Editorial: The petition to protect war-dead remains should be quickly passed into law

February 12, 2022 Ryukyu Shimp


Takamatsu Gushiken, who represents the war-dead remains recovery volunteer organization “Gamafuya,” has submitted a petition to the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly calling for the establishment of regulations to preserve the remains of those who died in war. In order to prevent the dissipation of these remains due to construction, he wants a system in place where the Okinawa governor would be notified ahead of time so it can be confirmed if any remains are present in the area proposed for development. In April, 2021, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously passed a written opinion demanding that, “the soil which contains the remains of those whose lives were regrettably lost in the Battle of Okinawa not be used for land-filling.” These regulations would be in line with the sentiment of the written opinion. We hope that the assembly with work to implement these regulations quickly.

The issue with the soil that potentially contains human remains came to the forefront when the design change form was submitted for improving the soft foundation of Oura Bay, the proposed site of the new military base in Henoko. At first, the plan was to procure soil from various regions throughout western Japan, but the change indicated that the soil would be procured from within Okinawa, and the area it would be procured from was expanded form just the northern part of the main island to all over the prefecture.

Upon hearing this news, Gushiken raised the alarm in opposition to this plan on humanitarian grounds, insisting that the excavation of ground that potentially contained the remains of people who died in the Battle of Okinawa was sacrilegious to both the deceased and their descendants, and developed a plan of action. In addition to demanding that the government call off their plan, he demanded the governor order a stop to the excavation plan in Itoman, engaging in a hunger strike and signature gathering campaign.

In response to the construction in Itoman, Governor Denny Tamaki ordered only that “necessary steps be taken to protect the landscape,” based on language in the Natural Parks Act, and explained that, “We have done everything we can do within the limits of our role as a prefecture.” He commented at the time, “It will be necessary to consider if we need to enact [additional] regulations, to ensure that we are enacting the best policy possible.” The governor should then be expected to meet the demands of this new petition.

The central Japanese government said the reason why they changed the area they would procure soil from was to avoid regulations that prevent the importing of soil from outside of Okinawa as a protection against the introduction of invasive species. In a column published by this newspaper on March 19, 2021, one descendant voiced the opinion, “So, it is not ok to introduce living things from elsewhere, but mixing in remains is ok?” It is something that would make anyone suspicious.

Gushiken maintains that the issue with the human remains is not an approval or disapproval of the new base construction, and stresses that this is a “humanitarian problem,” arguing that the origins of these remains come from all over Japan, making this a “nationwide issue.” Additionally, he has sent written requests to 1,743 municipal government assemblies in each prefecture, urging them to adopt the written opinion. According to Gushiken, to date a total of 206 municipal assemblies, 30 in Okinawa and 176 in other prefectures, have adopted the written opinion, and he expects this number to grow. The acknowledgement of this as a “humanitarian problem” and “national issue” continues to be pervasive.

The written opinion, which was passed unanimously by the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, asks for, “the collection of war-dead remains, with the Japanese government taking the role as a leader.” They stressed that war, which is a national policy, created a large number of victims both within Japan and abroad. The document questions both the central and Okinawan governments how they will deal with the remains of the war-dead and their descendants.

Before thinking about how the regulations will affect new base construction, the Okinawa prefectural government and prefectural assembly need to consider the silent voices of the war-dead, as well as the voices of their descendants all over the country.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


Go to Japanese


Previous Article:
Next Article:

[Similar Articles]