Editorial: 46 years after the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, a fundamental change to Okinawan Promotion must be made

May 15, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo


On May 15, 1972, Okinawa was returned to Japanese control. In November of 1971, at the 67th extraordinary Diet, also known as the Okinawan Diet, Chief Executive of the Government of the Ryukyus Chobyo Yara submitted a proposal outlining steps to return Okinawa to Japan. In the introduction section of the proposal, it wished for, “A return as an island of peace, free of military bases.”


Even after the return to Japan, the most significant burden was, and continues to be without any signs of improvement, the existence of U.S. military bases. At the time of the reversion, 75% of all U.S. military facilities in Japan were located in Okinawa.

This has only been reduced to 70%, and there are no signs of any future reductions.

From incidents such as the rape and murder of a woman by a base worker in 2016, the crash landing of an MV-22 Osprey in Abu, Nago City the same year, or the window that fell from a U.S. military helicopter onto the grounds of Futenma Dai-ni Elementary School in 2017, accidents and incidents occur frequently and threaten the lives of Okinawan residents.


While the government has promised to reduce the burden of U.S. bases on Okinawa, the Abe administration is continuing to force through the relocation of MCAS Futenma to newly constructed facilities in Henoko, Nago City. The governor of Okinawa strongly opposes this, and in the Okinawan general election, where the new base construction became a major point of contention, candidates who opposed the construction were by-and-large elected.

The “establishment of self-governance,” championed by Yara’s proposal is being impeded by the central Japanese government forcing this construction on Okinawa.


The proposal also spoke of, “organic Okinawan economic development.

” While well behind stimulus packages for mainland Japan, about 10 trillion yen has been invested in “stimulus and development costs,” as part of Okinawan stimulus policy.

This has certainly progressed infrastructure such as roads and ports.


However, income in Okinawa is only about 70% of the national average, and the poverty stemming from the nation’s worst unemployment rate has yet to be addressed.

The child poverty rate is over two times the national average.

Childcare services are meager, waiting lists are long, and childcare expenses are high.

The declining birthrate on an island so distant from the rest of Japan has also become dire.

Previous Okinawa Promotion Plans leaned heavily towards infrastructure, and efforts to enact education and welfare policies have been neglected.

There needs to be a fundamental change to the Okinawan Promotion Plan.


The Okinawan economic stimulus payment, which began in 2012, has lost its original intention wherein Okinawa could use the money for the budget at their own discretion, and is now being decided by the Japanese government in return for agreement on the base policy, turning it into something that suits the needs of the central government, not Okinawa.

This only further serves to amplify the distorted nature of Okinawan economic promotion.


The Okinawan Promotion Plan based on the Act on Special Measures for the Promotion and Development of Okinawa passed at the same time as the reversion, is already halfway through its fifth iteration.

With the end of the fifth iteration approaching, the time has come where we must discuss the next Okinawan Promotion Plan, and seriously consider how we can achieve, “organic Okinawan economic development.”


The new image for Okinawa envisioned in the reversion proposal depicted Okinawan’s deciding their future for themselves, and not having it decided for them by Japan.

Let us state the hope of the people of Okinawa, born of their experience languishing in oppression, both from the brutal Battle of Okinawa as well as the following American occupation.

Independence and autonomy.

Accomplishing this is the responsibility of our generation for the generation that follows.


The conference on Okinawan autonomy announced their framework of “Okinawan Empowerment,” and is advocating for a fundamental change centered on Okinawan promotion and autonomy.

We should make it a day to think about the future of Okinawa.


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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