Archive for the ‘Okinawan Life’ category

A Weekend in Itoman

June 24, 2018

It has been a busy weekend in Itoman. Yesterday (23rd) was Irei no hi – a public holiday in Okinawa to mark the 73rd anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa. As usual it was commemorated at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Mabuni, Itoman with a ceremony attended by several thousand people.

Among those in attendance was Prime Minister Abe who made the usual insincere speech full of platitudes about how much Japan cares about Okinawa. It received a certain amount of heckling from some members of the audience who suggested that Abe should go home. Sadly, nothing changes and after all these years Okinawa is still overburdened with American military bases fully supported by Abe’s government against the wishes of the Okinawan people.

On a brighter note, today was the annual Itoman Hare (or dragon boat races) when thousands flock to Itoman’s fishing port for the all day event. The races were introduced from China at the end of the 14th century and the festivities continue to this day. It was another hot day with the sun blazing down and a temperature of 31 degrees. Below are some photos taken during the races this afternoon.



Neko – An Exhibition by Mitsuaki Iwago

August 16, 2017

Today we visited the exhibition Neko at Urasoe Art Museum, Okinawa. This is an exhibition of 180 photographs by Tokyo photographer Mitsuaki Iwago who has been taking pictures for more than 40 years. He has travelled the world in search of cats and the results include feline photos of many different kinds and from diverse locations around Japan and in Europe, Africa and Asia. The Neko exhibition also includes a few photos from Okinawa.

Iwago’s photos reveal many aspects of the lives of cats and they don’t just focus on their more obvious cuteness. It’s a thoroughly rewarding show whether you are a cat lover or a devotee of photography. The exhibition began in July and runs until 3rd September so there is still time to catch it if you are in Okinawa. Entry is from 9:30 until 17:00 and admission is 800 yen for adults. Neko is sponsored by the Okinawa Times and is one of the events organised to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

Irei no hi 2017

June 23, 2017

It’s the 23rd June once again and so it’s Irei no hi in Okinawa which is a public holiday throughout the Ryukyu Islands. For the eighth year in succession I attended the Memorial Service for all the war dead in the Battle of Okinawa which ended on this day 72 years ago at a cost of more than 240,000 lives. As always, the main ceremony was held at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman.

The rainy season is finally at an end in Okinawa and today, like all the other Irei no hi ceremonies I’ve attended, there was blazing sunshine and sweltering heat.

As before, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an appearance that was about as welcome as a fly in your soup. Tight security ensured that his visit went off without incident but his speech on the need for peace and assurances that he was thinking about Okinawa seemed hypocritical at the very least. His actions and those of his government have been completely at odds with his words today.

The current situation in Okinawa was better addressed by Yonekichi Shinzato, Speaker of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, who said:

“Although 72 years have passed, there are still vast US military facilities in Okinawa, and people still suffer from incidents and accidents due to their presence. The reduction of Okinawa’s excessive military burden has repeatedly been called for. However, considering the number of military related incidents in Okinawa such as parachute drop training in Kadena Air Base despite local opposition and frequent military aircraft flyovers, I have to say the situation has been regressing. Therefore, I firmly request, again, reducing our military burden.”

This was taken up by Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga in his Peace Declaration:

“Especially regarding the relocation of Futenma Air Station to the Henoko area, we cannot tolerate that the construction has been forcibly begun, ignoring the will of the people of Okinawa. I am determined to work closely with the Okinawan people in order to block the relocation of Futenma Air Station to Henoko.”

Onaga went on: “This year marks the 70th anniversary of enforcement of the Japanese constitution and 45th anniversary of its application to Okinawa Prefecture. Considering this milestone, we must reaffirm the principle of pacifism of the constitution and every individual has to firmly pursue lasting peace for the world and make efforts to realize it.”

“Masahide Ota, former governor of Okinawa, passed away last week. He wanted Okinawa to become a foundation for creation of peace and peaceful co-existence. As a vow to prevent the re-occurrence of the horrors of war, he decided to establish “The Cornerstone of Peace” to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa, regardless of their nationalities.”

“We, as citizens living in Okinawa, will strive to pass on our hope for a better tomorrow which is built into “The Cornerstone of Peace” to the next generation. In addition, we are determined to continue making efforts to create a society full of joy, where our children and grandchildren, who hold the fate of the future in their hands, will be able to live in peace and safety.”

Heiwasozo no Mori Koen

May 21, 2017

A few days ago I stumbled upon Heiwasozo no Mori Koen (Peace Forest Park) not far from my home on the south coast of Okinawa. I’d seen it signposted before but had never thought to seek it out and have never met anyone who has even mentioned its existence.

Entrance to the park

Many areas named ‘parks’ in Okinawa (and mainland Japan) are no more than small patches of ground not much bigger than my own garden so it came as quite a surprise to discover a green and spacious land that really deserves the name.

On a sloping hillside with great views of the ocean, the park contains a fountain, pond, woods, and areas for walking, play and rest. Amazingly, on this lovely morning there were no other visitors and I had the entire park to myself.

A visit to Kyan

May 12, 2017

Kyan is a village on the southern tip of Okinawa Island not far from my home. This morning we visited its castle ruins, its cape, and its small fishing port. It was a windy day but already hot with the temperature at 30 degrees by mid-morning. The Gushikawa castle ruins are on coastal cliffs overlooking the ocean. Nearby is Cape Kyan, a precipice about 30 metres high that divides the Pacific Ocean from the East China Sea.

Here are some photos taken around Kyan this morning:

Okinawa’s south-east coast

December 11, 2016

Here are some photos taken today in glorious sunny December weather. The pictures are all from Yaese and Nanjo on the south-east coast of Okinawa.










Irei no hi 2016

June 23, 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.