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Resistant Islands offers a comprehensive overview of Okinawan history over half a millennium from the Ryukyu Kingdom to the present, focusing especially on the colonization by Japan, the islands' disastrous fate during World War II, and their subsequent and continuing subordination to US military purpose. Adopting a people-centered view of Japan's post Cold War history and Resistant Islands offers a comprehensive overview of Okinawan history over half a millennium from the Ryukyu Kingdom to the present, focusing especially on the colonization by Japan, the islands' disastrous fate during World War II, and their subsequent and continuing subordination to US military purpose. Adopting a people-centered view of Japan's post Cold War history and the US-Japan relationship, the authors focus on the fifteen-year Okinawan struggle to secure the return of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, situated in the middle of a bustling residential area, from US to Okinawan control. They also highlight the Okinawan resistance to the US and Japanese governments' plan to build a substitute new base at Henoko, on the environmentally sensitive northeastern shore of Okinawa. Forty years after Okinawa's belated "return" to Japan from direct US rule, its people reject the ongoing military role assigned their islands, under which they are required to continue to attach priority to US strategy. In a persistent and deepening resistance without precedent in Japan's modern history, a peripheral and oppressed region stands up against the central government and its global superpower ally. One recent prime minister who tried to meet key Okinawan demands was brought down by bureaucratic and political pressure from Tokyo and Washington. His successors struggle in vain to find a formula that will allow them to meet US demands but also assuage Okinawan anger. Okinawa becomes a beacon of citizen democracy as its struggles raise key issues about popular sovereignty, democracy and human rights, and the future of Japan and the Asia-Pacific.


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Resistant Islands offers a comprehensive overview of Okinawan history over half a millennium from the Ryukyu Kingdom to the present, focusing especially on the colonization by Japan, the islands' disastrous fate during World War II, and their subsequent and continuing subordination to US military purpose. Adopting a people-centered view of Japan's post Cold War history and Resistant Islands offers a comprehensive overview of Okinawan history over half a millennium from the Ryukyu Kingdom to the present, focusing especially on the colonization by Japan, the islands' disastrous fate during World War II, and their subsequent and continuing subordination to US military purpose. Adopting a people-centered view of Japan's post Cold War history and the US-Japan relationship, the authors focus on the fifteen-year Okinawan struggle to secure the return of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, situated in the middle of a bustling residential area, from US to Okinawan control. They also highlight the Okinawan resistance to the US and Japanese governments' plan to build a substitute new base at Henoko, on the environmentally sensitive northeastern shore of Okinawa. Forty years after Okinawa's belated "return" to Japan from direct US rule, its people reject the ongoing military role assigned their islands, under which they are required to continue to attach priority to US strategy. In a persistent and deepening resistance without precedent in Japan's modern history, a peripheral and oppressed region stands up against the central government and its global superpower ally. One recent prime minister who tried to meet key Okinawan demands was brought down by bureaucratic and political pressure from Tokyo and Washington. His successors struggle in vain to find a formula that will allow them to meet US demands but also assuage Okinawan anger. Okinawa becomes a beacon of citizen democracy as its struggles raise key issues about popular sovereignty, democracy and human rights, and the future of Japan and the Asia-Pacific.

39 review for Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    This book requires a gut reaction, because reading it will tell you what you really think about democracy today. The small chain of islands south of Japan, once an independent kingdom, now subject to control by two of the largest economies on the planet, is "a model of democracy in action without peer in East Asia and few parallels globally." (p. 272) There are still many individuals living in Okinawa today who well remember what it was like in 1945 trapped between the Japanese Imperial Army in This book requires a gut reaction, because reading it will tell you what you really think about democracy today. The small chain of islands south of Japan, once an independent kingdom, now subject to control by two of the largest economies on the planet, is "a model of democracy in action without peer in East Asia and few parallels globally." (p. 272) There are still many individuals living in Okinawa today who well remember what it was like in 1945 trapped between the Japanese Imperial Army in retreat and the invading American forces - the book touches upon without sensationalism the mass suicides ordered, families hidden in caves, the horrors which took place inside. The U.S. took over and have never left. One of the greatest things about this book is how it demonstrates that the Japanese government today is no more than a client state of America. With absurd logic Japanese taxpayers are paying the American military to stay on its bases. From here much of the Vietnam war was launched. It will cost American taxpayers far too much money to move the bases elsewhere, therefore the Japanese must foot the bill; the Okinawans don't want them there. There was the 1995 gang rape of a 12 year old girl, for one. There was the 2004 helicopter crash into Okinawa International University. There have been "nearly 10,000 U.S. military-related crimes and accidents, including 2,588 traffic accidents, 1,545 military accidents (506 caused by military aircraft), and 5,705 crimes (10 percent of them serious ones such as murder, rape, robbery, and arson)." (p. 173) But to do anything about this Okinawans have to face down two of the world's most powerful governments. Japan cannot upset its greatest ally, America; knowing this the American government can dictate what it demands; understandably this loss of sovereignty fires up nationalist sentiment of the Japanese conservatives; meanwhile the democratic voice of Okinawa is suppressed or ignored to keep the allies in balance. (Co-author Norimatsu Satoko, Peace Philosophy Centre, Vancouver) I first heard about the nature of the Okinawan struggle in December 2010 when reading the Asia-Pacific Journal for which Gavan McCormack and Norimatsu Satoko writes. Then, as part of the Okinawan resistance movement, a group had decided to protest peacefully in tents, the Takae sit-in deep in a forest. This was scattered by a U.S. helicopter hovering just 15 meters above the sit-in early morning in an apparently deliberate act of intimidation. Residents protested "but were told only that the U.S. military had not confirmed any such incident." Obviously one shouldn't take on face value what any American government official has to say. Because in that same month the Department of State's Senior Japan Specialist Kevin Maher, thus a direct adviser to Hillary Clinton, "met to brief a group of American University students on the eve of their visit to Japan." Like good students these students took notes. Maher's racist comments, revealing what America's high government officials really think of their greatest ally, was soon major news: Okinawans are lazy, "masters of manipulation," who like to extort Tokyo. They have darker skin and are actually shorter than most Japanese; in a way they are like Puerto Ricans. All they care about is money. But you know those Japanese, they don't have individuality like we do. This benign racism is reflected in major American publishers and mainstream reviews. A piece of trash published this year on the March 2011 tsunami and its aftermath, which I won't dignify by referring to its name, actually has this caption to one of its photos: "Foot onsen at a railway station in Kyushu. The Japanese never miss out on an opportunity to bathe." The book was admired by all those you'd expect, the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and so on. Maher, naturally, said he was misquoted. The furor over these comments was becoming a major issue, but luckily for the State Department the tsunami hit. Maher was put in charge of the aid effort. It brought "19 U.S. Navy warships, 140 aircraft, over 18,000 soldiers and emergency supplies, including 500,000 gallons of fresh water for cooling the Fukushima reactors." (p. 191) Sounds like American generosity at its finest, but McCormack and Norimatsu detail how this effort was a pretty effective, inexpensive PR campaign for the one-sided alliance. The book highlights the way a nonviolent resistance movement can occur from citizen activism. But for a moment there in 2009 change almost came from above when Hatoyama Yukio became Prime Minister from the liberal side, a man critical of "unrestrained market fundamentalism and financial capitalism," in which people tend not to be treated as an end but a means. He remarked the world is moving away from a unipolar American led one to a multipolar one. And hoped to establish greater ties of independence among East Asian nations under his political philosophy of YUAI, or Fraternité, in French. The chapter that details how this man went from a 70 percent plus approval rating to a spectacular fall in less than a year (with U.S. aid and colleague treachery) makes this book well worth seeking out. (Okinawan Writer Chinin Usii) Outside of political analyses the book includes the voices of Okinawans themselves. Writer Chinin Usii had an excellent response when asked how she identifies herself: "The question about my personal identity, and, to tell the truth, this questionnaire in its entirety, makes me feel uneasy. Ever since my college days in Tokyo, I have been getting questions like that over and over. Why, I wonder, am I always put in the position of being subjected to one-directional questions like this? Rather, I believe this is something to be mutually taken up slowly in conversation with someone with whom you have taken the time to develop a relation of trust." She cites Gandhi, Frantz Fanon, Lu Xun, Malcolm X, Haunani-Kay Trask (Hawaiian author of the poem "Racist White Woman") and bell hooks as her fascinating mix of inspirational figures. Evidence of American arrogance isn't news, however. Probably because it's out of the scope of their book, McCormack and Norimatsu don't address the most important question: what would East and Southeast Asia look like without American leadership? I, for one, don't want to see China take over: it's a disaster waiting to happen. A Japanese, South Korean, South Vietnamese, and Taiwanese (among others) cooperative sphere would be ideal, but China would never let that happen, of course. I would love to see Japan regain her sovereignty, but like her neighbors I am not entirely convinced Japan is ready to take on its role as an independent, world player - to do that it would have to re-militarize, and speaking for my good Japanese friends no one wants to see that happen again, if it can be helped.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    My wife and her immediate family have a history with Okinawa; I've been there a few times and I read this book with an upcoming trip in mind. My understanding of the local politics -- which are immensely international -- has been deepened by spending time with this book. I'm glad I read it even though the issues it presents are often tough to think about. My in-laws and people they know have given me a unique perspective on these issues. Some of the facts presented in this book were gathered here My wife and her immediate family have a history with Okinawa; I've been there a few times and I read this book with an upcoming trip in mind. My understanding of the local politics -- which are immensely international -- has been deepened by spending time with this book. I'm glad I read it even though the issues it presents are often tough to think about. My in-laws and people they know have given me a unique perspective on these issues. Some of the facts presented in this book were gathered here in the DC area -- and I'm pretty sure I know the archivist who did some of the gathering (I'll need to confirm that). He was stationed here in large part because Masahide Ota, a significant figure in Okinawan politics and in this book, arranged for his assignment. Ota is a family friend and I've met with him several times. Being in DC has enabled me to see some of these politics as they're being played out. Governor Onaga (who, when the book was written was Mayor of Naha and not yet governor) was recently in DC to negotiate with the US government; my wife and I were able to attend a reception in his honor and to meet him briefly. The 'Resistant' in the title talks about the near unanimity, locally, of objection to relocation plans for a US military base. That resistance has delayed the base's move. I understand the book to have a pro-Okinawan bias that I'm comfortable with. While the US doesn't come off in the nicest light, Japan's central government comes off even worse. I'm fascinated with the Japanese constitutional issues. I attended a lecture/discussion and movie screening on the US base issues on Okinawa just as I finished the book. The information I learned let me hold my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    This is a collection of essays about the issues of nationality and occupation. Okinawa is a rare place in that it has been colonized by Japan but also by the US Military. For decades, the people have had to deal with being in between both nations and their politics without being heard much by either. The act of subversion and rebellion is done in several ways, from their arts to their demonstrations, and this book of essays regards different aspect of it. It is a sociological look at Okinawa hol This is a collection of essays about the issues of nationality and occupation. Okinawa is a rare place in that it has been colonized by Japan but also by the US Military. For decades, the people have had to deal with being in between both nations and their politics without being heard much by either. The act of subversion and rebellion is done in several ways, from their arts to their demonstrations, and this book of essays regards different aspect of it. It is a sociological look at Okinawa holding on to its own character and nationalism. I personally found it interesting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul Jacobs

    I started reading this book before I moved to Okinawa 3 years ago and finally finished it. I feel a great sense of accomplishment. The book itself is very heavy on details and policy that occurred between the US and Japanese governments after WWII until the present day. It helped me gain an over all perspective on the issues surrounding the US military bases placed on Okinawa. The military bases take up 1/5 of the islands land. This is after peace has been established and Japan is free from US c I started reading this book before I moved to Okinawa 3 years ago and finally finished it. I feel a great sense of accomplishment. The book itself is very heavy on details and policy that occurred between the US and Japanese governments after WWII until the present day. It helped me gain an over all perspective on the issues surrounding the US military bases placed on Okinawa. The military bases take up 1/5 of the islands land. This is after peace has been established and Japan is free from US control. This book also provides wonderful commentary on the low view both the Japanese and US governments have regarding the Okinawan people. This book is not a pleasant read and highlights problems that do not seem to have a resolution, yet the history is a good window in which to understand many of the identity issues the Okinawa people face.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam Gutschenritter

    Interesting input on the US bases on Okinawa from an Okinawan perspective. I understand the US perspective, at least the basics, but I now wonder about the mainland Japanese perspective...guess more research is needed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Spoor

    A must read for anyone interested in understanding the current situation in Okinawa. A point that I very much liked as well is that although it read like a text it was smooth and simple to understand.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Meri

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bean

  10. 5 out of 5

    toroltao

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Leitner

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Beyer

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kat

  14. 4 out of 5

    onthebooksel

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jon Letman

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kaia

  17. 5 out of 5

    Soke Ahmadi

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alan Watchorn

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brad

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paul Jacobs

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  22. 5 out of 5

    A

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erik

  24. 4 out of 5

    Moldau

  25. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Burton-Rose

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sungeun Kim

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jesper Thomsen

  29. 5 out of 5

    Naveen

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aishe

  31. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  32. 4 out of 5

    Robert Michael

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

  34. 4 out of 5

    Andre

  35. 5 out of 5

  36. 4 out of 5

    Kat

  37. 4 out of 5

    Kevyn

  38. 5 out of 5

    VIPIRG Resource

  39. 5 out of 5

    Kenji

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