[Essay] UBRJ/NIHU seminar “Okinawa and the Marine Corps: Japan-US Relations from a Border Studies Perspective” was held on September 21, 2016

Eighty-three people came to participate in the UBRJ/NIHU seminar “Okinawa and the Marine Corps: Japan-US Relations from a Border Studies Perspective”!

The seminar “Okinawa and the Marine Corps: Japan-US Relations from a Border Studies Perspective” was held on September 21 (Wed.), 2016 at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University. Despite the rather inconvenient time for a seminar – 16:30 on a weekday – after the event was announced in the Hokkaido Shimbun, we were able to gather together the largest number of seminar participants in the history of SRC. Even the organizers did not expect that so many people would come to participate. We would like to apologize for the inconvenience of a crowded event.  

This seminar is dedicated to the publication of a new book Okinawa and Marine Corps written by several authors, and the event was held in the thesis and question-answer format. An introduction to the book was given by Tomohiro Yara (freelance journalist, former reporter of the Okinawa Times) who has been investigating the Okinawa-US issue for a long time. After the introduction, we asked the other authors to discuss the contents of the book.

Mr. Shinji Kawana (Research Institute for Peace and Security) talked about events that took place in the 1960s, how the plans for withdrawal of the Okinawa troops and closing of Futenma Air Station failed, and, furthermore due to certain historical circumstances, how the reorganization of the US military bases in the Kanto district led only to strengthening of Futenma. He added that it is impossible to look at the base restructuring only from strategical or geographical points of view, and that people should take into account the political relations between the US and the recipient country. 

The second author, Mr. Akiko Yamamoto, discussed the so-called Futenma Air Station relocation issue of the 1990s, which still has not been properly investigated, explaining the original intentions of the US government and the reason that it initially failed. In the first half of the 1990s, with the emergence of the North Korean nuclear crisis, Futenma (including the relocated Henoko base) was used as the UN base for response to the North Korean threat. However, due to overlapping of numerous factors such as US politics in Japan, the deterioration of public opinion in Okinawa, and the poor behavior of the American troops, the relocation problem still remains an urgent issue.  

And the third author, Mr. Kousuke Saito (Yokohama National University), talked about the Futenma-Guam Project. In the USA, this was already regarded as an almost-implemented plan but, due to deterioration of the financial situation after the Lehman shock, the process was eventually frozen. At the question-answer time, another author, Mr. Fumiaki Nozoe, also gave a speech.

In the one-and-a-half-hour presentation, three reporters took only 20 minutes each for their reports; still, another 30 minutes were insufficient for the QA time. Most Japanese consider the US military bases on Okinawa as a security benefit of the Japan-US alliance; however, for people from Okinawa, this situation is different. This seminar once again proved that in every situation we should look at a problem from different angles. At the end of the seminar, Mr. Yara impressed the audience with the remark, “You have got your own marine corps base near Tomakomai…”

(Written by: Tetsuro Chida, Translated by: Aleksandra Kuklina)

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