There is a tree in Okinawa that grows to the sounds of people's grief and tears, the poet Baku Yamanokuchi (1903-1963), a native of Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, wrote.
Let me quote a verse from his poem "Yo wa Samazama" (There are all kinds that make up society): "As a tree, it is not good-looking but it is like a poet/ It always stands by a graveyard/ People go there and break down in tears/ They say it grows with sad voices and tears."
The Okinawan tree the poet imagined must have also absorbed a sea of tears shed by victims of sex crimes.
The victim of the 1955 "Yumiko-chan incident," which enraged Okinawans, was only 6 years old. The body of the girl, who was raped by an American serviceman, is said to have been found with her fists clenched on a beach hit by rain. It is only one of the countless sex crimes on the island, which has many U.S. military bases.
In many cases, Japan’s judicial power could not be exercised. The situation forced Okinawans to put up with two levels of humiliation and anger. There is no way Satoshi Tanaka, director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, was unaware of this fact. During a drinking session with reporters, he reportedly asked: "Would you say 'I will rape you' before you rape someone?" in response to a question about the timing of submission of the government's environment assessment report on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.
How could he use such words? I am only guessing, but such comparisons must often be used among officials when they talk privately. The arrogance of using such vulgar language with reference to the relationship between Okinawa and the government is an affront not only to Okinawans but also to the people on the mainland who sympathize with them.
During the early Meiji Era (1868-1912), Japan annexed the Ryukyus. Japan’s imperialist policy hit Okinawa like a surging wave. Some people may connect the abusive language of the elite bureaucrat with that history of intrusion. In the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, the island prefecture was shattered.
In another poem, Yamanokuchi likened the island of U.S. bases to an unsinkable aircraft carrier and grieved: "Soon, as Okinawa got over the ravages of war/ Dragging its banged-up body/ It somehow survived/ And became unsinkable aircraft carrier Okinawa."
Sixty-six years have passed since the end of the war. We can no longer turn the other way and force Okinawa to put up with its burden.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 1
- « Prev
- Next »