Irei no hi 2016

It’s another scorching hot June 23rd and a public holiday (in Okinawa only) for Irei no hi, the memorial day for all those who died in the Battle of Okinawa. This year it’s the 71st anniversary of the end of the terrible battle which devastated the island and killed over 240,000 people. The large gatherings of people around the Ryukyu Islands come just four days after 65,000 joined a rally in Naha to protest against the US military bases following the rape and murder of a 20 year old Okinawan woman earlier this year.



This is the seventh year in a row that I’ve attended the main ceremony in Itoman at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park. The speeches by representatives from Okinawa are always heartfelt and they always call – in vain – for better treatment for these islands from Japan and the USA. It should be well-known by now that Okinawa (even after all these years) is still suffering from the war and is still forced against the wishes of its people to bear the burden of the vast majority of American bases.

As the Speaker of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, Masaharu Kina, put it in his speech today: “Okinawa, which is only 0.6% of the total land mass of Japan, has been compelled to host 74% of the exclusive US military facilities. Okinawans have suffered incidents and accidents exactly because of the presence of the US bases, and therefore, have been forced to live with fear and potential dangers.”


In his Peace Declaration which followed, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga repeated much of what has been said in previous years and called once again for better treatment for Okinawa. In a speech which was interrupted twice by loud applause he went on:

“Are freedom, equality, human rights, and democracy, guaranteed under the Japanese Constitution, equally assured for the people of Okinawa who have no choice but to live with the burdens of both the Japan-US security arrangements and the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement?”

“In order also to establish a basis for peace in a real sense, we strongly urge both the Japanese and US governments not to postpone efforts in reducing the excessive military base burden, but to immediately realize their mitigation by fundamentally revising the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement as well as realigning and reducing the US bases, and reducing the number of Marines.”

“We would like to emphasize that the plan to relocate MCAS Futenma to Henoko cannot gain understanding from the Okinawan people. We cannot tolerate at all the viewpoint that the current plan is the only solution.”

Special issue of the Ryukyu Shimpo

Special issue of the Ryukyu Shimpo

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once again made the usual speech full of platitudes and vague assurances that he is thinking about Okinawa. This was met with silence from most of those around me who know lip service when they hear it, before Abe was whisked away to the airport and back to the safety of Tokyo.

Explore posts in the same categories: Okinawan Life

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