I am in Okinawa right now and it has been a whirlwind of a trip to say the least. With the help of my friend Shinako Oyakawa, I’ve been able to conducted more than a dozen interviews with various activists in two islands, the main island of Okinawa and Ishigaki part of the Yaeyama Islands to the south. The high point of the week was when I got to sit down and talk to former Governor of Okinawa Masahide Ota. He was governor of the islands when the infamous rape of a 12 year girl by three American servicemen took place, sparking close to 100,000 to march in protest. He has been a staunch critic of the US bases in Okinawa even long after leaving public office. Here is a quote from him (through an interpreter) to give you a sense of his philosophy and why his voice has been so important.
What can Okinawa be proud of? If Okinawa can boast of one thing to other prefectures it is our strong desire for peace. In Okinawa there is a saying that we have passed down for generations: You can sleep well if you are hurt by others, but if you hurt someone you cannot sleep. When you have military bases on your land, even if you yourself are not harmed, US soldiers go to other countries from your doorstep and kill innocent civilians. And that has caused heartache for a great number of people here…When I draw up a vision for Okinawa’s future. I want it to be a peaceful society without military bases. Where people are not involved in killing even if people are not so well off financially…Thinking over Okinawa’s future, I believe that the desire for peace is the most important thing in the creation of an ideal Okinawa.
If men such as this, who have this type of vision can be elected for office anywhere, then it means there is hope for mankind. His vision of peace is both realistic and ideal. The way that he acknowledges that taking the route of peace may mean less money for Okinawa, but that the life you would lead would be worth the tradeoff is inspiring. He is not someone who dreams of peace to dream because they are dissatisfied with the world around them. He dreams of peace in order to change his society and change the world around him.