Irei no hi 2014
It seems to be a tradition that Irei no hi – the day when the end of the Battle of Okinawa is commemorated in the Ryukyu Islands – is accompanied by scorching hot weather. Today was no exception and the crowds who gathered for the main ceremony at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Mabuni, Itoman, had to face the usual sizzling temperatures, blazing hot sun and extreme humidity.
Among those attending the ceremony were Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and American Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy. They faced another kind of heat from Masaharu Kina the Speaker of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly. Kina’s speech touched on the current situation in which Okinawa is still made to suffer under Japanese and American power and it included the following words:
“Even now, 42 years after Okinawa reverted to Japan, work is still underway to unearth the remains of war dead and unexploded bombshells are still frequently found, which indicates the aftermath of the war continues in Okinawa. Additionally, Okinawa has been forced to shoulder an excessive U.S. military base burden after the war. As a result, the people of Okinawa have suffered roaring noise, incidents and accidents stemming from the bases. The unfair Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement also ignores the human rights of the people of Okinawa. The reality is far from a safe and secure life for the people of Okinawa.”
“In addition, in spite of the opposition to Osprey deployment expressed in the nonpartisan petition to the Prime Minister in January 2013, Ospreys were forcefully deployed contrary to the wishes of the people of Okinawa. The will of the people of Okinawa has been trampled upon repeatedly, and the distrust and indignation against the national government is reaching its limit.”
More than 240,000 people perished in the Battle of Okinawa and the official number of deaths continues to rise each year. Irei no hi is a public holiday in Okinawa but not in mainland Japan.