Fisherman Yamashiro: Destroying the forests will kill the ocean

Fisherman Yamashiro: Destroying the forests will kill the ocean

With the forest where private helicopters brought down materials in the background, fisherman Yoshikatsu Yamashiro talks about his experience of Okinawa’s base issues on November 14 in Aha, Kunigami Village.

November 15, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

On November 14, a protest boat took to the sea for the first time in the protest movement against the U.S. military helipads being constructed in Takae. The protest boat was manned by fisherman Yoshikatsu Yamashiro, age 72. Yamashiro waited on the boat for his friends, who landed their kayaks at the mouth of the Ukagawa River and went to join the protests. Shortly past noon, several protesters could be seen from the boat climbing onto the cliffs aiming for the place where materials had been brought in by air. “The ocean is our father. The forest is our mother. If the forest is destroyed, red soil flows to the ocean, and both die,” says Yamashiro, furrowing his brown and looking up at his friends.

Yamashiro has been a fisherman for fifty years. In order to protect the forests, which he considers to be a pair together with the ocean, he is expressing unwavering opposition to the helipad construction.

In 1959, from the second floor of Ishikawa Junior High School, which he was attending, Yamashiro saw a jet plane rapidly approaching, spitting fire, as it crashed into Miyamori Elementary School. He also participated in the Koza Riot. It has now been fifty-seven years since the Miyamori Elementary School accident. “Okinawa has gotten worse since returning to Japan. Before, our enemy was the United States, but now we are facing discrimination from Japan as well,” Yamashiro said with a look of anguish on his face. Even so, he says, “I won’t give up until we win. I will never forget the pain we have suffered.” He turned his face to look straight at the forest. (Yo Kakazu)

First protest boat used to dissent against helicopters bringing in materials from the mouth of the Ukagawa River

On November 14, thirty-six protesters opposing the construction of new helicopter landing strips (helipads) in the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area, which spans Higashi Village and Kunigami Village, engaged in protest primarily around the mouth of the Ukagawa River, which is connected to the “G zone” by a training road. The protesters climbed up on the cliffs aiming for the location where private helicopters had carried in construction materials, and protested construction work being done to upgrade the training road. Three protesters landed at the mouth of the Ukagawa River by kayak.

At around 10:30 a.m. on the same day, roughly thirty protesters gathered at the mouth of the river. There is apparently a walking path that leads to the locations where the materials were brought in by helicopters, but protesters said that riot police were lined up on the path, blocking the way. Protesters climbed up the steep cliff and saw that materials had been dropped off at four locations.

The pedestrian training road that connects the “G zone” and the mouth of the Ukagawa River is 2,570 meters long, of which 820 meters are likely not to have received permission for development by the Forest Management Office. Observers say there is a possibility that materials were dropped off at spots located on this 820 meter stretch.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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