District court recognizes Naha City’s claim on sea boundary from Ryukyu Kingdom era

January 29, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

On January 28, chief judge Hiroshi Suzuki of Naha District Court recognized Naha City’s claim on a lawsuit filed by Naha City against Tomigusuku City to confirm the sea boundary south of Naha Airport. The court conceded Naha City’s sea boundary claim based on Umihougiri, which was a sea line set up during the Ryukyu Kingdom era. The cities debated over the boundary for a long time. A map from the Ryukyu Kingdom era became the determining factor.

At the lawsuit, Naha City claimed that Umihougiri on a map made in 1797 “Ryukyu Souezu” is valid proof that exclusive fishing rights were given to Oroku district at the end of the Meiji era. In response, Tomigusuku City claimed that Umihougiri was no longer in use by the time of transfer to the Meiji administration. On this basis, Tomigusuku City argued that a boundary marked on a Prefectural Land Arrangement Map made in 1903 is effective.

The court upheld Naha City’s claim that Umihougiri existed as part of customary rights to decide occupancy and use of sea at the time of 1903.

Regarding Tomigusuku City’s claim, the land arrangement project does not provide a clear record of the sea surface being measured. The court noted that lines on the Arrangement Map “could simply indicate an attribution of Senaga Island.”

In 1973, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan requested both Naha City and Tomigusuku Village provide information about the orientation of the boundary. However, both had a different claim, so the sea boundary remained unconfirmed.

There is a plan for a second runway at Naha Airport to be built in that sea area. After the runway is completed, municipalities receive State-owned Assets Subsidies. The amount of the subsidies is decided based on the area occupied by the runway. According to Naha City’s preliminary calculation, the decision over the boundary amounts to approximately fifteen million yen annually in subsidies.

Tatsuhiko Nakamoto, the department chief of the Planning and Coordination Division of Naha City, said, “The claim has been fully recognized. It is a reasonable decision.” Mayor Haruki Gibo of Tomigusuku City stated, “We are dissatisfied with the decision. We are planning to appeal a ruling.”

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana)

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