by: Buddy Bell on October 28th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
For the last week, I’ve been walking on a peace march organized by the Nipponzan Myohoji order of Buddhist monks. This march is similar in some ways to another: the Okinawa “Beggars’ March” of 1955-1956. At that time, farmers who had been forcefully removed from their fields by U.S. soldiers in the years following World War II acted peacefully to demand the return of their land, which was the source of their entire livelihood.
Some of the farmers had their land stolen at gunpoint. In other cases, U.S. soldiers posing as surveyors duped them into signing English land-transfer documents that were passed off as invoices for the false land surveys.
Although the marchers bravely challenged local stigma against announcing oneself as a beggar, and although it was true that except for the fact that their land was stolen, these people would not need to beg, the U.S. military commander deemed them Communists and dismissed their concerns outright. The military refused to consider the issue of its hostile occupation of otherwise productive land.
The 32 U.S. bases now operating in Okinawa share a foundation in that initial land grab. Together, they comprise 17% of Okinawa prefecture. Nowadays, the Japanese government’s habit has been to forcefully borrow people’s land at a set rental price; then they let the U.S. military use that land for free.
All of this land area could otherwise be used for the prosperity of local communities in Okinawa. To quote one example, after the return of some land to the Shintoshin district of Naha, Okinawa’s capital city, the district’s productivity went up by a factor of 32. This is according to the September 19 issue of a local newspaper, Ryukyu Shimpo.