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10. Civilian Urbanisation: Shinkaichi and the Sumiyoi Mura Project

Municipalities like Kin, Ginoza, or Kushi, that carry disproportionately heavy burdens for bases were nudged, coerced, or plain bullied into it. Sat in the economically disadvantaged north of the island, dismissing any potential economic opportunity was pure folly.[1] Kin's decision to accept Camp Hansen in 1959 was a kuju ni michita sentaku, or "bitter choice that one has no realistic option other than make," but it was at least rationally made with a perceived and hoped for economic benefit attached. This would go some way toward compensating for the inevitable negative spin-offs of base-hosting. In the following decade Kin entered an unprecedented period of urbanisation, economic expansion, and population growth. This culminated in a transformation from (son) village to (cho) town in 1981.[2]

Even before construction began in 1959, Marines were arriving in Kin in greater numbers.[3] There was little in the way of entertainment to entice troops to part with their dollars, a majority heading off to Ishikawa, Koza, or other established areas. One entrepreneur opened a bar called the 'Lucky Seven' across Military Highway No. 13 from the base entrance, prompting others to appear but, as Kin-choshi succinctly puts it, since "they weren't attractive, whether the only drinking holes in the vicinity or not, Marines stayed clear."[4] These first bars failed, but the actual idea was good. In early-1959, Afuso Seiho, Afu Shinei, and 60 landowners from the Yahazubaru subdistrict of Kin,[5] just across from what became Gate One, formed a landowners association and devised a Yahazubaru urbanisation scheme. Of the whole development area about 25% was earmarked for roads and the rest public buildings. Being an entrepreneurial venture the Yahazubaru landowners themselves had to pay for bulldozers to level out the area and the surveying costs. By June 1960, the area had been prepared and subdivided into blocks. The Kin-son government stepped in, agreeing to pay to build Mitsumi-dori: a main road through the area, with Kin-ku and the Yahazubaru landowners partnering to fund Chuo-dori or 'Central Avenue.' The actual construction of bars, restaurants, and entertainment-type establishments began in January 1962,[6] and by December 1963 a big majority of the facilities in Shinkaichi: as the area was now called, had achieved full compliance with the US military's exacting 'A-Sign' standard and were now ready for business.[7] The period from 1964-1968 in Shinkaichi's history is known as the ogon jidai, or 'Golden Era.' With the Vietnam War came a huge influx of Marines to Kin and outpouring of dollars into clubs, restaurants, and bars.[8] In August 1965 alone, 3,500 troops of the 13th Infantry Division arrived at Hansen. This size of arrival or departure was not uncommon. Although the Kin Government seems to have stopped gathering such data, as recently as 1992, Kin had 137 facilities defined as 'bar-cabaret nightclubs,' of the total of 383 such facilities in the entire administrative district of Kunigami.[9] As such, Kin had 35% of all bar-cabaret nightclubs in northern Okinawa.

Fortunes were mixed as far as grabbing US military business. A case in point is Shijatabaru, just across from Gate Two of Hansen. The area actually falls within and through four subdistricts: Guyabaru, Satogusukubaru, Shijatabaru, and Amakibaru, and was the location of the old Namisato Sugar Mill,[10] but for some reason the whole area is referred to as Shijatabaru. From about 1965, the Vietnam War intensified and US military expenditures in Okinawa increased. As Shinkaichi began to fill with US troops and prosper, people in the Namisato district at the other end of Kin called for a similar urban scheme. The Namisato government backed the idea, devising a basic plan and, in May 1966, selected urban planning committee members.[11] Once the development area was decided on negotiations with affected landowners began. The committee proposed a purchase rate of $10 per tsubo of predominantly arable land, which was accepted.[12] Being a Namisato government initiative it was determined that financial losses would have to be absorbed to attract investment, but that the community would end up benefiting. The acquired land was sold to 20 private developers at $5 per tsubo.[13] Those initially averse to selling land must have changed their minds because agreement was reached on a three-fold increase in the area before construction began. In March 1967, buildings started opening for business. Although it quickly became a lively area, with land values rising to $60 per tsubo, it had unfortunately missed the crest of the Vietnam prosperity wave Shinkaichi had grabbed with both hands. And whereas Shinkaichi has seen a measure of recovery since reversion, Shijatabaru was unable to deal with the decline. Over the past 30 years it has developed into a mainly residential area filled with apartment buildings, houses, and other accommodation.

Clearly, the conditions of prosperity in Kin produced by the Vietnam War and milked by a grateful service sector were unnatural and could not persist forever. The US economy was suffering a chronic balance of payments deficit in the late-1960's as a result of its Vietnam-related military expenditures, and was forced into a defence of the dollar. For Kin, this meant Marines with less to spend. A gradual military withdrawal from Vietnam led to a decrease in the number of troops at Hansen. Both developments hit at the heart of Kin's service-led economy. After reversion, Okinawa shifted back to a yen currency that had been upwardly reevaluated against the dollar, which meant US troops on Okinawa had relatively less purchasing power. A increase in yen-spending locals has helped to modestly revitalise parts of Shinkaichi but most of the old military area looks a little ragged these days. The yen's free fall in 1982 gave the dollar a tad more punch, but in 1995 the exchange rate plummeted to 85-yen to the dollar and few soldiers bothered venturing off base.[14] Most facilities in Shinkaichi today which aim to attract US Marines and local trade, like fast-food shops, try to strike a kind of price balance, setting unofficial rates of about 100-yen to the dollar which is more favourable to soldiers, while keeping yen prices low. Since few US troops patronise the Japanese-style 'snack' bars on the peripheries of Shinkaichi, prices are in yen and not generally altered to accommodate them. Unlike 30 years ago when there was plenty of custom to go around, however, business in Shinkaichi is brutal.

As Fig. 8 [Kin Population Trends, 1920-2000] shows, from 1955-1965 the population of Kin increased by more than 33%. Not only would a small community expect to witness such growth over a much longer period, but this bucked an overall demographic trend in the north of Okinawa. The total Ryukyu population increased from 801,065 in 1955, to 933,850 in 1965. This constituted a 16.5% rise. In the same period, the population of the northern part of Okinawa Island actually dropped by 5%, from 133,557 in 1955, to 126,691 in 1965.[15] Urbanisation and economic expansion concentrated in the cities further south: like Naha, Koza, and Ginowan, in contrast, had the effect of drawing people from the north of the island, and from the remote island areas of Miyako and Yaeyama. Naha alone experienced a 50% population rise between 1955 and 1965.[16] Clearly, the influx of 2,000 workers for the construction of Camp Hansen accounts for some of the rise in Kin since many took lodgings or relocated entirely to the area. One must also consider traders and entrepreneurs lured to Kin by US military dollars or to service construction workers. Either way, this rapid inflow of people overstretched the village in terms of the supply-demand of houses and rented rooms. Locals recall the number of outsiders seemed to well exceed the number of Kin folk.[17] When Hansen was completed in late-1962, many workers returned home or went elsewhere. That the population actually moderately increased was because of the completion of Shinkaichi and the replacement of construction crews with traders, entrepreneurs, and entertainment-oriented workers. At the same time as reversion, however, the demographic trend seems to have reverted to a previous norm with Kin, like the rest of the north, providing labour for the urban south. While the population of Okinawa has increased by some 35% to 1.32-million since 1972, Kin's has seen less than a 3% growth over the same period.

Beyond base and service-related developments, Kin Village was moving apace. Public sector construction outstripped business-oriented projects by a big margin, with main roads asphalted and others extended, infrastructure improved and modernised, along with irrigation and drainage, and public facilities built at a swift rate: including farm cooperative buildings, district community centres, modern apartment-style public housing, a swimming pool at Kin Elementary, kindergartens, a municipal pre-school (hoikusho), and village offices. There was a plan to build a prison that never came to fruition.[18] Where roads were built through largely unpopulated areas, houses began to appear. The subdistrict of Hamada is now a well-populated residential area of Kin next to Shinkaichi, yet photographs show that there was little habitation before the late-1960's, only fields or waste ground either side of the road.[19] In a way, and this is by no means scientific or a provable theory, one sees a dual development in progress: the base-related part of Kin - a necessary evil tolerated but not really part of the community, versus a proper Kin, of which the government was proud. The current writer finds it curious that Kin's only public information leaflet of the time, Koho Kin, makes little mention of anything Vietnam War or military base-related unless involving the Hansen commander being presented with a shrubbery, attending a village festival, an Okinawa-America friendship event, or something of that kind, despite the massive socio-economic impact of the Vietnam War and the influx of troops into the Kin area. This is not to say Kin was attempting to divorce itself from the base, simply that the village constituted two distinct parts, of which only one was covered in Koho Kin. It is extraordinarily difficult to assess the extent to which the people of Kin perceived and shared, or not, the view advanced by the Kin-son administration. Most people had a direct or indirect link with the bases as a result of income from land payments, a family member working on base, or a connection to the service sector. This issue in itself is worthy of a dissertation.

At this time Kin did not devise or implement long-term development plans. Kin officials controlled and disbursed municipal revenues in conformity with approved budgets, but on a yearly basis. Clearly, the nature of local government and autonomy under military occupation and under the post-1972 Japanese to-do-fu-ken prefectural structure differed. These issues are covered in the next chapter. Herein, our interest is only in isolating later ideas that derived from this period in the 1960's. This also links with the idea of a proper Kin and another Kin discussed above, albeit in there being an idealised vision of Kin's development held by the local government. An element in each of Kin's post-reversion shinko kaihatsu keikaku, or promotion and development plans, is the concept of an akaruku sumiyoi machi,[20] or "a bright, easy to live in town."

The root of the idea, at least in as much as documented, goes back to the May 1966 edition of Koho Kin. A box entitled sumiyoi shakai, or 'easy to live in society,' containing five, rather moralistic mottoes, asking people to be courteous to each other and respect their village appeared on the front cover.[21] In October of the same year the title changed to sumiyoi mura, or 'easy to live in village,' now suggesting people "keep an eye on time" rather than respect public property.[22] The expression akaruku sumiyoi mura, or 'a bright, easy to live in village,' appeared in Koho Kin in July 1966, as part of a drive to get people to pay taxes. The thrust was that the sumiyoi mura project depended on villagers paying taxes and developing a sense of civic responsibility.[23] The expression was given a plan-like feel with a shift to the sumiyoi mura tsukuri ni maishin, or 'strive to make an easy to live in village' message as reversion neared in late-1969.[24] Indeed, the idealism of the Kin government may have been linked to reversion and a feeling that life would improve. With good reason, base employees and landowners were becoming worried about an implementation of the hondo nami, or '[American bases in Okinawa operating under the] same [set of rules and requirements] as [US bases present on] the [Japanese] mainland,' mantra and its effect on the post-1972 economy, but others saw more positive long-term prospects.

In as much as taxes being important for the development of Kin, there was only limited mileage in that argument. If one studies the structure of Kin's municipal income in 1966, and again before reversion in 1970, a transformation has occurred. As Fig. 9 [Kin-son Municipal Income & Breakdown, 1966-1971] shows, sonzei, or 'village tax' was of minor importance to municipal revenues over the five-year period from 1966-1970. Two main developments stand out. Firstly, the koei kigyo zaisan shunyu, or 'receipts from government activities and assets, drop by over 50% in importance to municipal revenues. An intriguing fact, given that in the category are the gunyochiryo, or military rental payments for use of municipal property inside Camp Hansen and the CTA.[25] Only the amount of money received stays constant. After reversion the situation changes, with the GOJ forced to pay more money to the landowners for continued use of lands by the US military. The GOJ also developed new categories, increasing the amount further. The koei kigyo zaisan shunyu category shot upwards in financial importance to Kin within only a few short years. The most significant shift in municipal finances, however, came in the form of the shi-cho-son kofuzei, or 'municipal tax subsidies,' once GOJ financial aid flowed into Okinawa in quantity from the mid-1960's. It will be remembered that Ikeda Hayato had wanted the tax burden on the average Okinawan reduced, using this as a reason why GOJ aid should be accepted by the USG. By 1970, tax subsidies constituted almost 60% of Kin's total municipal revenues. After reversion subsidies would increase, but distributed across several categories rather than just the shi-cho-son kofuzei.

[1] A similar dilemma faces northern municipalities today as in the 1950's, though this time a state-of-the-art heliport set for construction in Henoko provides both the headache and chance for significant economic gain. Henoko prospered from 1957 to the early-1970's as a result of the US Marine presence. Locals are as aware that a heliport will bring a lot of GOJ sympathy money to the community as know there will be the daily, disruptive cacophony of helicopters flying overhead.

[2] Which means that the population of the municipality has to exceed 10,000.

[3] According to Kin-choshi Camp Hansen's total personnel accommodation capacity was around 12,000, but it is unlikely that there has ever been more than 8,000 troops within the base at any one point in time. The highest point was during the Vietnam War years from 1965 onwards. After the Vietnam War the number of troops at Camp Hansen decreased dramatically. From 1980 through to the present day, it's unlikely that a figure of 2,000-3,000 personnel has been exceeded. Kin-choshi, 25.

[4] Kin-choshi, 26.

[5] The area now called Shinkaichi was originally known as Yahazubaru. It was traditionally regarded as the coldest part of Kin. Prefectural Highway No. 329 currently runs past Shinkaichi, with MCB Camp Hansen located on the opposite side, but in olden days the thoroughfare was known as Sukumichi. On either side of Sukumichi were pine trees, some two-hundred years old. Much of Yahazubaru consisted of fields, but the area around the cliffs to the south was mostly wilderness and forest. The caves just below where the Goldhall Restaurant stood used to be a place where dead horses, cattle, and pigs were abandoned. On either side of the cliffs were gravesites. Trees and wild strawberries grew in abundance. It is said that more habu (snakes) were found in this area than any other in Kin, and it is legendary for the appearance of ghosts. Kin-choshi, 26.

[6] Also in 1962, the landowners began taking bids for plots of Shinkaichi land. They were surprised, but happy to find that in just one year the price per tsubo had risen from $5 to $15. Similar increases occurred over the next few years.

[7] From all accounts meeting these standards involved a considerable financial outlay for landowners, often with the need to refurbish and rebuild interiors to gain A-Sign qualification. Kin-choshi, 27.

[8] Most of the buildings that exist in Shinkaichi today were constructed during that four-year period.

[9] Kin-cho, Tokei Kin: daisango (Kin: Kin-cho, 1992), 48.

[10] Kin-choshi, 28.

[11] Ibid., 28.

[12] Kin-cho, Koho Kin shukusatsuban: ichigo-hyakugo (Kin: Kin-cho, 2001), 55.

[13] Kin-choshi, 28.

[14] Kin-choshi, 27, and Kin-cho to Kichi, 6

[15] Ito Zennichi and Sakamoto Jiro, ed. Okinawa no keizai kaihatsu. (Tokyo: Choshinsho, 1970), 194.

[16] Ibid., 194.

[17] Kin-choshi, 25.

[18] A good source of information on government and village activities from 1964-1977 is Kin-cho, Koho Kin shukusatsuban: ichigo-hyakugo (Kin: Kin-cho, 2001). In August 1964, Kin-son began issuing Koho Kin, a bi-monthly (monthly from 1968) public information leaflet covering "village administration and assembly affairs, developments in local education, and various things going on in Kin Village." Koho Kin shukusatsuban: ichigo-hyakugo, (Issue 1, 1st August 1964), 1.

[19] Koho Kin shukusatsuban: ichigo-hyakugo, (Issue 23, 20th June 1968), 90.

[20] In the preamble by Mayor Yoshida Katsuei to Kin-son, Kin-son shinko keikaku kihon koso (Kin: Kin-son, 1977), and in the title of both Kin-cho, Kin-cho dai niji sogo keikaku: kihon koso, kihon keikaku - kokoro utakana, akaruku sumiyoi, katsuryoku aru machi o mezashite (Kin: Kin-cho, 1986), and Kin-cho, Dai sanji Kin-cho sogo keikaku [kihon koso - zenki kihon keikaku]: kokoro utakana, akaruku sumiyoi, katsuryoku aru machi. Kin: Kin-cho, 1996).

[21] Briefly rendered in English: "Let's be kind to people," "Let's not be nasty," "Let's greet people warmly," "Let's keep our towns and villages tidy," and "Let's respect public property." Koho Kin shukusatsuban: ichigo-hyakugo, (Issue 11, 1st May 1966), 41.

[22] Koho Kin shukusatsuban: ichigo-hyakugo, (Issue 14, 31st October 1966), 53.

[23] Ibid., (Issue 12, 20th July 1966), 48.

[24] Ibid., (Issue 36, 15th August 1969), 143.

[25] In January 1968, the Kin-son government decided to divide base income on municipal lands 50/50 between the village and each of Kin's districts (ku), with exception of the newly-formed Nakagawa that would receive nothing.


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