Okinawa

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Okinawan memories are an important regional case study within Japanese war memories. Not only was it the site of the major land battle on Japanese territory during the closing stages of the Pacific War, but before it became Okinawa prefecture in 1879, Okinawa had been the independent Ryukyu Kingdom. For an introduction to the imperial manoeuvrings that resulted in an independent kingdom being assimilated permanently into the modern-day Japanese state, see:

Marco Tinello, “Early Meiji Diplomacy Viewed through the Lens of the International Treaties Culminating in the Annexation of the Ryukyus”.

See also Chapter 6 of War as Entertainment and Contents Tourism in Japan.

The Battle of Okinawa, 1945

During the Battle of Okinawa, over 200,000 Okinawans/Japanese died. The most important facilities commemorating the battle are the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum and the adjoining Peace Memorial Park.

Exhibits in the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.
Vloggers visit the Cornerstone of Peace.

Other sites include the Himeyuri Peace Museum: (video introducing the history of the Himeyuri Corps).

Okinawa Tourism

Okinawa is one of Japan’s major tourism destinations. Within broader Okinawa Tourism, history and war sites play an important role in the southern part of the main island.

Gerald Figal’s book Beachheads: War, Peace and Tourism in Postwar Okinawa is the key work on war and tourism in Okinawa. An open access article by Figal is “Waging Peace on Okinawa”.

The Military Bases Issue

Okinawa was administered by the United States from 1945 until reversion to Japan in 1972. There are many American bases on the island which are a constant source of friction between, on the one hand, those who rely on them for employment or believe they are essential to Japan’s defense, and on the other hand, those who object to the crime, environmental damage and other negative impacts they have had.

For a basic overview of the issue, see Fact Sheet – US Military Bases in Okinawa.

See also:

Philip Seaton and Kageyama Asako, “Marines Go Home: Anti-Base Activism in Okinawa, Japan and Korea Marines Go Home”.

Gavan McCormack, “Militarism Outguns Democracy in Okinawa Politics”.

The battle to prevent construction of the Henoko base was ultimately lost, and construction has begun, resulting in great environmental destruction.

Marius Palz, “Okinawan Coral Politics, Henoko Base Construction and a Japanese Political Strategy of Ignorance”.

But environmental destruction on Okinawa does not only stem from landfill and base construction:

Jon Mitchell, “Okinawa – The Pentagon’s Toxic Junk Heap of the Pacific”.

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