Editorial: Governor Onaga, who gave his life to fulfill his duty, dies from pancreatic cancer


August 9, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo


Governor Takeshi Onaga, who had been battling progressing pancreatic cancer, died on August 8.

He was 67 years old.

Onaga underwent surgery in April earlier this year, but the cancer cells spread to his liver.

From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to offer our deepest sympathies.


Onaga campaigned on stopping the new base facility construction in Henoko Bay, Nago, and he was elected governor in 2014 with over 360,000 votes.

He was the seventh governor of Okinawa since its reversion to Japan.


From the moment he took office, Onaga gave all-out opposition to the central Japanese government’s imposition of new base construction.

We can only imagine that the grief and stress from all this and more accumulated over the years.


Onaga withdrew his predecessor’s approval of land-filling in Henoko Bay, which he had just announced July 27.

One can imagine that he faced the press corps to do this while suppressing the pain of cancer. As the title states, Onaga gave his life to fulfill his duties as a politician.


From the outset, the office of governor in Okinawa faces immense pressure almost incomparable to any other prefecture in Japan.

This is due to the fact that the island chain, which accounts for no more that 0.6% of Japan’s total landmass, yet contains 70% of all the land designated for U.S. military facilities, and from repeated, serious incidents such heinous crimes committed by U.S. military members and military vehicle crashes and other incidents.


Historically, each of Okinawa’s governors struggled with the grave over-burdening of bases on the islands.

That weight is severe enough to eat away at one’s health.


Koichi Taira, who succeeded Chobyo Yara after the prefectural reformation, spent most of his time in office working through the piled up governmental work now under prefectural control, and fell to cerebral thrombosis while in Tokyo on business in July, 1978.

After a stay in the hospital, Taira would retire in October of the same year.


The third governor, Junji Nishime, also underwent surgery for stomach cancer at a hospital in Tokyo in 1984.

At the time it was announced as a stomach ulcer and gall bladder infection, and even the governor himself was unaware of the fact that it was actually stomach cancer.


The fourth governor, Masahide Ota, exited a February prefectural assembly opening in 1992 with cold-like symptoms and dizziness, and entered the hospital. He would return to office 51 days later.


The fifth governor, Keiichi Inamine, was never admitted to the hospital while in office, however the base issue was always at the forefront of his mind, and he talks about how each day it was an incredible psychological pressure.


The sixth governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, was hospitalized with a light brain infarction shortly after the Okinawa Memorial Day ceremony June 23, 2007.


Onaga was a governor who devoted all of his energy to the base issue. Every chance he had he would continue to state, “We will not allow a new base to be constructed at Henoko.”

To be struck down by illness before it could be completed must have been a regret.

Vice-governor Kiichiro Jahana will take on the acting governor role before handing the reigns over to co-vice-governor Moritake Tominaga.

A hearing to ask the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) about the revocation of the approval to fill land in Henoko planned for August 9 will be rescheduled.

First, they are going to take appropriate measures to ensure the prefectural government operations continue to run smoothly, which includes their strategy for handling the base issue.


Following the death of the current governor, the next gubernatorial election will take place within 50 days of the electoral notification being sent out.

Already, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the opposition party in the Okinawan government, have tapped Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima as their candidate.

The selection process for the ruling party candidate to succeed Onaga is well underway.

However the electoral showdown materializes, the upcoming electoral battle will hopefully develop into a head-on showdown over the base issue.


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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