars and militarism have forged a fierce cultural value of peace for Ryūkyūans as the social bedrock for security. It is with this history that Okinawa is appealing to the world, with you as a link.
Today, the threat of war (actual combat) has returned to Okinawa. The U.S. military and the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) are preparing for war against the neighboring republic, China.
The Ryūkyū Shimpo and Japan Times reported on December 24, 2021, as headline news, that preparations were in place for a “Taiwan contingency,” a war against China. The “U.S.-Japan mutual strategy,” includes positioning attack bases throughout the Ryūkyū archipelago. JSDF missile launching sites are being constructed on Yonaguni, Ishigaki, Miyako and Okinawa islands. The U.S. is preparing nuclear-capable intermediate-range and supersonic missiles. A military analyst has warned, “if the US becomes involved in a war with China, Okinawa will surely become China’s number one target.”
Should international military intervention escalate to a Chinese civil war, the U.S. and Japan will attack China from the Southwest Islands (Okinawa), which will give China “justification” under international law to retaliate. As always in war, some of those bombs and missiles will land on target, others will fall on the homes, schools, fields and factories of the local people who, in this case, are not parties to this war. Once again, Okinawans will be made suteishi, sacrificial pawns, as they were 77 years ago when almost 1/3 of the Uchinānchu people were slaughtered. We were glad to learn that some Ukrainians were able to escape the war in their country by automobile. In Okinawa, no such highway escape routes exist. With the added threat of nuclear escalation, Ryūkuyū could face annihilation.
Given the massive U.S. and Japanese military presence in Okinawa, it may seem that, in case of a war with China, a Chinese military assault on our islands is “inevitable.” But the Okinawans did not invite this presence. Rather it was forced upon us, against our expressed will, using military and riot police power, by the only two countries ever to invade Ryukyu: Japan and the U.S.
Under the declaration “No More Battle of Okinawa”, we refuse the designation of our shima (islands/villages) as a “war zone”. We demand the Japanese and U.S. governments abandon their plan to use Uchinā as a battleground, and to stop building missile launchpads and military exercises on our islands.
Fellow shimānchu siblings and allies from around the world: the past and current Okinawan governors have appealed to Uchināchu Diaspora for your help. Please join in solidarity in your various countries, and call for No More Battles of Okinawa. Please submit your concerns to the Prime Minister of Japan at: https://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/forms/comment_ssl.html
If you have U.S. nationality, please contact your elected officials, especially the chairmen of the Armed Services Committees. Write and post to educate others, as it will not be enough to send relief aid after Okinawa has been decimated.
Nuchi dū Takara: Life is a Treasure. Let us protect it, including our own. Chibaraya!
A little commentary:
A 2016 estimate of the size of the Okinawa diaspora put it at 420,000. According to NHK, approximately 2,400 overseas Uchinānchu (i.e., “Okinawans”) traveled from 20 countries and regions around the world, including Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, and Brazil to participate in this large festival.
“The ‘World Uchinanchu Festival’ honors the achievements of Okinawan people from all over the world, recognises the great value of the community heritage of Okinawa, and seeks to expand and develop the Uchina network through exchanges with Okinawan citizens around the world. The purpose is to bring people together, reaffirm their roots and identity, and thereby be able to pass them on to the next generation. The festival is sponsored by the Uchinanchu Festival Executive Committee of the world, which is organized by Okinawa Prefecture and related organizations, and has been held approximately once every five years since the first festival in 1990 (Heisei 2).” This is the description one finds on the festival website.
The exciting and inspiring grand finale was held at Okinawa Cellular Stadium in the City of Naha. At the end of the grand finale (from around the beginning of the fourth hour), one can enjoy watching participants doing the fun folk dancing known as kachāshī. The popular band Begin, with their lead singer Higa Eishō （比嘉栄昇）leads the singing at the end of the finale.
There was a parade in which Uchinānchu dressed in costumes from around the world and walked along International Street (or “Kokusai Doori”). NHK’s video sampling of the parade is available here. Many posts about the event can be viewed on Facebook as well.
At the closing ceremony, Governor Tamaki said, “In the exchanges with you all, I felt moved in many ways. We Uchinānchu are a large family with strong bonds. Let us meet again with smiles on our faces in five years.”
In the Luchu-wide referendum of February 2019, “72 percent of Okinawa’s voters expressed their opposition to the national government’s reclamation work off the coast of the Henoko area of Nago to build a replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corp.’s Air Station Futenma.” And the Governor has likewise consistently opposed the Henoko Base construction.