Okinawan Intellectuals criticize Japanese government for political use of the Emperor

Okinawan Intellectuals criticize Japanese government for political use of the Emperor

On March 13, at Okinawa Resident Plaza in Naha, the Okinawa Peace Movement Center held a protest rally against the central government’s decision to hold a commemorative ceremony.


March 14, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Okinawans are critical of the Japanese government planning to hold a ceremony on April 28 to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Japanese sovereignty after the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect in 1952. The people of Okinawa see this date as a day of humiliation because Okinawa, along with the Amami Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture, was separated from Japan and placed under U.S. occupation on that day.

In a memorandum called the “Emperor of “Emperor of Japan’s message,” Emperor Showa was quoted in 1947 as requesting that the U.S. government continue the military occupation of Okinawa for an extended period of time. Many believe that the memorandum had a significant influence on the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. With regard to the Japanese Imperial couple’s attendance at the upcoming commemorative ceremony, Okinawan intellectuals criticize the aggressive “pre-war approach” of the current administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who wants to revise the constitution and have the Emperor as the Head of State. The intellectuals suggest that, “The central government is using the Japanese Emperor for political purposes.”

The current Emperor first visited Okinawa as crown prince in 1975 and has visited Okinawa a total of nine times. In his birthday press conference last December, the Emperor mentioned his visit to Okinawa the previous month, saying, “I am aware that Okinawa struggles with various issues. I think that it is important for all the people of the main islands of Japan to think of the hardships of the Okinawan people.”

On March 13, the day after the Japanese cabinet decided to hold the ceremony, at Okinawa Resident Plaza in Naha the Okinawa Peace Movement Center held a protest rally against the decision. Participants shouted angry comments directed against the central government, such as, “We cannot allow the central government to hold this ceremony.”

Terminology: Emperor of Japan’s message

The so-called “Emperor of Japan’s message” is a memorandum that a U.S. political advisor on Japan, William Joseph Sebald, wrote for General Douglas MacArthur entitled “Emperor of Japan’s Opinion Concerning the Future of the Ryukyu Islands.” Through one of his advisors, Hidenari Terasaki, Emperor Showa verbally requested that the U.S. government continue the military occupation of Okinawa for an extended period of time. In the memorandum, the Emperor was quoted as saying, “Such a move would meet with widespread approval among the Japanese people who fear not only the menace of Russia, but after the Occupation has ended, the growth of rightist and leftist groups which might give rise to an ‘incident’ which Russia could use as a basis for interfering internally in Japan.” Eiichi Shindo released the document in 1979 in SEKAI, a Japanese monthly journal published by Iwanami Shoten.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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