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6. The Price Recommendations and the Unravelling of an Alliance

In October 1955, as promised, Congress dispatched a Special Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee chaired by Illinois Democrat Charles Melvin Price to investigate conditions in Okinawa. The group flew into Kadena from Korea on 23rd October to hold hearings at the USCAR offices in Naha and conduct field trips to base areas[1] before flying to Hong Kong. Given the shortness of the visit only limited oral testimony could be accepted. Those invited included Higa Shuhei, Senaga Hiroshi, Kuwae Choko, GRI Legal Affairs Bureau Chief Makiya Saneo, Ryukyu Rippoin Land Committee Chairman Oyama Chojo, Ryukyu Rippoin Speaker Ohama, and Shi-cho-son Mayor's Association Land Board Chairman Higa Shusei.[2] All others had to submit written evidence. On the first day, 24th October, Higa Shuhei raised the issue of public forests that fell within military-occupied land and the problem of people being able to fell timber and have continued access. Whereas Higa's testimony reflected the practical and economic needs of local people to access forests, however, O. C. Fisher, a Texas Democrat, insisted on elevating the "freedom" issue to a global level, arguing that it was precisely because the US was protecting freedom in its opposition to Communism that bases were required in Okinawa.[3] It was not an auspicious start.[4] On 25th October, Kuwae and Oyama testified. Kuwae focused on the lack of equitableness in the OED's rent payment-compensation system by pointing to large disparities in money received on lands in the Oyama district of Ginowan, and arguing vehemently against the lump-sum payment.[5] Oyama pointed out that the US occupied 12.7% of Okinawa's land, dispossessing 50,000 families (displacing 250,000 people), often with the use of force as at Isahama, in the process, and paying them paltry compensation. The USG must, he argued, renounce the idea of further land seizures.[6]

Mayor Okuma Seitoku[7] supplied the Special Subcommittee with a four-page letter outlining Kin's problems. The requisition of land for the live-fire and manoeuvre area began in May of 1945, the letter states, with the total land area under US control reaching 6,127,016-tsubo.[8] This constituted almost 55% of Kin's land.[9] Okuma's first concern was the issue of forests. The US had taken two-thirds of all Kin's forests within the live-fire and manoeuvre area. US Army and Navy bombardment had already obliterated or burned down 267,300-tsubo of forestland (6% of the total). Such violent deforestation led in some cases to riverbanks bursting in heavy rains, flooding fields, and leading to crop damage or ruin. The forest was also vital to Kin's economy. Many families who were dependent on the sale of timber and firewood prior to W.W.II were now prohibited from entering much forest land, as were those who needed firewood, zebra grass, bamboo, compost, or logs for home use. In terms of cash losses the figures were compelling. In the prewar period, and on average, Kin gathered 300,000 bundles of firewood annually at a total value of 1.2 million-yen, compared with 62,000 bundles valued at 248,000-yen in 1953. This constituted an 80% loss.[10] Another issue was the loss of cultivatable land. Almost 62% of arable land in the Kin district of Kin fell inside the manoeuvre area, limiting agricultural activities. Some farmers got tacit permission from the US military to continue working the land, but others had to eke out a living as best they could. Indeed, a big issue within Kin was the inequity of seizures, with some people able to claim military rentals and profit from the land while others lost land with no compensation or, at best, a paltry amount. Okuma also drew attention to the loss of a vital water resource. A reservoir had been built to serve Kin in 1933, at the then princely sum of 120,000-yen. That this reservoir now fell in the manoeuvre area was not in itself problematic. Unfortunately, military training has resulted in damage, with 3,500 villagers now suffering from "want of water."[11] The USG would have to make provisions for the civilian community if it intended to continue such training in proximity to the reservoir.[12]

The main findings of the Special Subcommittee, commonly called the puraisu kankoku, or 'Price Recommendations,'[13] were made public on 9th June 1956.[14] Given the sense of hope that the USG would take a sympathetic approach and the fact that the yongensoku had come to so embody Okinawa's demands, disappointment followed by anger describes the local reaction. It would be difficult to count the rallies that took place islandwide in the wake of the announcement, making the Price Recommendations among the most reviled policies of the USG in Okinawa in the occupation period. At the same time, and because of this controversy, the report is arguably one of the least read documents related to Okinawa. From the local perspective, that it upheld lump-sum payment and the acquisition of new land for the Marines, albeit with a caveat that it be kept "to an absolute minimum,"[15] was enough for most to venomously denounce the Price Report. Higa Shuhei sent a telegram to President Eisenhower and other USG departments urging reconsideration of the lump-sum and fresh acquisitions.[16] The Ryukyu Rippoin passed a resolution in an emergency session, sending a telegram requesting assistance to the Prime Minister's Office (Sorifu) and the Foreign Affairs Ministry (Gaimusho) of the GOJ.[17] In response, the mainland Jiyu Minshuto, or Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), recommended establishment of a non-governmental relief organisation.[18] On 20th June, mass rallies (jumin taikai) were held in 56 shi-cho-son with 200,000 participants.[19] In Kin, 2,000 people gathered at the elementary school to hear Asato Tsumichiyo of the Okinawa Shakai Taishuto, or Socialist Masses Party, defend the yongensoku.[20] Understandably, amid the chaos, the more positive aspects of the Price Report went largely unnoticed, including a 200-300% boost in rent payments, the OED allowed both greater flexibility in overall land rental appraisals[21] and in taking account of agricultural productivity in assessing rents on arable land. The report also showed that Higa Shuhei and Kin Mayor Okuma Seitoku's views had not been ignored. It pushed for the release of unused arable land within base confines, the extension of tacit farming of on-base arable lands where efficacious, and that USCAR permit maximum use of forests by villagers on a sympathetic and cooperative basis.[22]

Most revealing, however, was the Special Subcommittee's overall critique of the Okinawan view that a landowner should receive close to 80% of the gross estimated income of the land in rental payments. The pertinent section was more prophetic than Mr. Price or the Subcommittee could possibly have imagined, forewarning of a flawed payment system that would materialise and persist after reversion to Japan in 1972. As such, it warrants quoting at some length. 

"It is…difficult…to understand…how such an extreme request could be made. In effect, the request means that if an Okinawan owned a piece of…land which is now needed…our Government should support that individual, and possibly his heirs, in the same manner and fashion as though he were spending long and arduous hours of work and accepting the hazards of nature throughout each year. This proposal transcends any socialistic theory of compensation with which the members of this subcommittee are familiar. Nothing could be more degenerating to the landowner or less fair to the…taxpayer. It would create a group of what might be called "landed gentry" inasmuch as the dispossessed landowner would…receive, without the expenditure of any labour, the equivalent of his total land productivity. It is not inconceivable either that adoption of this plan would create an inflationary spiral to the detriment of the Ryukyu people and particularly those who would not be receiving this large annual rental."[23]

Although the Price Report furore dominated local newspapers the yongensoku movement was losing steam fast. And while not triumphant on all counts, hiked rents, recognition that land values fluctuate, commitment to an expansion of cultivatable land, villager access to forests, and support for tacit farming, led many landowners to believe that this was as far as the USG would go. This view was mirrored in political circles. At the 3rd Legislative elections on 11th March 1956, the right-leaning Ryukyu Minshuto (Ryukyu Democratic Party), headed by USCAR-appointee Higa Shuhei, won its first clear majority.[24] While there had been cross-party unity on the yongensoku up to that point, however, at a Ryukyu Minshuto rally on 16th July 1956, Higa shifted stance. His new position was that while respecting the diverse opinions on military issues in his Minshuto and amongst the Okinawan people, as Chief Executive he had to situate himself between the various factions.[25] With Higa's sudden death on 25th October, at the age of 55, USCAR named Naha Mayor Toma Jugo as his successor. While Toma was independent, his appointment was probably not divorced from his statement in an interview with Peter Point of Columbia Broadcasting in July that "if the USG did not take permanent ownership of land; if it approved appropriate compensation, and if the policy did not produce damaging economic fluctuations in Okinawa, there would likely be no opposition to lump-sum payments."[26] With fresh USCAR land seizures on the horizon many landowners accepted the inevitability of loss but would logically try to obtain as much as possible in return. The economic dimension was driven home by an 'off-limits' directive issued to all US military personnel on 7th August. Ostensibly to prevent civil-military friction escalating in the wake of the Price Report US troops on Okinawa were prohibited from patronising off-base facilities in a large central island zone stretching from Yaka in Kin to Nakadomari furthest south, cutting off the flow of dollars to bars, restaurants, and retailers in one fell swoop.[27] It was a crude weapon, but one that succeeded in making the point that while Okinawa may not like US bases, the economy could not do without them. Not quite America's finest hour.

[1] According to the itinerary the group would take field trips to Kadena Air Base, a Marine Corps unit at Noborikawa, White Beach, and the municipalities of Ginowan, Chatan, Ginoza, Oroku, Nishihara, Misato, and Katsuren. Ryukyu Shimpo, 24th October 1955.

[2] Ryukyu Shimpo, 25th October 1955.

[3] Ryukyu Shimpo, 25th October 1955.

[4] The first day also included a discussion on the amount of land under cultivation in Okinawa and the amount of cultivatable land within the US base confines that locals are either farming with tacit permission or prohibited from entering. According to Senaga's testimony 17,538-acres of cultivatable land (both paddy land and dry farmland) sat within the confines of bases. Annually, Okinawa received a total of 5,672,183-B-Yen in compensation. It was established that one acre of arable land was worth about $300 annually, and uncultivated land about $100 per acre. In terms of pre- and postwar, Senaga stated that in 1938, some 103,302-acres was under cultivation, but in 1954, just 61,898-acres. Senaga pointed out that not all of the differential 41,404-acres now fell inside bases. Of the 40,000-acres or so now occupied by US forces about 17,500-acres is cultivatable, with the remaining 25,000-acres being of various land grade types, some potentially arable. When asked by Melvin Price how much of the 17,500-acres of on-base arable land was currently under cultivation by Okinawans under tacit USCAR approval, Senaga answered "about half of it." Senaga gave his testimony in English. Ryukyu Shimpo, 25th October 1955.

[5] Delivered in an 8-point list, though not every point pertains to the lump-sum system. Summarised, it reads as follows: 1) while USCAR envisaged the lump-sum payment facilitating the relocation of dispossessed landowners, the allocated areas in Yaeyama and in other parts of Okinawa are insufficient for the large number of families involved; 2) that if the USG sees the lump-sum payment as the cheapest option for securing the lands, surely this suggests that the landowner will also be receiving less; 3) that an annual payment system better reflects the way land values fluctuate; 4) that the OED's appraisals are too low; 5) that to sell one's land in Okinawa is a breach of faith with one's ancestors who intended the land to remain within the family in perpetuity; 6) that for Okinawans there is a spiritual bond between them and the land; 7) that the amount of the lump-sum payment is insufficient to allow the landowner to obtain another piece of land or move into a different line of work, and; 8) that if the USG is not prepared to compensate landowners for losses prior to the MTPJ, Okinawans should be allowed to claim damages from the GOJ. Ryukyu Shimpo, 26th October 1955. 

[6] Ryukyu Shimpo, 26th October 1955.

[7] Okuma Seitoku was the 16th Mayor of Kin Village. His term of office ran from 1952-1956.

[8] Of which 197,886-tsubo is paddy field, 436,505-tsubo is dry farm, 4,450,279-tsubo of forest, 910,890-tsubo of uncultivated land, 15,614-tsubo of building lot, and other lands of various types covering 115,842-tsubo. 'Letter from Kin-son Mayor Okuma Seitoku. To: the Members of the House Armed Services Subcommittee. Subject: Actual Condition of the Damage on the Land in Kin-son Caused by the Manoeuvre of the US Military as well as Petition for Compensation for the Damage,' dated 22nd October 1955. RG: Fukki mae shiryo: gunyochi kankei (Kikaku Kaihatsuka). FT: Beigun enshu kyoka tojiri (Kin-son Yakusho), Kin-cho Shihensan.

[9] Of 11,204,842-tsubo. Ibid.

[10] The letter provides prewar and postwar breakdowns per category, but is not qualified by reference to other sources. Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] When USCAR finally got around to investigating the loss of water claims it was determined that since it fell in the pre-MTPJ period category no compensation recommendations could be made. USCAR, Civil Affairs Activities in the Ryukyu Islands for the Period ending 31st March 1960, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Naha: USCAR, 1960), 36.

[13] This, or 'Price Report,' are common abbreviations. In full: US Congress, House of Representatives, Report of a Special Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, House of Representatives, Following an Inspection Tour from 14th October to 23rd November, 1955. (Washington, DC: US GPO, 1956), 7651-7667. For a partial Japanese translation see Okinawa fukki ni kiroku, 617-621. 

[14] High Commissioner Lieutenant General James E. Moore announced the findings directly to Chief Executive Higa Shuhei. Ryukyu Shimpo, 9th June 1956.

[15] US Congress, House of Representatives, Report of a Special Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, House of Representatives, Ibid., 7667.

[16] Okinawa Taimusu, 13th June 1956. Eisenhower replied by telegram to Higa Shuhei in early-July, stating that he had given serious consideration to Higa's concerns but felt that the Price Report was in the main a constructive document. He promised to try to improve the economic and social welfare of the Okinawan people. Okinawa Taimusu, 7th July 1956.

[17] Ryukyu Seifu Rippoin, 'Nihon Seifu ni taisuru yoboketsugi,' 12th June 1955. Tochiren 30 nen no arumi - shiryohen, 494. As previously mentioned, there was a distinct shift on the part of Okinawa's landowners and their advocates in terms of how to settle the gunyochi problem once the yongensoku movement started to visibly falter. From mid-1956, once the assistance of the GOJ was requested, the landowners began arguing that from a legal standpoint long-term US acquisition of Okinawan lands surely infringed upon Japan's sovereignty, albeit dormant, of the islands. Once the settlement of the gunyochi issue increasingly involved the GOJ, and given that the mainland Japanese press was all over the story, there was a boost for the movement for reversion to Japan which was predominantly rights-oriented. This avenue of attack was more fruitful after December 1956, when Japan became a member of the UN, effectively wiping out the possibility of the US getting trusteeship of Okinawa. As Article 78 of the UN Charter states that: "The trusteeship system shall not apply to territories which have become Members of the United Nations, relationship among which shall be based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality." The United Nations Association of Japan, A Concise Guide to the United Nations (Tokyo: United Nations Association of Japan, 1990), 118. As Higa Mikio has written of this period in the land dispute, however, there evolved some confusion surrounding the precise language used in USCAR legislation. Whereas USCAR preferred the term "indefinite" to describe long-term land acquisition, translators were inclined to translate this into Japanese as "permanent." To be fair, USCAR used the term "permanent" more than liberally in earlier legislation, and seems to have shifted in light of the controversy surrounding land seizures in 1953 and 1954. But the gulf between the two words in terms of meaning, of course, is huge. Higa outlines the difference with reference to an anecdote. When asked what the difference was a member of the Land Acquisition Commission replied: "marriage may be indefinite, but death is permanent." Higa Mikio, Politics and Parties in Postwar Okinawa, 54 (footnote no. 67). 

[18] On 1st September 1957, the Nampo Doho Engokai (Relief Organisation for Our Compatriots in the Southern Areas) was established. Given that GOJ interference in Okinawan affairs was not permitted by caution had to be taken. As such, the remit of the Nampo Doho Engokai was very broadly to assist the welfare of those living in former Japanese territories, including Okinawa, the Bonins, and the Kuriles to the north. The Nampo Doho Engokai was supported by GOJ and non-governmental funding.

[19] Which constituted approximately one-quarter of the total population of the occupied Ryukyus. Ryukyu Shimpo, 21st June 1956.

[20] Ryukyu Shimpo, 21st June 1956.

[21] The first verdict of the US Land Acquisition Commission for the Ryukyus under this new appraisal method related to land in Yomitan Village on 12th June 1956. The OED had shifted the fee value of the land up from 6% to 11%, resulting in these healthy increases in rental payments. In addition, in this area USCAR promulgated CA Proclamation No. 33, 'Amending Civil Administration Proclamation No. 26 "Compensation for Use of Real Estate Within Military Areas,"' on 10th July 1956, which allowed the OED to take account of fluctuations in land value when appraising rental payments. Tochiren 30 nen no arumi - shiryohen, 187-188.

[22] US Congress, House of Representatives, Report of a Special Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, House of Representatives, Ibid., 7667.

[23] Ibid., 7659.

[24] The breakdown in the 29 districts was as follows: the conservative Ryukyu Minshuto 15 seats (56.9% of the popular vote), the centre-left Okinawa Shakai Taishuto 8 seats (21.8%), the extreme-left Okinawa Jinminto 1 seat (4.4%), and 5 seats to independents (16.9%), two of whom beat Minshuto candidates. Nakano Yoshio, editor., Sengo shiryo Okinawa (Tokyo: Nihon Hyoron Sha, 1969), 749. US DoS analysis points to disorganisation amongst the opposition parties as the cause for the Minshuto victory rather than a sudden acceptance of USCAR and its military base policies. US DoS, Office of Intelligence Research, 'Significance of the 1956 Legislative Elections in the Ryukyu Islands,' Intelligence Report 7239 (4th May 1956), 1.

[25] This was Higa's so-called kansho chitairon, or 'buffer zone' argument. Given Higa's previously high profile arguing for the yongensoku there were calls for his resignation. On the 'buffer zone' theory see Miyasato Seigen, Amerika no Okinawa tochi, 101-102, and local newspapers in the following days.

[26] Okinawa Taimusu, 19th July 1956.

[27] In addition to local newspapers for August see Miyasato Seigen, Amerika no Okinawa tochi, 103, and Senaga Kamejiro, Okinawa kara no hokoku (Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho, 1959), 189-197.


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