Friday, August 1, 2014

Chie Mikami's Film Shooting Diary in Henoko & Takae: 85-year-old Okinawan grandmother blocks concrete truck at Henoko

Update by filmmaker Chie Mikami at Magazine 9, a journal dedicated to the Japanese Peace Constitution. Mikami is working on a sequel to her documentary Target Village which follows the struggle of Takae Villagers protesting the construction of US military V-22 Osprey aircraft helipads in Yanbaru, the subtropical rainforest next to their village.  This new sequel also covers the related Henoko struggle to stop the landfill and construction of military port/air base in Okinawa Island's last and most biodiverse coral reef habitat and dugong habitat.

The humanitarian filmmaker touches all relevant themes: democracy, human rights, the history of Jp and US military occupation of Okinawa, ecological, cultural and historical preservation, and Article 9.

She sees  the 18-year-long struggle in Henoko where the Japanese government is readying to use military force against residents, [including octogenarians] as the forefront of the struggle for Article 9.  People in Japan have not seen the violent state oppression of Okinawans in Takae and Henoko because of a media blackout on the mainland. That is why Mikami is making documentaries, to show the public not only the Okinawan struggle but, also the richness of the natural environment, the splendor of Okinawan community,  and the Okinawan people's refusal to give up their dignity.

The video clip here shows 85-year-old Fumiko Shimabukuro blocking a concrete truck at Henoko. Mrs. Shimabukuro is a survivor of the Battle of Okinawa. She suffered burns from American flamethrowers while hiding in a small cave with members of her family and three other families.

The elder Henoko leader is also a survivor of the 1950's period of "Bayonets and  Bulldozers" when the US military used force to seize the farms and coastal lands of Okinawan owners. Camp Schwab and Futenma were both built on forcibly acquired property.  Okinawan landowners have been forced to "rent" their land to the Japanese government for US military use for decades. American bases use up over 20  percent of Okinawa prefecture, and are located on the best agricultural lands (former farming villages)  and the best coastal areas (former fishing villages), as well as sacred sites (utaki), and burial tombs.

The nonviolent Okinawan democratic and peace movement also began in the 1950's, in response to "Bayonets and Bulldozers" and concomitant crimes against Okinawans. Leaders modeled the Gandhian democratic movement in colonial India. Okinawans were unable to secure the return of their lands, but were able to maintain title to properties and thus prevent outright confiscation without some (albeit inadequate) compensation, and some promise of eventual future return.

Mrs. Shibakukuro moved to Henoko after she married, and joined the Tent City sit-in on the beach in 1996, when the plan to build a military port and air base at Camp Schwab  in Henoko was announced.

After Governor Nakaima reneged on his campaign promise to prevent military expansion at Henoko, and approved landfill, Mrs. Shimabukuro told the media in December 2013, “This (approval) is not the end. As long as I am alive, I will continue to fight the government’s plans."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Earthjustice: Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Construction of U.S. Military Airstrip in Japan That Would Destroy Habitat of Endangered Okinawa Dugongs

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Construction of U.S. Military Airstrip in Japan
That Would Destroy Habitat of Endangered Okinawa Dugongs

Marine Base Threatens Survival of Manatee Relative

SAN FRANCISCO— American and Japanese conservation groups today asked a U.S. federal court to halt construction of a U.S. military airstrip in Okinawa, Japan that would pave over some of the last remaining habitat for endangered Okinawa dugongs, ancient cultural icons for the Okinawan people. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is the latest in a long-running controversy over the expansion of a U.S. Marine air base at Okinawa’s Henoko Bay. Preliminary construction on the base began earlier this year.

Dugongs are gentle marine mammals related to manatees that have long been revered by native Okinawans, even celebrated as “sirens” that bring friendly warnings of tsunamis. The dugong is listed as an object of national cultural significance under Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, the equivalent of the U.S. National Historic Protection Act. Under this act and international law, the United States must take into account the effect of its actions and avoid or mitigate any harm to places or things of cultural significance to another country.

“Our folktales tell us that gods from Niraikanai [afar] come to our islands riding on the backs of dugongs and the dugongs ensure the abundance of food from the sea,” said Takuma Higashionna, an Okinawan scuba-diving guide who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Today, leaving their feeding trails in the construction site, I believe, our dugongs are warning us that this sea will no longer provide us with such abundance if the base is constructed. The U.S. government must realize that the Okinawa dugong is a treasure for Okinawa and for the world.”

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has listed dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there may have been as few as 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world; more recent surveys have only been able to conclude that at least three dugongs remain in Okinawa. Although the Defense Department acknowledges that this information is “not sufficient,” and despite the precariously low dugong population even under the most conservative estimates, the Defense Department has authorized construction of the new base.

The Nature Conservation Society of Japan reported earlier this month that it had found more than 110 locations around the site of the proposed airstrips where dugongs had fed on seagrass this spring and summer.

“Okinawa dugongs can only live in shallow waters and are at high risk of going extinct. These gentle animals are adored by both locals and tourists. Paving over some of the last places they survive will not only likely be a death sentence for them, it will be a deep cultural loss for the Okinawan people,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Today’s legal filing, which supplements a suit filed in 2003, seeks to require the U.S. Department of Defense to stop construction activities on the new airstrip until it conducts an in-depth analysis aimed at avoiding or mitigating harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong. In April 2014 the Defense Department concluded that its activities would not harm the dugong, but that conclusion did not consider all possible effects of the new airstrip and ignored important facts. In addition, the department excluded the public, including local dugong experts, from its analysis.

For years many locals have protested and opposed the base-expansion plan for Okinawa, where 20 percent of the island is already occupied by U.S. military.

“Basic respect demands that the United States make every effort not to harm another country’s cultural heritage. U.S. and international law require the same,” said Earthjustice attorney Martin Wagner. “The Defense Department should not allow this project to go forward without making every effort to understand and minimize its effects on the dugong. That means fully understanding the state of the entire Okinawan dugong population, how it depends on the seagrass beds around the proposed airstrip, and how construction and operation of the base might harm it. To ensure that no relevant information is excluded, the process and all related information must be fully open to the public.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the U.S. organizations Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network; the Japanese organizations Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation and the Save the Dugong Foundation; and three Japanese individuals.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Asahi: Unique, unknown species living in Oura Bay & Sea of Henoko ("treasure trove" of biodiversity) under threat of destruction, extinction...

A newly discovered species of a parasitic conch 
(Via Asahi, via Diving Team Snack Snufkin)

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%.

This is part of a global trend: coral reefs will become the first ecosystem that human activity will completely destroy, in just a few decades. The Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay ecoregion is an exception to the trend of dying coral reefs in Okinawa and the world.

Takao Nogami's Asahi article outlines the incredible (largely undiscovered) biodiversity that will be destroyed if the Japanese and US governments landfill and build an airbase over Oura Bay and the Sea of Henoko:
Researchers are raising new alarms about the ecological threat posed by land reclamation work planned for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture in a bay where 10 new species have been discovered since 2007...

...these newly discovered species as well as countless others that still remain unknown could be destroyed forever by the construction work, which would not only reclaim land but also change currents and could adversely impact the coral ecosystem...

The unique structure of Oura Bay is believed to be the major reason many rare species live in the ecosystem...the entrance to the bay not only has a well-developed coral reef, but the area is also shallow. However, the bay becomes deeper, and that unusual structure is believed to allow many unknown species to survive there.

Two rivers empty into the bay and the river mouths are covered in mangrove forests and mudflats. Beyond that area is a wide variety of environments, such as seaweed beds, sandy bottoms, muddy areas and coral reef...the interlaying and connecting of such different environments, each of which has its own ecosystem...

Makoto Kato, chairman of the nature preservation committee of the Ecological Society of Japan, said Oura Bay was especially important because it contains the last coral ecosystem in Japan that has remained relatively undisturbed by human development.

"The presence of unrecorded species, such as huge sea cucumbers, shellfish and crustaceans, is but one example of how valuable that ecosystem is," said Kato, who is also a professor of environmental studies at Kyoto University. "While Japan does not have much in the way of underground mineral resources, its marine biodiversity is its true treasure. Unfortunately, political leaders in Japan do not realize that fact.

"The coral ecosystem and biodiversity of the Ryukyu archipelago is undoubtedly Japan's largest treasure trove, and land reclamation work in such waters would be an act of stupidity that would be irreversible."
Nogami's entire article is a must-read for all interested in marine life preservation.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marine biologist Dr. Katherine Muzik diving at the Sea of Henoko, the best (one of the few still living) coral reef in all of Okinawa & Japan

Katherine Muzik diving at the Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay, July 2013

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%.

This is part of a global trend: coral reefs will become the first ecosystem that human activity will completely destroy, in just a few decades. The Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay ecoregion is an exception to the trend of dying coral reefs in Okinawa and the world.

Katherine Muzik via JT on May 2, 2014:
Having lived in Okinawa and worked there as a marine biologist for 11 years, long ago (1981-1988) and more recently (2007-2011), I have dived the entire Ryukyu archipelago from Amami and Kikai in the north to Yonaguni in the south. I can therefore assure you there is no comparable reef ecosystem remaining such as the beautiful reef at Oura. It is indeed miraculous that it is still surviving. Aki samiyo (“Oh my goodness!” in Okinawan)! There is no disease nor bleaching there! It has so far avoided the troubles that continue to plague and destroy coral reefs worldwide, whether in the Pacific or the Caribbean. (I am sure that you are quite painfully aware that reefs all over the world are dying, thus making any coral reef alive anywhere a truly sacred place.)

Oura Bay is a unique and spectacular ecosystem, including mangroves, a river, a sandy beach with crabs, numerous patch reefs in shallow water (where my specialty, blue corals and red sea fans, thrive), not to mention threatened dugongs and all of the species of clownfish in Japan, shallow beds of sea grasses beyond count, and, most amazingly, a very spectacular deeper reef, nicknamed the “Coral Museum,” with countless gorgeous corals...

Crushing these beautiful and quintessential corals just must not, cannot happen...

Last July, I returned to Okinawa from here in Kauai at the request of the Okinawan Environmental Network. I was asked to dive at Oura Bay and to lend my support to its protection. During my visit I met with the mayor of Nago, who is valiantly opposed to construction/destruction at Oura...

I am deeply honored to have met him [the Emperor] and the Empress several times at their palace during the time I lived in Okinawa. He is a marine biologist too, and since his goby fishes often find their home on the branches of “my” octocorals, I collected some for him to study...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sherry Nakanishi: "Music vs Militarism: OKINAWA"

"Music vs Militarism: OKINAWA" by BY SHERRY NAKANISHI

In total, 150,000 Okinawans died during the final battles of the Second World War, a third of the civilian population. The number exceeded the total of American and Japanese dead during the same period.

Things start off quite innocently. I receive two tickets from a colleague at school. On them is printed “Okinawa LIVE.” On the appointed day I arrive at the venue, Higashi Honganji, a large Buddhist temple in midtown Kyoto.

My husband, child, and I cross the vast pigeon-thronged gravel spaces of the temple precincts, reach the correct hall and are greeted warmly by monks...

The auditorium is large, and filled. Hundreds upon hundreds of people have come to hear the Okinawan message. On center stage, a man stands alone, holding a sanshin, the traditional Okinawa three-stringed instrument. “We can only fight through our music, it is all we have,” he says. And an hour and a half passes by as the truth of Okinawa’s recent history spills out, accompanied by intermittent notes played on the sanshin — sounds of nodding agreement.

The speaker is Chibana Shoichi, an Okinawan. Labelled an “anti-base activist” by Time Magazine [April/May 1997], perhaps he is more of a peace activist; one who out of love tries to protect the children, the people, the land, and the sea from being misused and ill-treated....

In ancient times Okinawa was independent, and known as Ryukyu Onkaku, the Ryukyu Kingdom. Before being annexed by Japan in 1865 this peaceful kingdom had no army. Looking into Ma-chan’s youthful face, I recall Chibana telling me how young Okinawans are picking up the traditional instruments, shamisen , jamisen, and sanshin, and proudly carrying on their culture. Okinawa has remained connected with its ancestral soul through its music, and this is how it has responded to an unimaginable military onslaught — with songs that are the spiritual poetry of peace, prayers for nature and for people.

We bow again, he departs; I am left holding the hope of Okinawa — the ancient teaching of the sanshin, the music and song of Okinawa; its gift to the people of Honshu, and the world.

I have a friend in Kyoto, a former soldier whose mind remains disturbed by his intensive military training. He knows he’s crazy, and travels the world sporadically, soul- searching for the truth. I tell him what I have learned about Okinawa, and ask for his response. He says:

This — as all things —
does not exist to be changed,
but for us to change.

His words send a shiver through me.
“I didn’t say it — it came from up there,” he says, pointing to the sky.
Read this rest of Sherry Nakanishi's beautiful essay at Kyoto Journal.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Story behind the Global Uchinaanchu Video Support Message for Henoko & its classic Okinawan antiwar song: "You & I are all leftovers from ships' bombings."

Via our colleague and friend, Dr. Hideki Yoshikawa of Citizens Network for Biodiversity in Okinawa, Save the Dugong Campaign Center, and Okinawa Outreach: "Inspiring Video by Uchinaanchu".
Support for the Okinawan struggle against the construction of the military base in Henoko/Oura Bay is pouring in from around the world. Here is a great example of such support.
Three Uchinaanchu (Okinawans/Okinawan descendants), Brandon Ing from Hawaii, Carolina Higa from Argentina, and Karina Satomi Matsumoto from Brasil, have created and uploaded this wonderful and inspiring video “No New Base in Henoko” on YouTube. 

Compiling photos of people from different parts of the world, holding signs supporting Okinawa’s struggle, this video is a powerful remainder to those of us in Okinawa that we are not alone and that we need to continue our fight.

Brandon, Carolina and Karina Satomi, thank you very much for creating and uploading this wonderful video!  Ippe nihe debiru!!!  

The Song and the Story behind

As an Okinawan myself, I was especially moved by their choice of the song accompanying these wonderful photos, "Kanpo nu kenukusa" ("Leftovers from the ships’ bombings), performed by the Deigo musume (Coral Tree Daughters). 

An Okinawan post-war classic song, Kanpo nu kenukusaa was written by Higa Kobin in 1971, who lost his parents, his first wife and children in World War II.

The song depicts in the Okinawan language the hardship and the hope that the “leftovers” (survivors) from the ships’ bombings experienced and embraced. The word “kenukusaa” (leftovers) captures the nature of the devastating bombings the Okinawan people experienced, as well as the feelings of guilt of those who survived them. At the same time, the everyday nature that the music expresses makes the word “kenukusaa” resonate with the meaning of the English word “survivor”: People who are able to cope with hardship.

Sadly, Kobin himself was killed along with his second wife after he wrote the song in 1971 in Okinawa in a horrible traffic accident caused by a drunken US soldier.

The singers, Deigo musume, are Kobin’s beloved daughters and they are one of the most respected Okinawan music groups (see this Youtube video).

I hope that this song and the story behind it help explain to people in the world why we Okinawans and our supporters are determined to stop the construction of the base in Henoko/Oura Bay and to challenge the militarization of our islands.  And I hope many people watch and get inspired by the Video.

Below is my humble English translation of "Kanpo nu kenukusaa."


"Kanpo nu kenukusaa"

1) When we were young, it was a time of war.

Young flowers never bloomed, Young flowers never bloomed.

Our houses, our ancestors, our parents, and our brothers and sisters were all targets of ships’ bombings

We had no clothes, no food, nothing at all.

We ate fern palms to survive.

You and I, you and I are all leftovers from the ships’ bombings.

2) We had no Gods and no Buddha to rely on.

With our farmlands enclosed by the fence, we had no way to make a living. With our farmlands enclosed by the fence, we had no way to make a living.

Our humble houses were blown off by the wind of war. 

Trying to steal food and goods (from the military) to survive, we were caught, pushed, pulled and rolled over.

All despite, we had honest and sincere hearts.

You and I, you and I are all leftovers from the ships’ bombings.

3) Rising up from the muddy ground,

I wanted to have a family, and I found my wife, I wanted to have a family, and found my wife.

We had and raised our first son, second son, and third son, just like snails do.

Amidst our hardship, we sought comfort and soul in the laughter of the children. 

You and I, you and I are all leftovers form the ships’ bombings.

4) Years have passed since peace returned

Our children are now all grown-up, our children are now all grown-up

Like a poor wild boar who got shot but still worrying about her piglet,

I cannot sleep at night,

worrying that the waves of war will return.

You and I, you and I are all leftovers from the ships’ bombings.

5) The war that ate my parents, 

The ships’ bombings that ate my village, the ships' bombings that ate my village.

How could I forget that, even if I were to be born again?

Who started this?

My resentment and my sorrow were never enough and never end.

I want to tell this as my last words to my children and grandchildren,

You and I, you and I are all leftovers from the ships’ bombings.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

8月1日大阪、8月13日沖縄/名護イベントのご案内 Symposia on Okinawa - August 1 in Osaka, and August 13 in Nago, Okinawa

Via our colleague and friend, Satoko Oka Norimatsu, of Peace Philosophy Centre.
8月1日大阪、8月13日沖縄/名護イベントのご案内 Symposia on Okinawa - August 1 in Osaka, and August 13 in Nago, Okinawa



Symposium in Nago, Okinawa, 7-9 PM, August 13, Nago Civic Centre (Mid-Hall)
"What Okinawa Expects from the World" - with members of the International Okinawa Statement

Panelists: Peter Kuznick, Joseph Gerson, Masahide Ota, Keiko Itokazu, Satoko Oka Norimatsu (also translating), Hideki Yoshikawa (also chairing).

A Video Message from Susumu Inamine, Mayor of Nago City.
More info here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

14 Japanese peace, anti-nuclear, Article 9, & religious groups sent a statement to the Israeli Embassy on July 20, demanding a halt to bombing of Gaza • "Arabs & Jews Refuse to be Enemies" • "If not now, when?"

July 30 update: Death toll now at 1,300+ Palestinians, mostly civilians; 
3 Israeli civilians; and 56 Israeli soldiers (
New Japan Women's Asssociation sign. (Photo: Shingetsu News Agency)

広島の14団体が連名で7月20日、イスラエル大使館に送った要請を紹介します。14 Japanese peace, anti-nuclear, Article 9, and religious groups sent a joint statement to the Israeli Embassy on July 20, demanding an immediate halt to the Israeli Army's bombing and bombardment of Gaza.

Peace Boat Candle Action in Tokyo on July 21, 2014. 
call for an immediate halt of military attacks in Gaza,
 and remember the lives that have been lost in the violence. 


Middle East and worldwide Arabs and Jews have started a new anti-hate, anti-war campaign (Abrahamic interfaith peace initiatives have been ongoing for decades): "Arabs and Jews Refuse to be Enemies."

Sulome Anderson posted a photo to Jews and Arabs Refuse To Be Enemies's timeline — with Jeremy Berg.
"He calls me neshama, I call him habibi. 
Love doesn't understand the language of rocket fire, occupation or airstrikes."


May Shigenobu and Anna Balzer (Photo: Kimberly Hughes)

Kimberly Hughes' Nov. 16, 2010 post, "Speakers contemplate Palestinian human rights, urge action at Tokyo event," on May Shigenobu and Anna Baltzer's interfaith dialogue event in Tokyo provides some more context and background on Japanese support for peace, justice, and repair in Palestine and Israel:
Both speakers emphasized that the present conflict is one of human rights and justice—and most certainly not one of Islam vs. Judaism. They also both encouraged everyone attending the event to take action on the issue, whether by joining an organization, visiting the region, or just sharing knowledge with others.

Reading Kaddish for those killed in Gaza and Israel
On Thursday, July 24th, 2014 we [If Not now, When?]  gathered in front of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations to call for an end to the war on Gaza and the occupation, and for freedom and dignity for all. We delivered this letter:

We believe it is up to our generation to respond to Hillel's 3 Questions: If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?

1980's postage stamp depicting friendship between Arabs and Jews in Israel. 
(Photo: Makiko Sato, via TTT)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Charlie Madison: "War is always fought for the best of reasons...We will never end wars by blaming ministers & generals & war-mongering imperialists & all the other banal bogey."

"It's not war that's insane. It's the morality of it. It's not greed and ambition that makes war. It's goodness. War is always fought for the best of reasons. For liberation or manifest destiny. Always against tyranny and always in the interest of humanity.

So far in this war, we've managed to butcher some 10 million humans in the interest of humanity. In the next war, we'll probably have to destroy all of man to preserve his damned dignity...

We will never end wars by blaming ministers and generals and war-mongering imperialists and all the other banal bogey.  It's the rest of us who build statues to the generals and name boulevards after those ministers. The rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields...

We perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifice...It may be generals and ministers who blunder us into war, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution."

- The great American actor James Garner (1928-2014) as Charlie Madison in the great American antiwar film, The Americanization of Emilyreleased in 1964, the same year as Dr. Strangelove and Seven Days in May.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tim Shorrock: "You don't have to even take sides to EMPATHIZE with the ordinary people victimized by fire bombing. It is a horrific & searing experience."

Our friend, Tim Shorrock, on Twitter:
Tim Shorrock @TimothyS  ·  22h

You don't have to even take sides to EMPATHIZE with the ordinary people victimized by fire bombing. It is a horrific & searing experience.

Tim Shorrock @TimothyS · 23h

I grew up in postwar Tokyo, bombed for days in 1945. My step-mother lived through it as a kid. I've always had empathy with bombing victims.