Monday, September 22, 2014

MP Keiko Itokazu representing Okinawa at the Indigenous World Conference starting today at the UN headquarters in New York

(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Upper House Member of the Japanese Diet, Ms. Keiko Itokazu, is representing Okinawa at the Indigenous World Conference starting today at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Indigenous peoples around the world have gathered. Mr. Shisei Toma, of the Association of Indigenous Peoples in the Ryukyus, is also in attendance.

Groups and individuals for peace, including Okinawan Americans and Japanese Americans who live in the NYC area, are supporting the Okinawan delegation's appeal to the U.N. community regarding human rights violations under ongoing forced US military expansion in Henoko and Takae.

The traditional local cultures and histories of Okinawa are deeply intertwined with the islands' distinctive ecosystems. Indigenous sacred places called utaki are situated in forest groves. Many have been destroyed or are now within US military bases built on land forcibly acquired in the aftermath of the Pacific War and during the 1950's "Bayonets and Bulldozers" period of military seizures of private property for base expansion. The Sea of Henoko is also considered sacred because it is the habitat of the Okinawa dugong, a sacred cultural icon, and because of the magnificence and abundant biodiversity of sea's coral reef.

Coral reefs have been an traditional part of Okinawan (and other Pacific Island) cultures for many centuries. However, most of the coral reefs on Okinawa Island are now dead, because of landfill, pollution, and coastal construction. Marine biologists say the coral reef at Henoko and Oura Bay is the best and most biodiverse coral reef in all of Okinawa prefecture. Okinawans are seeking to establish a marine protected area in Henoko to preserve the dugong and coral reef habitat and interconnected rivers, mangrove forests in this beautiful eco-region.


On Tuesday, September 22, Ms. Itokazu spoke on the "fulfillment of the rights of indigenous peoples at the national level and regional level" at the conference. She described forced new military base construction, adding that, in spite of the strong opposition of Uchinanchu (the indigenous people of Okinawa), the state is continuing to force the military base construction. Ms. Itokazu's conclusion: Uchinanchu are being deprived of the right of self-determination, contrary to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Int. Day of Peace 2014 - Think PEACE, Act Peace, Spread PEACE - Imagine PEACE

Via Yoko Ono on the Int. Day of Peace 2014,
Surrender to PEACE:
love, yoko
#SurrenderToPeace #PeaceOneDay

Saturday, September 20, 2014

9.20.14 "All-Okinawa" Henoko Rally with Nago Mayor Susumi Inamine, Senator Keiko Itokazu, Gubernatorial Candidate Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, & 5,500 Okinawans Representing Seven Generations...

Nago Mayor Inamine, wearing his dugong, sea turtle and coral reef fish cloak,
 addresses 5,500 participants at the rally at Henoko on 9/20/14. 
(Photo: New Wave to HOPE)

Upper House Member of the National Japanese Diet, Ms. Keiko Itokazu 
addresses 9.20.14 rally at Henoko. (Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Okinawan elected political leaders raise "fists of anger" 
to demonstrate unity and determination at the 9.20.14 rally at Henoko. 
(Photo: MP Keiko Itokazu)

Some of the 5,500 rally participants.  
(Photo: New Wave to HOPE)

Okinawans protecting their sea. 
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Henoko preservationism is a multi-generational family activity. 
The grandchildren of these children will represent the Seventh Generation 
of Okinawa's democracy and peace movement which began at the end of WWII. 
The Seventh Generation is a Native American ecological concept that urges the current generation to live sustainably, for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future.
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Henoko elders greeted by gubernatorial candidate, Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga. 
The elders, youth during WWII, represent the second generation 
of the Okinawan Movement. 
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Not forgotten: Takae Village in Yanbaru, Okinawa's subtropical rainforest. 
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Wonderful photo of Ms. Etsuko Jahana, director of the House of Nuchi du Takara 
(Life is Precious) at Iejima. The small island, just west of Okinawa Island, 
is the birthplace of Okinawa's democracy & peace movement.  
Jon Mitchell's description of House of Nuchi du Takara:
 "Upon entering, visitors are confronted with a small set of bloodstained clothes 
and the description that they belonged to an Okinawan child 
stabbed by Japanese troops to keep it quiet when U.S. soldiers were in the vicinity. 
Other displays record the postwar “bayonets and bulldozers” period when, in the 1950s, 
the Pentagon violently seized farmers’ land to turn the island into a bombing range.
 Exhibits include photographs of islanders’ homes razed by U.S. troops 
and several dummy nuclear bombs dropped on the island during Cold War training drills."
(Photo by Kizou Takagaki, via Save the Dugong Campaign Center)

The Okinawan Movement draws inspiration from the African American Civil Rights Movement, including its anthem, "We Shall Overcome." 

Henoko's signature Rainbow Peace Flag. 
The rainbow flag has been adopted internationally as a symbol of the peace movement
 and was first used in a peace march in Italy in 1961.
(Photo: Pietro Scòzzari)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New Development: Dugong Lawsuit • Brown Bag talk • DC office of Center for Biological Diversity • September 9, 2014

Via  JELF (Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation):  Everyone welcome at a Brown Bag update on the Dugong Lawsuit at the DC office of the Center for Biological Diversity with Peter Galvin, co-founder and director of programs. Date and time: September 9, 11:30 a.m.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

United Nations asks the Japanese government to respect Okinawan people’s opposition against US military airbase at Henoko

Upper House Member of the Japanese Diet Keiko Itokazu and Naha City Councilman Caesar Uehara
 testify before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
(Photo via Keiko Itokazu on FB)

Via Ryukyu Shimpo:
On August 20 and 21, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) investigated on racial discrimination in Japan. They also discussed policies on the U.S. military bases in Okinawa...One of the committee members stressed that the rights of Okinawan people to access traditional land and resources should be recognized and guaranteed. Another claimed that residents should be included in the decision-making process for policies that might affect their rights. They agreed that there should be local participation at the early stages of decision-making, especially regarding the U.S. military base issues...

To the Japanese government which does not recognize Okinawan people as “Indigenous People,” one of the committee members pointed out that it is important to consider how people in the Ryukyus identify and define themselves. Another pointed out UNESCO recognizes that Ryukyu/Okinawa has unique language, culture, and tradition and urges the Japanese government to recognize and protect such uniqueness...

One of the committee members claimed the Ryukyu Kingdom’s long relationship with Ming and Qing Chinese dynasties, the history of annexation of the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1879 and assimilation policies promoted by the Japanese government all verify the indigeneity of Okinawans. He said it was wrong that Japan does not recognize this. Another said the Japanese government should respect Okinawan people’s will and guarantee their rights in light of this history.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Environmentalists, Article 9 supporters, and musicians lead Tokyo 8.23.14 Solidarity Rally for Okinawa

Photo: Twitter@soulflowerunion

Especially supported by Japan's environmentalist and musician communities, Tokyo demonstrated solidarity with Okinawa at the 8.23.14 rally in front of the prime minister's residence protesting landfill and construction at the dugong and coral habitat at the Sea of Henoko.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

8.23.14: "We reject any future for Okinawa that would continue to be dominated by the bases. It is our duty to pass on to our children an Okinawan future full of hope & we have every right to build freely...a truly Okinawan caring society."

(Photo: Livedoor News)

On August 22, the day before the 8.23 All-Okinawa rally in Henoko, an Okinawa dugong was sighted  by a helicopter television crew.  Locals say dugongs, considered messengers from the sea in Okinawan traditional culture, have often appeared at times of crisis during the eighteen-year struggle to save the Sea of Henoko. These visits are interpreted as a warning to the foreigners who would destroy its habitat and support to locals working to save its habitat, thus the survival of the dugong.

In Okinawa's past, huge herds of dugong swam off the Henoko coast. However environmental destruction from coastal development has destroyed much of the marine mammal's habitat, especially since 1972, when Okinawa reverted to Japanese control, and came under the Japanese government's "construction state"political economy. (Land reclamation (landfill) is a huge business in Japan: 90% of the archipelago's ecological delicate tidal wetlands have been landfilled. Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota calls these construction companies the "gravel industry" citing their clout in Okinawa.)

The Okinawa dugong is now critically endangered, with less than 50 remaining. Its largest and best feeding grounds is at the Sea of Henoko, where the Japanese government is forcing landfill in pristine waters that are also Okinawa prefecture's best and most biodiverse coral reef. At the end of July, the US environmental law firm, Earthjustice, filed a new lawsuit in the same US federal court in San Francisco that ruled in favor of the dugong in 2008, requiring  the US government to abide by laws protecting the dugong, a sacred Okinawan icon and "natural monument."

(Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

The 8.23 rally was organized by the All-Okinawa Conference which formed at Naha, the prefecture's capital, in July. Representatives included numerous elected political officials, including mayors from all of Okinawa's municipalities and representatives from environmental, women's, peace, and human rights NGOs. Their conference statement described their collective vision for Okinawa:
We reject any future for Okinawa that would continue to be dominated by the bases. It is our duty to pass on to our children an Okinawan future full of hope and we have every right to build freely and with our own hands a truly Okinawan caring society. We call upon all the people of Okinawa to unite again on an “all Okinawa” basis to demand implementation of the 2013 Okinawan Kempakusho and cessation of the works being imposed by force upon Henoko.
(Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

Jon Mitchell's August 23 article at The Japan Times, "Thousands march on Henoko base site," describes the rally, which was attended by 3,600 Okinawans from throughout the prefecture, who arrived by busload after busload:
More than 3,500 demonstrators marched to U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on Saturday in the largest show of anger to date against the new American base being built off Henoko Bay to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in crowded Ginowan further southwest.

Lining the road four deep for 700 meters and crowding the hillsides, the protesters chanted “Stop construction” and “Save the Bay” after assembling in the morning. Some came from as far as Hokkaido, many with their children in tow.

Okinawan legislators and peace campaign leaders gave impassioned speeches against what they called Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s re-militarization of Japan and railed at the perceived discrimination of Okinawans.

The largest welcome was given to anti-base Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, who was re-elected in January on a strong anti-military platform. Wearing a cape decorated with multicolored dugong, the endangered mammal threatened by the project, he greeted the crowd in Okinawan.

Inamine likened the situation on Okinawa to World War II, when more than a quarter of the civilian population died, saying that this time, the island was not under attack by the U.S. military, but by the Japanese government.

Mayor Susumu Inamine, MP Keiko Itokazu and other political leaders address rally.
(Photo: Upper House Member of the Japanese Diet Keiko Itokazu)

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine wearing a dugong cloak. (Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

Faith-based supporters. (Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

More faith-based supporters. (Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

(Photo: Pietro Scozzari)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

MP Keiko Itokazu testifies about human rights violations in Okinawa at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Japan review in Geneva

(Photo via Keiko Itokazu on FB)

Via Upper House Member of the Japanese Diet Keiko Itokazu with Naha City Councilman Caesar Uehara at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Japan review yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland. The two Okinawan political leaders reported on Japanese government discrimination against the Ryukyuan people on August 19. They cited the Japanese government's use of riot police, security contractors, and military (Coast Guard) to force construction of US military bases at Henoko and Takae, against the democratically expressed will of the people.

The lawmakers asked for the UN body to support the immediate withdrawal of the Henoko new base plan; the withdrawal of planning and immediate cessation of Takae helipad construction; and he immediate closure and removal of the Futenma base.

UNESCO has recognized a number of Ryukyu languages (2009) and the unique ethnicity, history, culture and traditions of Okinawa, which was an independent country for 500 years before the Meiji Japanese military seizure in 1879. Human rights violations suffered by the people of Okinawa during US military rule (1945-1972) and the Japanese government (1972-present) are well-known. CERD has expressed strong concerns about structural discimination of Okinawans on the basis of ethnicity. However, the Japanese government has disregarded the indigeneity of the Ryukyuan people, despite overwhelming evidence, resulting in a continuing violation of their human rights.

Because of concerns, in the past, CERD has urged the Japanese government to engage in wide consultations with Okinawan representatives with a view to monitoring discrimination suffered by Okinawans, to promote their rights and establish appropriate protection measures and policies. However, the Okinawan people require more protection from the Japanese government's ongoing escalation of human rights violations in Okinawa.

Ms. Keiko Itokazu reported strong resentment and questions about the Japanese government's refusal to recognize Okinawans as a separate people; use of military violence to enforce human rights violations in Henoko and Takae, and promised follow-up actions.