People of Kunigami and Yoron reunited on the sea 43 years after commemorating Okinawa’s reversion to Japan

People of Kunigami and Yoron reunited on the sea 43 years after commemorating Okinawa's reversion to Japan

At 11:40am on April 28 at the northern latitude of 27 degrees, with Cape Hedo in the background, the mayor of Kunigami, Hisakazu Miyagi (right), and the chairman of the Commemorative Event Committee from Yoron, Sairyo Fumoto, shook hands from boats.

April 29, 2012 Ryota Nakamura of Ryukyu Shimpo

On April 28, a meeting by people of Kunigami and Yoron took place on the sea at the northern latitude of 27 degrees. This used to be where the border was after the Amami Islands were returned to Japanese sovereignty in 1953. They reenacted the meeting demanding Okinawan reversion to Japan. Sixty years have passed since the San Francisco Conference on the Japan Peace Treaty in 1952, and Okinawa and Amami Islands were separated from Japan on that day. At the meeting, Kunigami’s Mayor Hisakazu Miyagi and Sairyo Fumoto, the chairman of the Commemorative Event Committee, shook hands and read out the peace declaration. They hope to promote deeper mutual exchanges and pass on the memory of the territorial separation to the next generation.

In the declaration, Miyagi said, “April 28th is the day that we achieved that long sought after reversion. We had to live under U.S. military occupation for 27 years, and while Okinawa has returned to Japanese sovereignty, 74% of the U.S. military facilities in Japan are still concentrated in our prefecture, causing large amounts of trouble and crime. I believe that we have to reflect on our 67 years of postwar history and tell our children about it.”
Driven by the desire to return to Japanese sovereignty, meetings on the sea took place in the years between 1963 and 1969.

The border point before Okinawa’s reversion (northern latitude of 27 degrees).

At 11:30am on 28 April, twenty-five fishing boats and sabani, or Okinawan traditional vessels met at the northern latitude of 27 degrees with 130 people participating. A ferry carrying school children from Kunigami to take part in an exchange program in Yoron also circled around the meeting.
Boats from Kunigami and Yoron were tethered while Miyagi and Fumoto read out the peace declaration. Following the declaration, the people on board sang the symbolic song Okinawa wo kaese which translates as Give Okinawa Back to Us.
During the meeting the participants waved and spoke to each other for about 30 minutes. A horn was sounded and those on the boats reluctantly parted. Miyagi said, “I felt a lump in my throat. I think it is important to question the excessive burden of the U.S. military on Okinawa.”

After the meeting out on the sea, there was a 40th anniversary event at Cape Hedo. Muneaki Ura who was born in 1972, the year that Okinawa reverted to Japanese sovereignty, offered a peace declaration, “We reflect on the original intention of seeking an Okinawa without military bases and longing for lasting peace.”

(English translation by T&CT, Shinako Oyakawa and Mark Ealey)

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