A graduate student from Okinawa who studied in the United States once told fellow students at a seminar about the high incidence of sex crimes by U.S. servicemen stationed in Okinawa.
Others scoffed, saying such crimes are an everyday occurrence in New York. That's not the same, the student replied, and explained the situation in Okinawa.
"In New York, the offender who is caught must be criminally punished. But American servicemen who commit a crime can avoid that. All it takes is for them to run off to a military base," the student said.
Even recently, the rate of indictment has remained low. It's fair to say that Okinawa is a place shaking with rage. Crime is not the only problem. There is also the confiscation of land, military aircraft crashes and the threat of war. The presence of U.S. military bases hangs over Okinawa like a heavy cloud.
Over the weekend, Okinawans rallied to protest the deployment of U.S. Osprey aircraft.
"Okinawa’s blue sky belongs to neither the United States nor the Japanese government. It belongs to us, the people of Okinawa," said a female university student, addressing the crowd from a podium.
Some people must have recalled a similar image 17 years ago, when another girl delivered a speech at a similar event.
In 1995, an elementary school girl was abducted and raped by three U.S. servicemen in Okinawa. At a rally protesting the incident, a female senior high school student spoke: "Please give us back a quiet Okinawa. Please give us back a peaceful island with no military presence and no tragedies."
Although 17 years have passed, the excruciating reality remains unchanged. It continues to distress the prefecture.
Japan's Defense Ministry has addressed the Osprey's record of crashes, which have occurred one after another, in Morocco and elsewhere. It released an analysis which practically mirrored a U.S. report. It attributed the accidents to pilot error, saying nothing was wrong with the aircraft.
Many people think the Japanese government, as expected, simply accepted the U.S. explanation without question.
As long as the government remains a messenger of the United States, Okinawa's burden will not lighten. Instead, the government should turn its eye to Okinawa and speak up to the United States. At the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, military aircraft continue to buzz over residential areas as always, showing their fat bellies.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 12
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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