Editorial: Thorough investigation into Cultural Properties at Camp Schwab under Protection Law

November 29, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education designated 17 pieces of earthenware and stone implements found on the shoreline within Camp Schwab as Cultural Properties. These items are somewhere between 800 and 2000 years old.

The pieces were discovered at the planned site in Henoko, Nago, for land reclamation toward construction of a replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corp Air Station (MCAS) Futenma. This was the first time that assessments took place in the area, and over a 9-day period of surface-level examination Cultural Properties were unearthed. There is a potential that more Cultural Properties will be found. Therefore, based on the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, the site should be thoroughly investigated.

In Battle of Okinawa 70 years ago, not only precious human life but also valuable heritage were lost to us. Land was forcibly seized by use of bayonets and bulldozers, and American bases were built. Up to the present local government has been unable to freely enter US military base compounds, and investigations into historic sites have not been sufficiently conducted. There have probably been cases in which the process of constructing US bases destroyed historic artifacts. It is also likely that valuable heritage is buried on the bases.

The Nago City Board of Education is appealing to the Prefectural Board of Education to designate the whole region in which the earthenware and implements were found as a historic site where relics are scattered, and is promoting a survey of the pieces found, including an investigation into their relationship with artifacts previously discovered within Camp Schwab.

According to the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, if a place is designated as a historic site, it becomes compulsory to excavate in the region. Should vestiges or earthenware that suggest the area may host historic ruins be found, a detailed, dedicated survey will be conducted. Until this survey is completed, construction work that could alter the terrain is prohibited. Mayor of Nago City Susumu Inamine said that he will move forward as procedures under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties dictate.

As for officials of the Japanese government, Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani voiced the desire to “respond appropriately in accordance with related laws.” The Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties should be included as related law. If Japan wishes to respond justifiably as a country that acts under rule of law, as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga claims it is, then it will suspend relocation work until the dedicated survey is completed. We want the stance of the Government of Japan when dealing with this situation to follow Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resolution of domestic Japanese law being firmly upheld within base compounds.

A stone that may have been used as an anchor on a Chinese or Ryukyuan ship during the Middle Ages was discovered back in February at the same place as the earthenware and stone implements. Up to now a grouping of 7 spots containing expansive and notable historic ruins have been found. There is sufficient likelihood that more artifacts and historic sites will be discovered there.

We have the responsibility to pass our heritage on to our children and grandchildren. We wish to work hard to carry out our duty to them.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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