Irei no hi 2012
Today is Irei no hi when all those who died in the Battle of Okinawa are remembered. I attended the main ceremony which was held at midday in Okinawa Peace Memorial Park (Okinawa Heiwa Kinen Koen) in Mabuni, Itoman. As last year, the weather was very hot and humid and at least one person near me was overcome with the heat and had to receive medical attention. This year is also the 40th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan. Zenshin Takamine, who is the Speaker of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, touched on this in his speech which referred to the government recommendation made before the reversion and the hope that Okinawa would return to “a peaceful island that has respect for basic human rights and is free of military bases.” Takamine said:
“Forty years have passed and still the hopes of Okinawans, written in that recommendation, remain unfulfilled. Heavy burdens of military bases, together with indiscriminate treatment of the local residents imposed by the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, have trampled upon the human rights of the Okinawan people, leaving a safe and secure life unrealized… not only does the government turn its back on the wishes of the Okinawan people, but it has given consent to the deployment of Osprey, US Forces military aircraft with a questionable safety record, to the Futenma Air Station. We will not submit to the deployment of the aircraft to what has been called the world’s most dangerous base under any circumstances.”
Takamine went on:
“Sixty-seven years have passed since the end of the war, but even now, the American armed forces, reminding us of war, regrettably continue to fly their aircraft around regardless of whether it’s noon or night. Today, Irei no Hi, which marks the anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, we swear our pledge of peace anew: to work towards a world without war.”
Speeches were also made by Okinawa Governor Nakaima and by Japan’s Prime Minister Noda who was whisked away by car shortly after the ceremony along roads lined with a heavy police guard.