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Thursday, March 26, 2015

70th Anniversary of the U.S. assault on the Kerama Islands • Remembering the Kerama victims of Japanese military forced group suicide


Memorial service at Zemami this morning. (Photo: Ryukyu Shimpo)

Today is the 70th anniversary of the U.S. assault on the Kerama Islands, the first invasion of "Operation Iceberg", the last US land campaign of the Pacific War.  The Battle of Okinawa was not really a battle; it was an annihilation.  Supported by  US armada of 1,500 US ships, carrying 548,000 Americans, faced the last dregs of the Japanese Army and gentle Okinawans who had no chance to resist the war into which Imperial Japan forced them. Untrained conscripts, Student Corp child soldiers, "Home Guard" militia, and student nurses who made up almost half of the Japanese 32nd Army's 110,000 members in Okinawa. The 32nd Army had no naval support: the Japanese Imperial super battleship Yamato, and five of nine small ships capsized after exploding from nonstop bombing by 300 U.S. planes before the Japanese fleet reached Okinawa, the one-way suicide destination. The four surviving ships retreated to the Japanese mainland.

"Mobilized" only a few weeks before the U.S. invasion, the conscripted Okinawan children and teenagers received no weapons training, only short-pants uniforms. The student soldiers and student nurses were told Japan would win the battle in a few days; so the girls and their teachers brought their books with them to keep up their studies. They had no idea that, in months, they would receive orders to give cyanide to wounded Japanese soldiers covered with maggots in the dark, hot cave battlefield hospitals, and, that, at the end of the Battle of Okinawa in three months, they would be pushed into the battlefield to fend for themselves.

Okinawans were not protected by the Japanese military during the Battle of Okinawa. 
They were used as laborers, conscripts, nurses,"comfort women," and human shields.

Caught in between the US forces and the pathetic, ragtag army: 450,000 Okinawan civilians whom the Japanese government did not evacuate or protect.  100,000 had been evacuated earlier, not to protect them, but to ensure a food supply for the 32nd Army which also numbered around 100,000. Many of the Okinawan civilian evacuees, including children, were killed en route to Japan when US warships torpedoed cargo ships carrying evacuees.  The three-month battle sacrificed 150,000 Okinawan civilians, 77,166 of the Japanese soldiers and military conscripts, many whom were murdered by their compatriots upon being wounded or committed suicide, and 14,009 Americans.

70th Anniversary of the March 26, 1945 U.S. assault on the Kerama Islands.

The U.S. bombed the tiny islands southwest of the Okinawan mainland for several days before the March 26 and March 27 invasions.  The 300 Japanese "Sea Raiding" suicide torpedo boat pilots stationed at the Keramas were supposed to slow the U.S. "typhoon of steel and bombs", but they failed to carry out a single suicide attack on the American battleships bombarding the shore.  Instead, the soldiers joined civilians in hiding, where Japanese officers began implementing their only successful mission: terrorizing and killing the islands' civilians.

The tiny Kerama Islands are situated to the southwest of the Okinawa mainland.

By March 29th, the U.S. had seized nearly the entire Keramas, including the 4 tiny inhabited islands: Tokashiki Island, Zamami Island, Aka Island, and Geruma Island. During these battles, Japanese officers ordered the mass suicide (shudan jiketsu) of Okinawans on these Islands. The people were forced to commit suicide by the coercion (kyosei) and inducement (yudo). Handing out grenades and cyanide, the 32nd Army ordered the group deaths of the people who had lived in the Keramas peacefully for centuries until the Japanese military arrival. Only a few managed to escape and survive.

Some civilians on Toshiaki Island escaped the mass suicide order and surrendered to the US military.

The death toll from the forced group suicides was 330 people for Tokashiki-jima Island, 177 persons on Zamami-jima Island, and on Geruma-jima Island it was 53 people. 2 families are said to have killed themselves on tiny Yakabi Island. In addition to the Japanese military murdering residents whom they called "spies," 600 Korean laborers and "comfort women" (military sexual slaves) also lost their lives.

Exhibition of photographs of Toshiaki Island survivors of the forced mass suicide and their wounds. 
Courtesy of Mr. Hiroshi Yamashiro, Via Okinawa Peace Research Institute.

In February, Prince Konoe Fumimaro had advised the Japanese emperor to surrender and stop the continuation of deaths, suffering, and destruction of the Pacific War. The navy and  air force were practically wiped out.  Most of Japan's major cities had been destroyed by firebombing before the Battle of Okinawa. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were dead, or wounded and starving. The Japanese government knew the Battle of Okinawa was lost in advance, that it would be a bloodbath; however the Ryukyuan people and their garden-like islands were cast as a last "sacrifice stone" simply to extend a war without mercy.  Okinawan civilians were used as laborers, and eventually human shields,  before the final sacrifices by forced group suicide. Korean military slave laborers and Korean and Taiwanese "comfort women" (military sexual slaves at the 145 "comfort stations" in Okinawa), erased from from the media and history books, as if they never existed, were also sacrificed.


Memorial service for the 600 people forced to commit suicide. 

The Japanese government has never apologized to Okinawans for the willful disregard of life in the planning of the Battle of Okinawa; the near-genocidal civilian death toll; the group suicide orders; the loss of homes, farms, means of livelihood, and near-total destruction of the culture of ancient Ryukyuan kingdom.

Okinawans had no part in formulating the Japanese military government decisions that led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War. Yet Okinawans are still being punished, and have never been allowed to live freely and peacefully.  Under the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco, the Japanese government gave control of the islands to the U.S. military which continued wartime pattern of property and human rights violations against Okinawans.  Okinawa Prefecture only makes up 0.6 percent of Japan's land mass, but has been forced to accommodate two thirds of the 47,000 US troops in Japan. Why? Because no other prefecture will take them, according to former Minister of Defence, General Nakatani.

From 1945 to 1970 (especially during the notorious 1950s era of "Bayonets and Bulldozers"), the US military forcibly seized tens of thousands of acres of private property—entire villages, including cemeteries, tombs, sacred sites, and cultural properties— from hundreds of thousands of Okinawans, to make way for the construction of massive military complexes that are now training bases for the US wars in Central Asia. People who resisted were pulled from their homes, assaulted, arrested and imprisoned.  The US allowed soldiers to engage in crimes against Okinawans with impunity and contaminated the islands with Agent Orange, depleted uranium, white phosphorus, and other radioactive and chemical weapons.

After the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the U.S. did not leave Okinawa, as expected. In 1996, the US and Japan announced their plan to landfill a beloved natural cultural heritage site and most important eco-tourism destination in Okinawa, to make way for another base.  Okinawans, supported by global environmental and democracy activists, have been protesting the plan since that day.

For 70 years, Okinawans have struggled for Japanese and U.S. military recognition and respect for their human rights, property rights, cultural heritage, and right to self-determinacy. In 1950, the U.S. said it would make Okinawa a "showcase of democracy". However U.S. military rule remained authoritarian: implementing unacceptable policies with brute force, then, as now.  As Okinawans remember and pay their respects to those who died during the Battle of Okinawa 70 years ago, they are also engaged in a historic battle for Japanese and U.S. recognition of Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga's efforts to stop the destruction of the coral and dugong habitat, an ecoregion that is the living manifestation of what little remains of tangible Okinawan cultural heritage.


Background: 

"Seventy years since U.S. landings on Kerama Islands – Memorial service to be held on Zamami on 26 March" (What's Going On in Okinawa, March 26, 2015)

"Remembering the Konoe Memorial: the Battle of Okinawa and Its Aftermath" (Herbert Bix, APJ, Feb. 23, 2015)

"Descent Into Hell: The Battle of Okinawa" (The Ryukyu Shimpo, Ota Masahide, Mark Ealey and Alastair McLauchlan, APJ, Dec. 1, 2014)

"Compulsory Mass Suicide, the Battle of Okinawa, and Japan's Textbook Controversy" (Aniya Masaaki, The Okinawa Times, and Asahi Shinbun, translation by Kyoko Selden, APJ, Jan. 6, 2008)

-JD

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tokyo fire bombing survivor: "Japan starting down road to war again" • Remembering the victims & survivors of the bombings of 67 Japanese & Okinawan cities from 1942 through 1945, & all bombing victims worldwide from 1911 to 2015

Katsumoto Saotome, a survivor of Great Tokyo Air Raids, wears a headband 
with words reading 'Kamikaze' on it, which he carried during an evacuation in the bombing.
(Photo: Reuters)

Reuters journalist Elaine Lies's article on the commemoration of the firebombing of Tokyo, "Tokyo fire bombing survivor fears Japan starting down road to war again," gives voice to one of the many Pacific War survivors warning us about the Japanese government's remilitarization.
Katsumoto Saotome was 12 the night he ran for his life through a sea of flames, jumping over smoldering railroad ties along a train track as U.S. B-29 bombers rained incendiary bombs down around him...

Now, as memories fade of how civilians suffered during World War Two - suffering Saotome blames on Japan's wartime leaders who thought of their citizens as "weeds" - the 82-year-old author fears Japan may be marching toward war again.

"I think we're turning backwards, down that road," said Saotome, citing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plans to change Japan's war-renouncing constitution, his more muscular security stance and a state secrets act passed last year.

"Everyone thinks at first that it's nothing, but more and more things accumulate, and then it's repression. I worry about what happens to women and children in this situation. We have to talk about it, maybe that will put a brake on things."

For Saotome and others of his age, the war stole their childhood. In school, before being conscripted to work in factories, they learned that the "kamikaze" divine wind would annihilate Japan's enemies. Should Japan lose, they would have to choose death over dishonor and kill themselves...

With more than 80 percent of Japanese, including Abe, born after the war, Saotome worries that reluctance to discuss painful issues may mean repeating past mistakes. Political apathy is also a worry, he says...

"Those of us who survived have a duty to become a voice for the voiceless," Saotome said. "If I'm quiet, it means I've accepted the situation. If we don't speak up, the past will be made to disappear."
As we remember the 70th anniversary of the March 9-10 all-night US firebombing of Tokyo, we also remember the largely forgotten firebombings of over 66 other cities in Japan and Okinawa. Historian Mark Selden has noted  that the scale of civilian casualties in Japanese cities "had no parallel in the history of bombing."

The US bombed Kobe, then the sixth largest city, with a population of one million, in 84 air raids, between April 18, 1942 to August 15, 1945. On July 24, 1945, a US B29 dropped 4 experimental "mock" atomic bombs ("pumpkin bombs") , with the same scale and weight as the "Little Boy" nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, on Kobe. With a total death toll of more than 8,000, the death rate of civilians par square mile in Kobe was worse than that of Hiroshima and Tokyo.  Studio Ghibli's 1988 Grave of the Fireflies, an acclaimed animation about 2 child survivors of firebombings, was set in Kobe.

Before Tokyo and Kobe, on October 10, 1944,  US bombers began "softening up" assaults on Naha, the capital of Okinawa, destroying 80 to 90 percent  of the city. A thousand Okinawan civilians, twice as many as Japanese military personnel, were killed during the 10/10 raid. Colonel Yahara, the only surviving senior staff officer of Japan’s 32nd Army, wrote in The Battle for Okinawa (1972) that that the 10/10 destruction of Naha was “a sad foretaste of the tragedy to come” to Okinawa and mainland Japan. Yahara said Imperial Japan should have surrendered earlier to stem the loss of civilian life.  Most of the civilians who died during the Battle of Okinawa were killed by American bombardments.

The US bombings of Tokyo began in December 1944 and continued through August 13, 1945. March 9-10 was the worst of more than 60 air raids on Tokyo: over a hundred thousand civilians were killed and most of old capital was destroyed in one night.

In March 2007, 112 survivors and family members announced they would sue Japanese government for an apology and damages. The the plaintiffs, the oldest of whom was eighty-six and whose average age was seventy-four at the time, filed the suit with the Tokyo District Court in April. As expected, in 2013, the Japanese Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit.

However, the plaintiffs were able to tell their story, in their voices. Following this action, other lawsuits brought by Pacific War victims against the Japanese government, also raising the issue of war responsibility and accountability, followed, including actions by survivors of the Battle of Okinawa and the survivors of the Japanese fire bombings of Chongqing from 1938 to 1943 which killed 10,000 civilians.

Other Japanese cities the US bombed include Sendai (March 10 and July 19, 1945);  Osaka (March 13-14, 1945); Kagoshima (June 17, 1945); Moji, Nobeoka, Okayama and Sasebo (June 28); Takamatsu (July 4, 1945); Kofu (July 6, 1945); Gifu, Sakai, Sendai and Wakayama (July 9, 1945), Toyama (total destruction on Aug. 1-2, 1945).

According to the Shock and Awe Conference on Aerial Bombing held at the London School of Economics in November, 2011, the "development of aerial bombardment was more than just a military revolution.' [Aerial bombardment] "redrew the legal and moral boundaries between civilians and combatants, spread the theatre of war into new environments and expanded the battlefield, making cities into places of mass death and taking warfare into private, domestic spaces." This era began in 1911 when an Italian pilot, Guilio Cavotti, dropped the first bombs from a plane to the oasis of Tagiura outside Tripoli in north Africa during the Italian-Turkish War f ought between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy from September 29, 1911, to October 18, 1912 over the colonial control of Libya.

In the seventy years since the end of Pacific War, war memories and growing awareness of suffering of victims and survivors throughout the Asia-Pacific has continue to fuel peace building efforts by survivors and their descendants. Last June, 1,760,000 supporters of the Japanese Peace Constitution delivered a petition to Prime Minister Abe asking him not to change Article 9.

Background:

Film critic Roger Ebert - Grave of The Fireflies (video talk on Youtube)

"Tokyo fire bombing 70th anniversary: Survivors beg Japan to remember the forgotten 100,000" (David McNeill, The Independent, March 10, 2015)

"Saotome Katsumoto and the Firebombing of Tokyo: Introducing The Great Tokyo Air Raid" (Translation and Intro by Richard Sams, APJ, March 9, 2015)




"The Firebombing of Tokyo: Views from the Ground" (Brett Fisk and Cary Karakas, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Jan. 17, 2011)

"China and Japan at War: Suffering and Survival, 1937-1945" (Diana Lary, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Nov. 29, 2010)

"The Great Tokyo Air Raid and the Bombing of Civilians in World War II", The Asahi Shimbun, reposted at The Asia-Pacific Journal, March 11, 2010)


-JD

Thursday, December 25, 2014

10,000 sing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" — Japan's Beloved Anthem of Peace




This is a video of the Osaka "Number Nine Chorus" of 10,000 singers who perform "Ode to Joy" every December. The soloists and orchestra are professionals; however the rest are singers from the community.

The Japanese love of "Ode to Joy," the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, began during the First World War, when German prisoners of war performed the Ninth Symphony for the first time in Japan in 1918.

In Europe, exactly one hundred years ago, German, French, and British soldiers engaged in a spontaneous holiday ceasefire, emerging from the trenches to exchange food, drink, and even play soccer, sharing a brief moment of humanity during the brutality of war.

Beethoven's uplifting music is known affectionately as "Daiku" — "Number Nine" in Japan. The lyrics are from a poem celebrating human unity by Frederick Schiller.  The 19th-century century German philosopher was preoccupied by the quest for freedom and human rights. Like many of his generation (which spanned the American Revolution), he championed political ideals based not on coercion and tyrannical brute force, but instead by reason, goodwill, and democratic process.

Worldwide, "Ode to Joy" has long been considered a peace anthem, a song of resistance to not just war, but also state repression. Chilean democracy demonstrators sang the song during PInochet's dictatorship. Chinese protesters sang it during the march on Tiananmen Square. This year, the music and lyrics are even more meaningful to the Japanese and Okinawan supporters of democracy and Article 9, the Japanese Constitution's Peace Clause.

...Brother love binds man to man
Ever singing march we onward
Victors in the midst of strife
Joyful music lifts us Son ward
In the triumph song of life...

Human rights attorney Scott Horton tells us that Beethoven was drawn to Schiller's writings because the composer longed for liberty, however omitted the "deeper, more political charge" of the final stanzas of "Ode to Joy" to veil his challenge to the repressive Hapsburg regime from which he received patronage.
...the work is radical and blatantly political in its orientation–it envisions a world without monarchs at a time when the distant colonies of North America alone offered the alternative. It imagines a world whose nations live in peace with one another, embracing the dignity of their species as a fundamental principle, and democracy as the central chord of their organization. Its long appeal to Beethoven lay in just this intensely subversive, revolutionary core. To start with, as Leonard Bernstein reminded his audiences, the poem was originally an “Ode to Freedom” and the word “Joy” (Freude instead of Freiheit, added to the third pillar, Freundschaft [Friendship] came as a substitute for the more overtly political theme...

Beethoven reckoned, of course, that his audience knew the whole text, just as he knew it, by heart. He was by then a crotchety old man, Beethoven, but he knew the power of a dream, and he inspired millions with it, to the chagrin of his Hapsburg sponsors.

Schiller’s words are perfectly fused with Beethoven’s music. It may indeed be the most successful marriage in the whole shared space of poetry and music. It is a message of striking universality which transcends the boundaries of time and culture. It is well measured in fact to certain turningpoints in the human experience.
Some of the lines from Schiller's poem omitted from "Ode to Joy":

...Persist with courage, millions!
Stand firm for a better world!
...Deliver us from tyrants’ chains...
-JD

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Okinawans elect 4 Henoko-aligned MPs to the National Diet; Displays of Peace Banners Multiplying in Henoko

From Right to Left: Toshinobu Nakazato, former chairman of the Okinawan Prefectural Assembly;
 Denny Tamaki (District 3 which includes Henoko), reelected for his 3rd term; 
Kantoku Teruya, reelected for his 5th term;and 14-year incumbent MP Seiken Akamine,
meet with Henoko residents at Sit-In.  (Photo: Takayuki Jyouma)

"Newly elected House of Representatives members report their victories to residents’ sit-in at Henoko," via Ryukyu Shimpo, one of Okinawa's two major dailies:
[Kantoku] Teruya, who was elected in the 2nd district in which many U.S. military bases are concentrated, stated, “We are facing a situation in which the Abe administration is changing the Peace Constitution, and that it is driving Japan at breakneck speed to once again become a war nation. I want to fight against the Abe administration with you.”

[Denny] Tamaki, who was elected in the 3rd district which includes Henoko, Nago, declared, “For the last two years, I have realized that we can persuade the governments of Japan and the United States, if we follow-through and do what we must. With pride, we are striving to solve the Henoko issue with Govenor Takashi Onaga, Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, Nago citizens and all Okinawan people.”

Hiroshi Ashitomi, co-representative of the Helicopter Base Objection Association, said, “I feel an aura coming from the four representatives. We will support them in their efforts to convey the voices of the people of Okinawa to people across the country.”

Peace Banners Proliferating throughout Henoko and Okinawa. 
(Photos: Okinawa Prefectural Peace Committee) 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Plaintiffs argue historic case to save dugongs & preserve Okinawan cultural heritage - first hearing in San Francisco federal court on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014


Ryukyu Postal’s stamp to commemorate the dugong's designation as a natural monument in 1966 
(courtesy of Save the Dugong Campaign Center)

American, Okinawan and Japanese conservation groups argued their historic case today, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, in U.S. federal court, seeking to halt construction of a U.S. military port and airstrip at a biodiverse coral reef and dugong habitat in northern Okinawa. The planned U.S. training base expansion would destroy Okinawa's best coral reef and pave over some of the last remaining habitat for critically endangered Okinawa dugongs, ancient cultural icons for the Okinawan people and marine mammals related to manatees. 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.

Via The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice:
This is the first hearing in a historic lawsuit brought by American and Japanese conservation groups under a provision of the National Historic Preservation Act that requires the United States to avoid or mitigate any harm to places or things of cultural significance to another country. 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.

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 [survey drilling] on the base began earlier this year.

Earthjustice, on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation, Save The Dugong Foundation, Anna Shimabukuro, Takuma Higashionna, and Yoshikazu Makishi, is arguing today that the court should review the U.S. Department of Defense’s flawed efforts to examine the harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong, and stop the Department of Defense from allowing construction of the new airstrip until it has made meaningful attempts to avoid or mitigate that harm.

“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 law requires that the Defense Department cannot allow this military base expansion project to go forward until it has made efforts to understand and minimize its effects on the dugong,” said Earthjustice attorney Sarah Burt. “When another country’s culture, heritage and revered endangered species are at stake, the U.S. must at the very least follow the law.”

“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.

Background: In July conservation groups filed a lawsuit, supplemental to a 2003 suit, seeking to require the U.S. Department of Defense to stop construction activities on the new U.S. Marine base airstrip at Henoko Bay until it conducts an in-depth analysis aimed at avoiding or mitigating harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong.

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment lists dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there might be 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.
Five years ago, more than 400 environmental conservation, animal protection, peace and justice groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, asked President Obama to cancel the planned landfill and base construction at the Okinawan dugong habitat.

At the time, the US government announced that it would reconsider plan in light of the massive local and worldwide opposition to the project. In 2008, the US federal court
found the US Dept of Defense in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. The court required the DoD to meet with plaintiffs and negotiate on the issue of mitigating harm to dugongs. This did not happen, hence this year's new lawsuit, which was filed July 31, 2014,  in the same court on behalf of the original Dugong Lawsuit plaintiffs.

The waters off Henoko, Okinawa are the last remaining northernmost home of the dugong. In 1955, the dugong was designated as a protected cultural monument by the then autonomous Ryukyu Prefecture, because of its status as a revered and sacred animal among native Okinawans. Since 1972, the species has also been listed by Japan's federal government as a "natural monument" under the country's Cultural Properties Protection Law. It is also protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

-JD

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Journalists, legal experts, & filmmakers condemn State Secrets Law's chilling effect on freedom of expression & freedom of press; Japan's rating drops from 22nd to 59th on World Press Freedom Index

Japanese Army cavalrymen parade in front of the Kabukiza Theater, Ginza, Tokyo,1938

Justin McCurry, "Japan whistleblowers face crackdown under proposed state secrets law: Officials who leak 'special state secrets' and journalists who seek to obtain them could face prison if bill is approved this week," Guardian:
Under a special state secrets bill expected to pass on Friday, public officials and private citizens who leak "special state secrets" face prison terms of up to 10 years, while journalists who seek to obtain the classified information could get up to five years.

Critics of the new law say it marks a return to the days of prewar and wartime Japanese militarism, when the state used the Peace Preservation Act to arrest and imprison political opponents.

"It is a threat to democracy," said Keiichi Kiriyama, an editorial writer for the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, adding that the legislation would "have a chilling effect on public servants, who could become wary about giving the information" to journalists...

Abe, who does not have to fight an election for another three years, is expected to push ahead with his nationalist agenda, including constitutional reforms that would end the military's purely defensive role.

The secrecy bill's hasty passage through the lower house has been marked by noisy public demonstrations and opposition from journalists, lawyers, politicians, academics and scientists, as well as film directors and manga artists concerned about freedom of expression...

"There are few specifics in the law, which means it can be used to hide whatever the government wishes to keep away from public scrutiny," said Mizuho Fukushima, an opposition MP.

"In its current form, the prime minister can decide by himself what constitutes a secret."
Matthew Carney, "Critics fear Japan's democracy is 'regressing' as government introduces laws to keep state secrets," Australian Broadcasting Company:
In 2009 investigative journalist Masakatsu Ota uncovered a top secret deal between Japan and United States that allowed nuclear weapons to be brought into Japan during the Cold War...

"A key person in government confirmed it for the first time and the reports triggered an inquiry," he said...

Under the new secrecy laws exposes like Ota's will be much harder to do...

Experts have described the laws as extreme and part of prime minister Shinzo Abe's wider agenda to revise Japan's constitution...

Law Professor Lawrence Repeta from Tokyo's Meiji University said the government had a lot of power.

"They say the right to freedom of speech should only be respected when it doesn't disturb public order," he said...

The majority are against the laws and at protests across the country over the weekend people called for them to be scrapped...

Another protester said Japan was heading back to its militarist past with these new laws.

"When Japan headed to militarism, people were arrested if they showed opposition, that's the scariest thing. Democracy has not matured yet, but it's been developing and I want to stop this move," the protester said.

Already the government is set to classify half a million documents as state secrets.

Critics have said the real danger of these laws will see the government ultimately deciding what is secret and the definitions can be vague.
"Protest statements issued as state secrets law takes effect," via Asahi:
Organizations representing journalists, legal experts and the entertainment industry issued statements calling for the abolishment of the state secrets protection law that they say will trample on the people’s right to know...

The Japan Congress of Journalists’ statement issued on Dec. 9 said the law would “cover the people’s eyes, ears and mouth and usurp their freedom of the press and speech.”

The statement listed a number of problems with the law: the range of documents classified as state secrets could expand without limit; the government can continually extend the period a document is classified as a state secret; and journalists and human rights activists could be punished under the law.

The Japan Civil Liberties Union, consisting of lawyers and legal scholars, issued a statement on Dec. 8 protesting the law because “it inappropriately restricts citizens’ right to know.”

...A group of individuals connected with the movie industry, including directors Yoji Yamada and Isao Takahata, also issued a statement Dec. 9 calling for the law’s annulment...

The statement also touched upon the history of the movie industry before and during World War II when the government forced the production of movies that supported Japan’s war effort.

The statement was made “from a strong feeling of creating a society that never again goes to war and to never again be complicit in the production of movies that stir up war sentiment.”
Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan Freedom of the Press Committee Japan Investigative Journalism Awards and Special Freedom Of Press Prizes Press Release, December 10, 2014:
Reporters Without Borders has called it, “an unprecedented threat to freedom of information.” The organization’s World Press Freedom Index for 2014 has just dropped Japan to number 59 on its list, below countries like Serbia and Chile. This marks a precipitous fall; Japan was ranked as high as 22 in 2012. Clearly, even international observers are becoming increasingly concerned about the direction of media freedom here.

The law provides for prison terms of up to ten years, not only for government insiders who leak information regarded as “secret,” but also for those, including journalists, who encourage them to do so. In other words, according to experts, even asking persistently about a “secret” could be a crime punishable with up to five years in jail.

The secrecy law, unprecedented in Japan’s postwar history, was forced through the Diet over the objections of critics who pointed out its many deficiencies. While the law was still under consideration, the FCCJ released a statement expressing our concerns...
-JD

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hawai'i-based Ukwanshin Kabudan perform at Governor Takeshi Onaga's All-Okinawa Victory Celebration



Via Save Henoko, an informal group of Okinawans and Overseas Okinawans who view the preservation of the dugong and coral habitat at Sea of Henoko as integral to the preservation of historic, traditional culture and the protection of human rights and dignity in Okinawa:
Members of Ukwanshin Kabudan (traditional performing artists) from Hawaiʻi were asked to play kachaashii at Onaga's headquarters to celebrate the victory right after the results were announced. But before kachaashii, they took it upon themselves to sing Kajadefu, to celebrate the auspicious day in true Uchinaa tradition.

Thanks to Brandon, we were able to share in this historical celebration of Onaga's landslide victory over Nakaima in the Okinawa governor's election which solidly showed the Okinawan people's stance against the new base in Henoko...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki: "Demilitarization of Okinawa is necessary for peace in East Asia"

(Image: Ryukyu Shimpo)


Toshinobu Nakazato, a former Speaker in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, has initiated a postcard campaign to support the All-Okinawa Movement to halt the plan to landfill and build an offshore and military port over the coral and dugong habitat at Henoko, Okinawa.  

89 mainland Japanese celebrities have replied, including anime director Hayao Miyazaki, who wrote, "Demilitarization of Okinawa will be necessary for peace in East Asia."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Takeshi Onaga wins governor's race on platform to save Henoko

Governor and First Lady of Okinawa. (Via SNA)

Today Okinawans elected former Naha City Mayor Takeshi Onaga for governor in a landslide  election; and Naha residents of Naha elected  former Vice-Mayor Mikiko Shiroma, to replace Onaga. Both ran on platforms promising to save Henoko's dugong and coral ecosystem from the US-Japan plan to landfill it and  military port and offshore runway construction.

Michael Penn, (Shingetsu News Agency (SNA)):
The numbers coming in show landslide victories for both Onaga and Shiroma.  Onaga beat Nakaima by about 3:2 margin. Exit polls find only 25.5% of Okinawan voters find Henoko base construction to be acceptable.
Eric Johnston, JT:
Onaga also promised to deliver a strong message to Tokyo and Washington that the Henoko plan was unacceptable and that those who thought Okinawa could be bribed by being offered central government funds for development projects were wrong.
Filmmaker Chie Mikami:
The moment the Henoko villagers launched a Committee to Protect Life, they raised their voices in opposition [to the new base/military port plan] -- for 17 years,  I stood by and witnessed.

I did not see this day coming. This proved an All-Okinawa Movement could support a win for an All-Okinawa Governor...
Ryukyu Shimpo (one of Okinawa's 2 major daily newspapers):
 Onaga served as a co-representative of the executive committee that held an Okinawan people’s rally in 2012, which called for the closure of the Futenma base and the cancellation of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft deployment to Okinawa. He has insisted that Okinawan people should unite in an ‘All-Okinawa’ approach that goes beyond the framework of the conservative-versus-progressive party, in order to resolve the base issue. The ex-Naha Mayor has promised to follow-through on a petition to Prime Minister Abe requesting the easing of the base-hosting burden. This petition bears the signatures from the mayors of all 41 municipalities in Okinawa and the chairmen of the various assemblies.

Onaga is backed by the Social-Democratic Party, the Communist Party, the Okinawa Social Mass Party and the People’s Life Party. The Naha City Council’s conservative group members, who were expelled from the LDP after opposing the relocation plan, also supported the ex-Naha Mayor. They criticized Governor Nakaima’s approval of landfill required for the new base in Henoko.

In August, the government started a drilling survey for reclamation work in Henoko. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said Tokyo will go ahead with construction based on the incumbent governor’s approval. Despite Onaga’s victory, it appears the government still intends to carry out the relocation work. Onaga will consider revocation or withdrawal of Nakaima’s landfill approval. The result of the election will have a serious impact on the relocation plan.
Peter Ennis, Dispatch Japan, "Okinawa election puts Tokyo and Washington in a bind":
The victory on Sunday of Takeshi Onaga in the race for governor of Okinawa came as no surprise...

But the size of Onaga’s victory – roughly 100,000 votes ahead of Nakaima, with two-thirds of voters joining Onaga in opposition to construction of a new US Marine base in the prefecture – was stunning, putting both Tokyo and Washington in a serious bind...

... it won’t be easy for Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to maintain his stance that the Futenma-Henoko controversy “is a thing of the past.”

Onaga’s electoral success poses a big dilemma for the LDP, heading into Lower House elections that PM Abe is expected to call for December 14. Sentiment against the ruling party’s stance on the Futenma Replacement Facility controversy has already affected other elections. Henoko is a district of Nago City, whose mayor, Susumu Inamine, is a fierce opponent of the new Marine facility. He is backed by a majority of the city assembly. Meanwhile, also on Sunday, the city of Naha voted for a new mayor to replace Onaga, and elected an opponent of the new base.