Jan 9, 2011


Okinawa was the destination for a study tour for Bishops in last December organised by the committee for the Social Issues of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ).  All together 7 Bishops, including myself, joined a 3-day study tour which was meant to be a beginning of the Bishops' response to a message delivered by Bishop Oshikawa of Okinawa.  During the Catholic Justice and Peace National Convention in Sapporo last year, Bishop Oshikawa sent a message appealing the participants to consider the heavy burdens of people in Okinawa who had been hosting foreign military bases in this small island for over 60 years and asked bishops to take action not in Okinawa but in Tokyo where Japanese government is located in order to bring a cry of Okinawa into the midst of the reality of daily life of majority in Japan.  So the bishops decided to go to Okinawa first to know the reality of military bases and history of Okinawa.

We visited several war memorial sites including 2 caves which had been used as a make-shift military hospital and a shelter for civilians.  While we were in one of these caves, a guide asked us to put our torch lights off and stay in complete darkness so that we might be able to consider terrible situation of suffering of people during the war in Okinawa.  Of course, there were no sounds of shootings and bombings nor scream of injured and dying.  Though my experience of shootings in a refugee's camp in Zaire in 95 is nothing to compare with the experience of people in Okinawa, the complete darkness and wet air made me to feel somehow frightfulness of people at that time.

We also visited several US military bases, including Kadena, Futenma and Camp Schwab, though we could only observe them from outside.  The photo above is from the Henoko Beach where the Camp Schwab is located.  Japanese government had made an agreement with the US to remove the Futenma base and bring it to the Camp Schwab.  Futenma is in the midst of Ginowan city and too dangerous for the marine helicopters to fly over the densely populated city area.  However, the idea to bring the function of Futenma to Camp Schwab is also causing controversy because this beautiful tropical sea of Henoko beach will be destroyed by proposed new airstrips.  Number of local people in the area has been conducting a sit-in protest to the proposal for more than 2,400 days.

Though I do not want to be too idealistic on the issue of national security, however, as a religious, I should always emphasize the importance of protecting human life which is a gift from God.  I do understand the importance of having sufficient forces for national self defense.  However I do not know whether the reality of Okinawa is meant for the sufficient national defense in Japan.  I think it is too much and majority of us, those in the main land Japan, has been too insensitive to people of Okinawa for many years.       

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