Kenzaburo Oe says relocation to Henoko will resolve nothing
November 24, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo
In the afternoon on November 23, about 740 people gathered at Ryukyu Shimpo Hall in Naha to listen to Nobel Prize in Literature 1994 winner Kenzaburo Oe’s lecture titled “Peace from Okinawa: calling democracy into question.” While holding a dialogue with students, he answered one student’s inquiry regarding the Government of Japan forcing construction of a new U.S. base at Henoko with, “It is an issue that bases with nuclear weaponry are located in a confined place like Okinawa at all. Even if [Futenma Air Station] is relocated, no fundamental problems will be resolved.” His answer drew loud applause from the crowd.
During the lecture Oe reflected on his initial encounter with Okinawa and the Article 9 Association. He also harshly criticized the Abe administration for choosing to refer to April 28th (the day that Okinawa was separated from Japan by the Treaty of San Francisco) as “Restoration of Sovereignty Day,” celebrated at the time of the decision with a cheer of “long live the Emperor.”
“People who risk face danger engaging in activities abroad, especially women, find hope In the fact that the Constitution is part of Japan’s culture,” Oe said, emphasizing that the Constitution of Japan’s worth is rooted in Japanese culture. He added that he wants to teach children to value the Constitution this way.
Following Oe’s lecture, Yoshikazu Shiohira, chief editor of Ryukyu Shimpo, engaged in a dialogue with three attending students. Two junior year students at Okinawa International University and one senior year student at the University of the Ryukyus raised questions and Oe responded. Atsushi Okamoto, president of the publishing company Iwanami Shoten, also took the podium.
Speaking of how base policies ignore Okinawans’ opinions, one student asked, “What is the most important thing for Okinawa?” To this Oe answered, “You all are important. I hope that coming generations speak plainly, ask for specifics, and think ahead. Please do your best.”
In response to another question from the assembly, Oe spoke about his book Okinawa Note. “I still feel nervous that Okinawan people continue to read [my book about Okinawa]. Many people keep coming to debate [these issues], and I have respect for all of you who do.” He closed the session by thanking those gathered for having him come and speak.
(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)
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