News Archive
Apr 28, 2014 - Peace Boat joins local opposition to new military base construction in Okinawa
Hundreds of people congregated on the beach of Henoko to show their continued resolve to keep the area free of new military base construction
April of 2014 marked 10 years since the start of a grassroots protest against the construction of a new military base in Henoko, Okinawa. The governments of the United States and Japan want to "relocate" the U.S. Futenma Air Base from Ginowan City, Okinawa to Henoko in Nago City, Okinawa. However, from the outset this plan has received strong opposition from the local community, and to date the authorities remain unable to start construction work. Residents of Nago City oppose the project because it entails vast environmental destruction, loss of safety, loss of access to their ancestral land and water, intense noise pollution, and the likely use of their hometown to launch attacks on other countries not at war with Japan.

Peace Boat participants ready to go out on the clear blue waters of Henoko
Coinciding with this 10 year anniversary, Peace Boat participants visited Henoko as part of our Henoko project. Bottles of Okinawan traditional rice wine called Awamori had been submerged to the bottom of Oura Bay in Henoko for one year, and was time to retrieve them. Every retrieval of the bottles marks another year in which the U.S.-Japan plan to fill in a vast swathe of the bay with cement in order to construct a new military base has been successfully postponed by opposition efforts.

Peace Boat participants clean the bottles of Awamori that have been brought up from the bottom of Oura Bay.
The taste of the Awamori wine is enhanced as it matures under the clear blue waters of the bay, and at the same time each bottle represents a shared wish that the beautiful waters of Henoko will be protected as a peaceful haven for rare coral and marine species, including the endangered Okinawan Dugong.

From Kakazu Hill, you can view Futenma Air Base and witness its close proximity to residential areas and schools
Participants also traveled to Ginowan city and climbed to a lookout point where they could observe the U.S. military Futenma Air Base. They were shocked to see the base's proximity to not only local homes, but also to many schools and public facilities such as hospitals and libraries. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described it as the "world's most dangerous base," and Futenma is notorious for its long list of problems.

Protestors gather on Henoko Beach
Everyone, including those who oppose the Henoko base, are in favor of closing Futenma Air Base. However the U.S.-Japan plan to "relocate" the functions of Futenma to Henoko will only shift the problems from Ginowan City to another part of Okinawa, and cause an enormous amount of environmental destruction in the process.

From a lookout point dubbed "Dugong Hill", the sea unfolds toward Henoko
The proposed base will not only cause extensive damage to coral reefs and marine life, it will also threaten the very existence of the dugong in Okinawa. The dugong is a large sea mammal the feeds on the sea grass that grows in the shallow waters around Henoko. Without this feeding ground, it is projected that the dugong will become extinct from Okinawa.

Seventy four percent of all US military bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa and take up 20 percent of the island, although Okinawa is only 0.6 percent of Japan's total national territory. This excessive burden is damaging the biodiversity of the island and threatening the lives and safety of the people who live there. While local residents frequently speak out against this injustice, the rest of Japan and the world must also face this issue in order for a long term resolution to be found.

This project is one of several Peace Boat initiatives to promote peace and sustainability in Okinawa.

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