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7. Remembering and Forgetting the Kakushin Okoku

During 27-years of what was at times an extremely oppressive US occupation Okinawans learned to battle (land seizures), protest (the restriction of rights), criticise (USCAR’s nomination of puppet Chief Executives), and hone forms of non-violent resistance. Okinawans were no less strident in demanding from the GOJ that reversion bring base reductions, the restoration of rights, and economic prosperity. In Okinawa, political reformism (kakushinshugi) was an occupation-induced postwar phenomenon. So much so that by the time of reversion Okinawa had evolved into what Professor Shimabukuro Kuni described as a Kakushin Okoku, or ‘Kingdom of Reform.’[1] This reformist ethos persisted after reversion, with the reaffirmation of Yara Chobyo as the prefecture’s leader in the first postwar gubernatorial elections in June 1972,[2] and in reformist parties gaining a majority, albeit slight, in the (Okinawa-ken Gikai) Okinawa Prefectural Assembly. While the end of the US occupation was cause for celebration, however, it did not offer a solution to the single biggest cause of friction, uncertainty, and sense of vulnerability (to external threat). The front page of the Ryukyu Shimpo on 15th May 1972 read: “ima sokoku ni kaeru, kawaranu kichi (We’re back with Japan! US bases unchanged).”[3] Given that the land occupied by bases has decreased by just 17.1% from 1972-1999[4] this headline could sum up the entire post-reversion period. Exacerbating the problem, in April 1973, US Marines began closing off Prefectural Highway No. 104 (running through the Kisenbaru subvillage of Kin toward Onna on the west coast) several times a year to conduct live shell firing toward Onnadake and Butodake.[5] A protest movement sprang up from Kisenbaru attracting the support of activists island-wide, Governor Yara and, particularly, his successor Taira Koichi. At one point in September 1976, tensions ran so high that 1,000-police officers were sent to Kisenbaru.[6] Although not base-related, Yara was stuck with a problem inherited from USCAR. According to a directive from 1970, entitled “Establishment of Kinwan Port,” Gulf Asian Terminals was given permission to build and operate refinery and oil storage facilities, or sekiyu chozo shisetsu, on reclaimed land between the islands of Henza and Miyagi in the Katsuren township.[7] The GRI approved this 6-days prior to reversion. Headed by the Kin-wan o mamoru kai (Society for the Protection of Kin Bay) and focused on the environmental damage the project would cause, this protest movement lasted until Yara relented in 1976.[8] Gulf and Esso constructed more ugly facilities along the southeastern coast of Okinawa Island. Although petroleum-related revenues contribute approximately 6% of Gross Prefectural Product (GPP),[9] hosting such eyesores conspires against east coast shi-cho-son getting a share of the lucrative tourism industry. 

While reformist Taira Koichi was elected governor on 13th June 1976 on a clear platform of continuity from the Yara administration and although the reformist parties held sway in the Okinawa Gikai,[10] these victories were founded on a traditional base of support: that is, leftist political parties and labour unions, that was starting to shift. In the Upper House (Sangiin) elections of 1977, (Jiminto) Liberal Democratic Party candidate Inamine Ichiro beat leftist Fukuchi Hiroaki.[11] This was significant in that it marked a weakening in reformist urban strongholds, gradually permeating throughout a majority of Okinawa’s shi-cho-son.[12] Reformists held power in 8 of Okinawa’s cities prior to reversion but by late-1978 was reduced to 4,[13] with 36 of 53 municipalities now with conservative leadership.[14] This weakening led to divisions in the reformist coalition: OSMP, Shakaito (Socialist Party), and Kyosanto (Communist Party), with factional squabbles breaking out over election candidates, and such.[15] Outside politics, socio-economic change affected the reformist support base. Although the economy was still in a poor state, increased base land rentals were being received, public works projects were on the rise, and greater amounts of GOJ capital fuelled public finances. Moreover, after six-years closer ties between Okinawan and mainland labour unions, political parties, businesses, and organisations of all varieties were forged. As greater organisational centralisation occurred so too did a kind of philosophical or ideological centralisation.[16] As Shimabukuro wrote “Okinawa has been economically, socially, and politically brought into line with Japan and is now similarly organised…while (reversion) has been mutually complementary and has brought greater diversity in prefectural consciousness, the result has been a growing trend toward conservatism and the decline of the Kakushin Okoku.”[17] The inevitable transformation happened under unfortunate circumstances. In November 1978, Taira Koichi suffered a cerebral thrombosis and was forced to resign. The next month, one decade after the reformist administration (kakushin kensei) of Yara came to power in the first public elections for Chief Executive, Nishime Junji, the conservative candidate defeated on that day moved into the governor’s offices at Izumizaki.[18] He remained governor for 12-years, an unprecedented length of tenure for an Okinawan leader in the postwar era.    

It would be extremely unfair to Yara and Taira to suggest that the prosperity Okinawa came to enjoy was down to the excellent economic stewardship of Governor Nishime. In retrospect, and given the impact of the dollar shock and oil shocks on the global economy during the 1970’s, added to the fact that Okinawa still reeled from the base redundancies that sent unemployment soaring, it is unreasonable to think that either reformist could have turned Okinawa’s economy around in such a short time. Conservatives argued that the Okinawa Special National Athletic Meet (Okinawa tokubetsu kokutai) and Ocean Expo (Kaiyohaku), both projects devised by Yara to celebrate reversion, raised inflation and made the economy worse. Likewise, Taira was charged with failing to devote as much attention to the economy as to base-related matters. In reality, the Kaiyohaku got nowhere near to its numerical target in terms of visitors,[19] yet Yara Chobyo could not have conceivably factored war in the Middle East, OPEC, and a national recession into his plans. Nor did he have control over GOJ capital once it got loose. He over-optimistically counted on 6,000 jobs being created by the Kaiyohaku for local people, but could not have anticipated that many of these opportunities would go to mainlanders. Economists discuss the idea of a saru (sieve) economy or a boomerang effect, referring to the fact that much of what is invested in Okinawa from the mainland returns to the mainland, and this is clearly the case.[20] No governor can control private enterprise.[21] Yara certainly affected inflation negatively with the Kaiyohaku, but Nishime must be considered fortunate to become governor as Okinawa was emerging from a traumatic early changeover period, as GOJ investment arrived in greater amounts, and as military land rentals moved ever higher.

[1] Shimabukuro Kuni, ‘Fukkigo no Okinawa seiji koso no henyo,’ in Shimabukuro Kuni, editor, Henshu: Okinawa no Seiji to Shakai (Naha: Hirugi Sha, 1989), 31. On reformist politics prior to and after reversion see Egami Takayoshi, ‘Okinawa no seiji ni okeru 68 nen taisei no keisei to hokai (jo),’ Ryudai Hogaku 57, and the follow-up Egami Takayoshi, ’55 nen taisei no hokai to Okinawa kakushin kensei no yukue: 68 nen taisei no keisei to hokai,’ Nihon Seiji Gakkai Nenpo (1996).

[2] Reformist candidate Yara achieved victory in elections for Chief Executive in 1968. In 1972, Yara beat out former conservative Chief Executive Ota Seisaku by 251,230-votes to 177,780-votes. Yagi Senni, Okinawa no Nihon fukkigo nijunen: 1972-1976 (Urasoe: Okinawa Koronii, 1989), 22.

[3] Ryukyu Shimpo, 15th May 1972.

[4] Okinawa-ken, Chiji Koshitsu, Kichi Taisakushitsu, Okinawa no Beigun oyobi jieitai kichi: tokei shiryoshu (Naha: Okinawa-ken, Chiji Koshitsu, Kichi Taisakushitsu, 2000), 8. A map showing the extent of US bases on Okinawa island and the areas returned since reversion shows quite starkly how little things have changed in this regard. Okinawa-ken, Chiji Koshitsu, Kichi Taisakushitsu, Churyu gunyochi no ima to mukashi (Okinawa-ken, Chiji Koshitsu, Kichi Taisakushitsu, 1996), 3.

[5] On the resulting protest movement see Keitokuho Hikoku o tsukaeru Shimin no Kai, Okinawa wa uttaeru: Kisenbaru no hi (Tokyo: Gendai Shokan, 1978).

[6] Governor Taira protested to the US Marine Corps Okinawa Commander and Director of the NDFB, demanding a cessation to live firing. Okinawa no Nihon fukkigo nijunen: 1972-1976, 187. Live shell firing in Kin continued until 1997, when exercises were relocated to mainland Japanese Self-Defence Force (JSDF) facilities as a placatory response in the wake of the September 1995 rape incident in Kin.

[7] CA Directive No 1, ‘Establishment of Kinwan Port,’ 1st August 1970. Gekkan Okinawa Sha, editor, Laws and Regulations During the US Administration of Okinawa, 1945-1972 (Naha: Ikemiya Shokai and Company, undated), 833-838. In Japanese language texts sekiyu chozo shisetsu is usually rendered as central terminal station (CTS).

[8] The Kin-wan o mamoru kai was organised out of Katsuren township, not Kin.

[9] Marginally less than total US base revenue. Okinawa keizai handobukku: 2000 nendo, 17.

[10] Taira Koichi was the Chairman of the Okinawa Shakai Taishuto (Okinawa Socialist Masses Party), and clearly a follower of the Yara reformist philosophy. His opponent, Asato Tsumichiyo, was from the Minshato (Democratic Socialist Party), and represented the Atarashii Okinawa o tsukuru kai (Society for the Creation of a New Okinawa). Taira gained 270,887-votes against 238,283-votes for Asato. For an excellent policy by policy account of the build-up to the 1976 elections see Okinawa no Nihon fukkigo nijunen: 1972-1976, 173-179.

[11] Yagi Senni, Okinawa no Nihon fukkigo nijunen: 1977-1980 (Urasoe: Okinawa Koronii, 1993), 40.

[12] Shimabukuro Kuni, ‘Fukkigo no Okinawa seiji koso no henyo,’ loc. cit., 45.

[13] The reformist cities were Naha, Urasoe, Ginowan, Okinawa, Ishikawa, Nago, Hirara, and Ishigaki, with Itoman and Gushikawa in conservative hands. By the end of 1978, Ginowan, Okinawa, Ishikawa, and Hirara, had chosen conservative leaders. Arasaki Moriteru, Okinawa gendaishi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho, 1996), 78.

[14] Shimabukuro Kuni, ‘Fukkigo no Okinawa seiji koso no henyo,’ loc. cit., 45.

[15] On local Okinawa City elections, Ibid., 45. On the struggle to find a challenger for Nishime Junji in the gubernatorial elections see Yagi Senni, Okinawa no Nihon fukkigo nijunen: 1977-1980, 125.

[16] Shimabukuro Kuni, ‘Fukkigo no Okinawa seiji koso no henyo,’ loc. cit., 50-51. As the economy grew and the standard of living improved in the mid-1980’s there was a shift further to the right.

[17] Ibid., 50-51..

[18] Far from being a political setback, in 1970 Nishime was one of seven elected to the National Diet in Tokyo. Nishime Junji, Sengo seiji o ikite: Nishime Junji nikki, (Naha: Ryukyu Shimpo Sha, 1998), 231-244. In the 1978 elections Nishime beat reformist candidate Chibana Hideo by 284,000-votes to 257,000-votes. Okinawa no Nihon fukkigo nijunen: 1977-1980, 133.

[19] An anticipated 445,000-vistors was not matched by an actual figure of 348,000-visitors. Shimabukuro Kazuya, Fukkigo no Okinawa (Tokyo: Kyoikusha, 1979), 124.

[20] Kakazu Hiroshi, Sustainable Development of Small Island Economies (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 157-160, and Tomikawa Moritake, ‘Kichi to kanko,’ Shin Okinawa Bungaku 77 (1988).

[21] At the time of reversion Okinawa was an underdeveloped area, hence the need for the ODA and substantial development funding. With the flow of vast amounts of GOJ capital into Okinawa, however, came large numbers of mainland companies seeking to get a piece of the action. The initial boom was in construction with an emphasis on public works infrastructure projects, expanded into private sector construction. With this boom came the advent of so-called 'joint venture' projects. As Higa Teruyuki explains, “through joint ventures, mainland firms are able to participate in local Okinawan projects, and local firms are able to benefit from association with those larger companies which have access to cost-saving procedures and purchases, as well as the financial resources.” Higa Teruyuki, 'The Cycle of Dependency: Okinawa’s Economy,’ loc. cit., 93.



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