Friday, June 24, 2011

24/06 VOX POPULI: Kan Cabinet bunch of 'do-nothings' regarding Okinawa base

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

I came across an anecdote that Okinawa, once known as "an island without weapons," surprised Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). In the early 19th century, a British warship navigated around the Ryukyu Islands. On its way back, it made a port call at Saint Helena in the southern Atlantic where the captain met the former French emperor who was exiled there.

When the captain told Napoleon that there were no weapons on Okinawa, the former French emperor couldn't understand how that was possible.

"How can they make war without weapons?" Napoleon asked.

"The people there don't know what war is," the captain replied.

"There can't be such people under the sun," a surprised Napoleon said.

The story appears in "Hitotsuki Ichiwa" (A story a month) published by Iwanami Shoten, Publishers.

But the island has undergone drastic changes since the Meiji Era (1868-1912). Getting caught up in Japan's modernization, it was eventually dragged into the Battle of Okinawa toward the end of World War II.

More than 200,000 people perished in the battle that a U.S. military report described as a situation where "all hell broke loose."

On June 23, Okinawa observed its 66th Memorial Day to mark the end of the battle.

The Cornerstone of Peace stands on the site of a hard-fought battle at the southern tip of the Okinawa main island. On Memorial Day, the monument, which is inscribed with the names of all those who died regardless of nationality and civilian or military status, is shrouded in prayer. Prime Minister Naoto Kan attended the ceremony. How did the Okinawa people receive his speech? The relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has reached a deadlock.

The Democratic Party of Japan administration is lacking not only in determination and ability, but also historic recognition.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had optimistic "feelings." I doubt that Prime Minister Kan even has such feelings. "The most dangerous military base in the world" is likely to continue to sit in the middle of a heavily populated city.

I find something in common between the Japan-U.S. security system that relies on the sufferings of Okinawa and prosperity that depends on depopulated areas that host nuclear power plants. "Cliffs and the ocean/ Both tell/ Okinawa's bereavement" is a haiku by Tomiko Nakamura. Voices to which we must listen are heard from various places.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 23

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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