American Occupation Casts Long Shadows Over Okinawa

By Michelle Chen Jun 01, 2010

On Memorial Day, America honored its war dead. Across the Pacific Ocean, the ghosts of war continue to haunt the coastline of Japan, now awash in political angst over the military base on the island of Okinawa. Last week, the Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama apologized profusely to the public for reneging on his earlier commitment to shut down the U.S. military base on the small island. For years, local communities have grown increasingly frustrated and disgusted with the legacy of the postwar American occupation. The noise disruption and fears of violence and crime related to the base have strained the relationship between service members and the civilians whose land has been taken over in the name of security. After months of campaigning and massive protest, public opinion about Japan’s conciliatory posture toward the U.S. (no doubt influenced by tensions surrounding North and South Korea) has been unforgiving, in large part because Hatoyama campaigned on a promise of removing the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the island.