Okinawa’s military presence still exceeds Japan’s—Interview with Gov. Tamaki on reversion: economy “halfway there”

Okinawa’s military presence still exceeds Japan’s—Interview with Gov. Tamaki on reversion: economy “halfway there”

Governor of Okinawa Prefecture Tamaki Denny

May 10, 2022 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Masakazu Umeda



On May 9, Governor Denny Tamaki gave a joint media interview at the Okinawa Prefectural Office to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan. He remarked that while Okinawa accounts for 0.6% of the country’s total land area, 70.3% of USFJ facilities and areas (for exclusive use) are concentrated in Okinawa.

The governor stressed that, “at the time of the reversion, the people of Okinawa expected [the military presence] would moderate to levels on par with the main islands of Japan, but the current situation is far from it.”


On the other hand, Governor Tamaki applauded the prefecture’s advancement in infrastructure: “There have been no water outages in decades, and [in some metrics] we are now above the national level.” However, he pointed out that the per capita income continues to be the lowest in Japan: “We are only halfway to realizing the self-reliant economy Okinawans are hoping for.” As for the lack of progress on reorganizing and downsizing Okinawa’s U.S. military bases, Governor Tamaki pointed to the current design in which Washington and Tokyo are the sole decision makers and added, “local governments hosting the bases need to be heard.”


The governor conveyed the prefecture’s commitment to preserving the historical significance of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan: “[The reversion history] is a part of the Uchinanchu pride, which our forefathers protected for their children and grandchildren through the autonomy and reversion movements.”


Tamaki also addressed the growing public appetite to strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and voiced his concern: “Force has been utilized to change the status quo. Employing more force to counter [it] may trigger an unexpected clash. We must absolutely avoid a scenario in which Okinawa becomes a target or any action that will increase such risk.”


(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)


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