Musician Ryuichi Sakamoto talks Henoko base and Japan’s ‘undemocratic administration’

Musician Ryuichi Sakamoto talks Henoko base and Japan’s ‘undemocratic administration’

Ryuichi Sakamoto speaking with Ryukyu Shimpo from his home in New York in a remote interview on May 29.

June 11, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Sadaharu Shimabukuro

World-renowned musician Ryuichi Sakamoto spoke to Ryukyu Shimpo’s Editor-In-Chief Tsuyoshi Matsumoto in a remote interview from his home in New York. He weighed in on the Henoko base construction issue and the global threat of the coronavirus pandemic. In the interview, Sakamoto pointed out that Japan’s national challenges are shouldered by certain places in Japan. For example, in issues of national security, Okinawa bears the brunt of hosting U.S.
military bases, while Fukushima is made to contend with its nuclear power plants when it comes to energy sources. He commented, “Japan’s democracy is very peculiar, it’s distorted in my opinion. The government elites are undemocratic and dictatorial.” He added, “We have an undemocratic administration but most people don’t protest its absurdity. It’s because our democracy isn’t well-established.”

In April, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the Japanese government submitted a revised construction plan for the new base to the prefectural government, after the discovery of the soft seabed at Henoko bay. Sakamoto wondered out loud, “If you think about it rationally, the construction project in Henoko will fail. Even if they finish building the base, I don’t think it will be operable. [The government] just wants to show that they are taking action. Should we be wasting important taxpayer money? The [administration’s] spending in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak is also questionable.”

On the topic of the Abe administration’s management of the coronavirus outbreak, Sakamoto said that its tendency to neglect democratic processes is presenting barriers. The musician spoke on how other countries around the world were dealing with the pandemic, and questioned Japan’s relief package as well as pointing out the lack of transparency in its COVID-19-related decision-making processes.

In his analysis, excessive global urbanization contributed to the world-wide spread of COVID-19. Sakamoto warns that: “Environmental destruction continues due to global urbanization. If we don’t change human and economic activities to coexist with nature, more of these challenges will continue to arise.”

Looking ahead to a post-COVID-19 world, Sakamoto underscored the need for change in urban lifestyles. “We need to improve urban designs, which would also mean massive public projects. At this time when our economy is depressed, public projects would be far more significant than building an unusable military base.”

In January, the musician performed in Okinawa for the first time and played the piano in a concert held in Ginowan City. He had visited Henoko bay during the trip.
English translation by (T&CT and Monica Shingaki)

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