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5. The Power of Eminent Domain and the Shima Gurumi Toso

The absence of an imminent solution to the gunyochi, or military land, problem, and the need to acquire new tracts of land for base construction and modernisation, prompted USCAR to give a clear demonstration of its post-MTPJ powers of eminent domain.[1] In CA Ordinance No. 109, 'Land Acquisition Procedure (tochi shuyorei),' on 3rd April 1953, USCAR outlined both problem and method of settlement. While the USG had requirements concerning "use and possession of land…and whereas there are no provisions of Ryukyuan law whereby…[these] may be satisfied, it is…necessary to establish procedures for the acquisition of and just compensation for…interests in land as the US must have."[2] USCAR, through the OED, would first formally notify a landowner of its intention to requisition a piece of land and explain why. If the owner did not agree within 30 days the land would automatically transfer to the USG for the amount given in the original notice. Simple. A landowner could appeal within 30-days, resulting in more compensation,[3] but could not prevent the lands being taken.[4] All new acquisitions were made under this law. In May 1953, in an attempt to break the land impasse, a newly created GRI tochi iinkai, or Land Board, began soliciting opinion from representatives of Okinawa's shi-cho-son. Yet suspicions as to the depth of GRI-USCAR relations led many landowners to want their interests represented by an new, independent union. The Shi-cho-son Tochi Tokubetsu Iinkai Rengokai (abbreviated as Tochiren), or Okinawa Landowners Federation, was formed on 16th June. Surprisingly, the 35-year-old Kuwae Choko was elected chairman over frontrunner Ikehara Shinzo, a sexagenarian former Kin-son Mayor.[5] Either way, the Tochiren became the dominant force in Okinawan land politics for the next two decades, and beyond into the post-reversion period.[6]

In December 1953, USCAR promulgated further contentious land legislation. CA Proclamation No. 26, 'Compensation for Use of Real Estate Within Military Areas (gunyo chiikinai ni okeru fudosan no shiyo ni taisuru hosho),' unashamedly legitimised imaginary contracts. In the case that USCAR was unable to bind an agreement with a landowner for use of land already under its control since July 1950, Proclamation No. 26 stated simply that an "implied lease (mokkei)" between USCAR and landowner "is hereby confirmed,"[7] retroactive to the coming into force of the MTPJ on 28th April 1952.[8] Mention of the controversy caused by this legislation is absent from USCAR reports, even though one is hard-pressed to describe this, or CA Ordinance No. 109, as anything other than forced expropriation.[9] While USCAR subsequently hiked rental payments by around 60% in a move to salvage the legislation, resistance continued.[10] Under Article 3, a landowner objecting to USCAR's terms could receive 75% of the rental payment while simultaneously filing an appeal with the US Land Acquisition Commission for the Ryukyus. Most landowners chose this course rather than risk loss of land for no money.[11] USCAR initiated this policy because it was under pressure to tie up leases and make rental payments by the end of financial year (FY) 1953, when the fund expired. Thereafter, and to circumvent such pressures, USCAR designated the GRI Chief Executive as agent for landowners refusing to sign, enabling the payout of money out well before the deadline.[12] The first 20-months of the post-MTPJ era for Okinawa ended on yet another sour note. On 25th December 1953, while announcing that the Amami Islands were surplus to US requirements and were being returned to Japan, US Secretary of State Dulles emphasised that as long as "conditions of threat and tension exist in the Far East" there were no plans to return the remaining Ryukyu Islands.[13] President Dwight D. Eisenhower stressed this on 7th January 1954, saying that the US intended to "maintain our military bases in Okinawa indefinitely."[14]

The US bases to which Eisenhower was referring were also expanding. As soon as Ordinance No. 109 was promulgated the seizure of new lands began. In April, 200 families in a 170,000-tsubo area in the Ameku, Aja, Hirano, and Meikaru subdistricts of Makishi Village were ordered out of their premises to make way for what became the Machinato military family housing area.[15] Early on 11th April, forced evictions in Meikaru began.[16] Landowners received the standard, unsatisfactory explanation that while evictions were regrettable US forces were in Okinawa to defend the world against Communist aggression.[17] In December, USCAR evicted 265 families in the Gushi, Takara, Miyagi, Akamine, and Uebaru districts of Oroku Village, taking 105,000-tsubo of land under military control.[18] In Gushi, the Air Force notified residents they were evicted so Caltex Petroleum could build gasoline tanks close to Naha Military Airport. In Yomitan, land seizures displaced 937 families.[19] Eviction orders continued to arrive into and throughout 1954. In April, USCAR notified landowners of 135,000-tsubo in Onna Village of its intention to expropriate, and in August owners of 140,000-tsubo in the districts of Isa, Kiyuna, Aniya, and Aragusuku in Ginowan Village were notified of impending seizures (becoming MCAS Futenma and part of Camp Foster). In October, notices were issued for 488,000-tsubo in the Maja and Nishizaki districts of Ie Village (Iejima), displacing 152 families.[20] By 31st December 1954, after the handback of some lands as a result of consolidation, with the return of the Amami Islands, and with the seizure of new tracts, the US military occupied 42,000-acres of land.[21]

Whilst local people and landowners had been vociferously objecting to the land seizures all along, the USCAR-biased GRI had been rather conspicuous by its absence. This lasted until 24th March 1954, when Civil Administrator of the Ryukyus, Colonel Charles V. Bromley, announced that the US Army's solution to the land rental problem would be a one-off (katsu-barai), lump-sum (ichiji-barai) payment on land it required for an indefinite period.[22] Japanese translators eventually settled on ikkatsu-barai as 'lump-sum payment.' The US Army later proposed buying 45,000-acres of wild land in Yaeyama on which dispossessed landowners could settle.[23] In protest at ikkatsu-barai, and in step with most Okinawans, the Ryukyu Legislature (Ryukyu Rippoin) passed a gunyochi shori ni kansuru seigen, or Petition on the Disposition of Military Lands, on 30th April,[24] dispatching it to President Eisenhower, the Upper and Lower Houses of Congress, the US Army Department, and USCAR. It is more commonly known as the gunyochi mondai ni kansuru yongensoku, or 'Four Principles Concerning the Military Land Problem,' since these elements struck such a positive chord islandwide. They read in brief: 1) the US must abandon permanent land purchase and the use of ikkatsu-barai; 2) equitable payments for land now in use should be made annually; 3) prompt and just compensation must be paid for damage caused by US forces, and; 4) lands no longer needed must be returned and no new acquisitions made.[25] For the first time in the post-MTPJ period, the GRI, the shi-cho-son mayors and assemblies, community leaders, Tochiren, smaller grassroots organisations and unions, and the majority of the Okinawan people, stood in solidarity on the gunyochi problems. Thereafter, the push for a solution developed into a shima gurumi toso, or 'unified islandwide struggle.'[26]

Although the USG had no legal obligation to be remotely fair with Okinawans on land the problem had spiralled out of control and was getting difficult to keep quiet. Forced evictions and other base-related problems were being covered daily in the Asahi Shimbun and other Japanese newspapers. By mid-1955, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had begun examining US military practices in Okinawa. The situation was further inflamed by news of Secretary of the Army Stephen's testimony before the Senate on 17th May, outlining base construction plans toward Okinawa and Alaska. He stated the Army's intention to acquire an additional 12,000-acres of Okinawan land, taking the USG's total land holdings to over 52,000-acres, with a total budget of $30.5 million for FY 1956.[27] This shocked Okinawa into action, with all parties supporting the dispatch of a delegation to present the landowners case in Washington before the Armed Services Committee on 8th June, hopefully preventing the Army plan being approved in the upcoming legislative session.[28] In his testimony GRI Chief Executive (shuseki) Higa Shuhei emphasised three main points: 1) that whereas Okinawans might begrudgingly respect the USG's use of the 40,000-acres currently under its control, all opposed the Army plan to acquire another 12,000-acres; 2) the lump-sum payment should be rejected in favour of an annual rental system, and; 3) that accord should be reached on an appropriate way of determining the amount of payments.[29] During the two-week stay in the US meetings with Department of Defence (DoD) officials took place. Overall, at least according to press reports, DoD responses were evasive.[30] At the Pentagon, for example, Major General William F. Macart, Head of the Army's Civil and Military Affairs Section, asserted that the OED was responsible for land value appraisals rather than the top brass.[31] On 15th June, the Armed Services Committee sent its decision in a telegram to the GRI shuseki, Ryukyu Rippoin, and Tochiren. The lump-sum payment system was shelved, pending the findings of an Armed Services Committee military land survey team that was to be sent to Okinawa in the autumn. On new seizures, additional Marine Corps land requirements would be kept to "the bare minimum."[32]

Clearly contrary to this statement, USCAR land seizures were pushing north. On 22nd July 1955, notification of intent to acquire an additional 12,000-acres of land from the central island municipalities of Katsuren and Gushikawa, and the northern municipalities of Higashi, Kushi, Ginoza, Kunigami, Kin, and Nago was issued.[33] This would result in USCAR increasing its land holdings by almost 30% in one fell swoop. The problem, at least from USCAR's perspective, was that most training took place on land not under US control. Permission was sought from, and generally rubber-stamped by, the shi-cho-son mayors. Following an exercise a survey team would assess what damage had been done and pay compensation.[34] Yet the limitations of this essentially pay-as-you-go system were becoming apparent, especially with the relocation of most of the III Marine Division[35] from mainland Japan and its training requirements. On the other side, the prevailing spirit was still of resistance, reflected in adherence to the yongensoku. In Kin, on 23rd July, the Deputy Head of the Tochiren, Ikehara Shinzo, and 2,000 local landowners gathered at the Kin Elementary School for a shinki sesshu hantai, or 'Anti-New Land Requisition,' rally. Ikehara whipped the gathered into a lather, arguing that if the new USCAR land plan was added to what it already controlled, 80% of Kin's land would end up in US hands. This would involve the loss of "farmland and forests in Kin and Namisato, most of Nakagawa's arable land, and reacquisition of land in Yaka that has just been made suitable for farming."[36] Some felt Kin might suffer an Isahama kind of situation, with USCAR taking the land without consideration for the owner's rights. Others argued the situation might be bearable if USCAR suspended training on weekends to allow locals to gather timber and work the land.[37] Ultimately, the rally ended in defiant mood. The other northern municipalities affected by the arrival of the III Marine Division passed protest resolutions in their assemblies and began stirring up local support.[38]

[1] For the geopolitical context of the US base construction and modernisation programme in Okinawa in the post-MTPJ 1950's, see Chapters Three and Four of Miyasato Seigen's Amerika no Okinawa tochi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1966), 56-124. 

[2] CA Ordinance No. 109, 'Land Acquisition Procedure,' promulgated 3rd April 1953. Laws and Regulations During the US Administration of Okinawa, 49.

[3] Or namidakin (consolation money) as some would describe it. Miyasato Seigen Amerika no Okinawa tochi, 75.

[4] Appeals would be filed with the newly created United States Land Acquisition Commission for the Ryukyu Islands (established by Article 3, Ordinance No. 109. Ibid., 50). The three Commissioners were appointees of the Governor of the Ryukyus, representing the US Army, US Air Force, and USCAR. The Commission's decisions were final in all cases. Upon delivering a verdict, the Deputy Governor would send notification to the landowner(s), and to the OED which would then adjust the amount of money deposited at Ryukyu Ginko in the account of the landowner(s), with the GRI as its trustee. The landowner could file for compensation from a special account deposit of the Land Commission for loss of crops, tombs, structures, or other "improvements" on the lands acquired. The USG finally acquired the land by filing a 'Declaration of Taking,' under Article 2-a. Laws and Regulations During the US Administration of Okinawa, 49.

[5] By Kuwae Choko's account, there was a realisation that a fresh, enthusiastic individual was required to head the union given that protecting its member's interests would take it into direct confrontation with the USG. Probably the best account of the Tochiren's creation can be found in Kuwae Choko, Tsuchi ga aru, Ashita ga aru: Kuwae Choko kaikoroku (Naha: Okinawa Taimusu, 1991), 65-76. The Tochiren's opening statement of principles and a list of its representatives can be found in: Okinawa Taimusu, 17th June 1953. 

[6] While retaining the abbreviation Tochiren, the full name of the organisation changed after 1972 to the Okinawa-ken Gunyochito Jinushi Rengokai, or 'Okinawan Federation of Military Landowners.'

[7] CA Proclamation No. 26, 'Compensation for Use of Real Estate Within Military Areas,' of 5th December 1953. Laws and Regulations During the US Administration of Okinawa, 119. Those capable of reading both Japanese and English should consult documents in both languages in cases like Proclamation No. 26. Terms and difficult concepts are often not properly rendered in the Japanese text, leading one to wonder how local people ever managed to make sense of all the information. One might start by examining how concepts like 'eminent domain' and 'implied lease' were rendered in Japanese.

[8] The implied leases would continue until USCAR issued a 60-day notice of termination of interest. Article 3, Proclamation No. 26, Laws and Regulations During the US Administration of Okinawa, 120.

[9] Neither of the two official reports compiled in 1953 makes mention of how out of favour that year's land legislation was locally. See USCAR, Civil Affairs Activities in the Ryukyu Islands for the Period ending 30th June 1953, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Naha: USCAR), and Civil Affairs Activities in the Ryukyu Islands for the Period ending 31st December 1953, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Naha: USCAR).

[10] Miyasato Seigen Amerika no Okinawa tochi, 75.

[11] According to an USCAR report in December 1954, in the period from July 1953 to June 1954, almost all landowners took the 75% payment and filed appeal. The only landowners described as satisfied with the rate of USCAR compensation were the owners of "improvements." USCAR, Civil Affairs Activities in the Ryukyu Islands for the Period ending 31st December 1954, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Naha: USCAR), 53.

[12] By CA Ordinance No. 120, 'Compensation for Use of Real Estate Within Military Areas,' on 9th December 1953. Laws and Regulations During the US Administration of Okinawa, 193.

[13] USCAR, Civil Affairs Activities in the Ryukyu Islands for the Period ending 31st December 1953, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Naha: USCAR), 76. The Amami reversion reduced the property holding of the Ryukyu Property Custodian by 36 million-tsubo, to 118.4 million tsubo (almost 97,000-acres). Ibid., 78.

[14] Okinawa Taimusu, 9th January 1954, and Okinawa no fukki kiroku, 381. Space limitations prevent a discussion of a broad shift in US foreign and economic policy with the advent of the "New Look" Eisenhower Republican administration. In as much as affecting Okinawa, see Miyasato Seigen Amerika no Okinawa tochi, 83-91, for an economic and geopolitical precis, and Sengo Okinawa keizaishi, particularly Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight, for a full economic explanation.

[15] Kurima Yasuo, Aniya Masaaki and Keishun Gibe, Sengo Okinawa no rekishi, 133.

[16] Okinawa Taimusu, 19th April 1953. Much has been written about these bulldozer and bayonet point land seizures. For a local perspective see Ahagon Shoko's The Island Where People Live (Hong Kong: Christian Conference of Asia, 1989), a poignant account of the situation on Ie Island. Kurima Yasuo, Aniya Masaaki and Keishun Gibe's, Sengo Okinawa no rekishi, 132-155, is arguably the most people-oriented postwar history of Okinawa. Clearly, Kuwae Choko's Tsuchi ga aru, Ashita ga aru: Kuwae Choko kaikoroku, devotes much space to the 1950's gunyochi problem.

[17] Miyasato Seigen Amerika no Okinawa tochi, 76.

[18] On the notifications and tentative land to be expropriated see Okinawa Taimusu, 21st April 1953. Oroku Mayor Nagamine said USCAR intended to take 75% of the land under control. Local observers recall the arrival of around 300 rifle-carrying soldiers accompanied by bulldozers, the tearing down of their properties, and the silence of the US soldiers when asked why they had been dispatched to Oroku. Kurima Yasuo, Aniya Masaaki and Keishun Gibe, Sengo Okinawa no rekishi, 135. It would be an understatement to say USCAR played down the controversy, though in its final report of 1954 there was an admission that the "resettlement of those…whose movement was necessitated by US forces requirements continues to remain a major problem." USCAR, Civil Affairs Activities in the Ryukyu Islands for the Period ending 31st December 1954, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Naha: USCAR), 53.

[19] Okinawa Taimusu, 9th May 1953.

[20] Okinawa Taimusu, 10th October 1954. Forced evictions began in Ie in March 1955. Evictions at Ie and the small community of Isahama in Ginowan dominated the newspapers in early 1955.

[21] USCAR, Civil Affairs Activities in the Ryukyu Islands for the Period ending 31st December 1954, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Naha: USCAR), 53.

[22] Ryukyu Shimpo, 25th March 1954. By ikkatsu-barai the occupied land would be effectively bought (if, legally speaking, obtained on an unlimited lease) at 16.6 times the rental rate which stood at 6% of market value. The US Army's initial proposition was the measly figure of 1.08 B-yen per tsubo.

[23] Ryukyu Shimpo, 25th March 1954. See also Miyasato Seigen Amerika no Okinawa tochi, 78.

[24] Ryukyu Seifu Rippoin 'Gunyochi shori no kansuru seigen ketsugi,' 30th April 1954. Okinawa-ken Gunyochito Jinushikai Rengokai, Tochiren 30 nen no arumi - shiryohen (Naha: Tochiren 30 Shunen Kinenshi Henshu Iinkai, 1985), 475.

[25] Ibid., 475.

[26] Clearly, the gunyochi movement boosted the reversion to Japan movement, especially in the sense that if Okinawans became subject to the new Japanese Constitution they could not be easily stripped of their lands or denied basic human rights. The reversion to Japan movement was fundamentally rights-oriented, even if it superficially appeared culture-oriented. It was also the case that the GOJ had just introduced a new "capitalisation approach" legislation related to land use by the US military on the mainland that would see a landowner receive up to 80% of the assessed productive yield of the land. On this legislation see Higa Mikio, Politics and Parties in Postwar Okinawa (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1963), 44.

[27] Ryukyu Shimpo, 18th May 1955. See also: Kuwae Choko, Tsuchi ga aru, Ashita ga aru: Kuwae Choko kaikoroku, 76-87, and Miyasato Seigen, Amerika no Okinawa tochi, 92-93.

[28] This group, led by GRI shuseki Higa Shuhei, included Senaga Hiroshi of the GRI's Keizai Kikakubu (Economic Planning Section), Ryukyu Rippoin Land Committee Chairman Oyama Chojo, Nagamine Akio and Shinzato Ginzo, both members of the Ryukyu Rippoin, and Tochiren chairman, Kuwae Choko.

[29] Okinawa Taimusu, 9th June 1955.

[30] In more recent times, particularly under the administration of Governor Ota Masahide from 1990-1998, but also under Inamine Keiichi, regular trips to the US for the purpose of outlining Okinawa's base-related problems are conducted. Okinawans are almost always met by second-string USG officials who spout nothing but party line on policy. Only at such times when a major incident has occurred, as with the recent rape incident involving a US Airman in Chatan Town, does the USG bring out the top brass. Governor Inamine recently found himself 'bumping into' Secretary of State Colin Powell.

[31] Okinawa Taimusu, 2nd June 1955. Macart testified before the Armed Services Committee, arguing against the Okinawan position. Ryukyu Rippoin and Okinawa Shakai Taishuto (Okinawa Socialist Masses Party) member Oyama Chojo sent Macart a 10-point list of base-related problems on 22nd June 1955. Of interest is Oyama's assertion that since the USG was not prepared to compensate for losses to the landowner resulting from base construction prior to the MTPJ in April 1952, the USG should allow Okinawans to claim damages from the GOJ. Pre-MTPJ damage payments was a major issue for Kin landowners given the area of land seized during and after W.W.II. Okinawa Taimusu, 23rd June 1955. Kuwae Choko of the Tochiren campaigned tirelessly on the pre-MTPJ issue, opening discussions with the Nihon Seifu Nampo Renraku Jimusho, or Nanren (a GOJ liaison office under the Sorifu, or Prime Minister's Office, set up on 14th April 1952 to deal with trade and travel issues. See Okinawa fukki ni kiroku, 361-362.) in July.

[32] Ryukyu Shimpo, 15th June 1955.

[33] Okinawa Taimusu, 22nd July 1955.

[34] Surely even a neutral would agree that this was a somewhat strange way for the US military to be conducting exercises.

[35] Minus one regiment. USCAR, Civil Affairs Activities in the Ryukyu Islands for the Period ending 31st December 1955, Vol. 3, No. 2, (Naha: USCAR, 1955), 75.

[36] Ryukyu Shimpo, 24th July 1955.

[37] Ryukyu Shimpo, 24th July 1955.

[38] Coverage of protest in Ginoza Village and Kushi Village can be found in local newspapers from 26th July (Ryukyu Shimpo). Coverage of Kunigami Village and Higashi Village begins on 28th July (Okinawa Taimusu) and 6th August (Ryukyu Shimpo), respectively.



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