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Published:May 21st, 2010 09:44 EST
Response to "Okinawans sitting at Kids' Table"

Response to "Okinawans sitting at Kids' Table"

By Geoff Dean


Sitting at the kids` table? Yes, indeed. And with no one bothering to pass the gravy! I would agree that Okinawans are the Rodney Dangerfield`s of modern Japan. There are several reasons for this, I presume to assume.

 People on the mainland see Okinawa as a tourist destination but have little other contact with their island brethren and sisteren (not a word? Sue me.) There is ample discrimination against Okinawans mainland-side as they are viewed as "tropical islanders" (which means, in Japanese prejudice, that they are too lazy and too laid back, and that they are not "real" Japanese).

 Furthermore, while Japan is a relatively small country, Okinawa is fairly isolated and distant from the rest of the country, similar to Hawaii vis a vis the mainland US, and has a unique history, culture, and language, again adding to the vague, "not really Japanese" image. This came into play in the battle of Okinawa where the locals were treated as cannon fodder and even ordered to commit suicide (grenades were distributed in some reports) rather than be captured, to some extent, because they were Okinawan, as opposed to "true Japanese".

 Therefore, while many Japanese view the Okinawan "predicament" (hosting the majority of US military bases on a tiny swath of land) as unfortunate, they also are glad that it is Okinawa`s problem and not their own (witness the refusal of various mainland sites to consider reducing the "burden" of the island prefecture). 

 As to amateurish behavior by Japanese PMs, I would agree that this is certainly not a Hatoyama innovation. I have lived in Japan for twenty years and witnessed about that many PMs coming and going. There have been the good, the bad, and the ugly, to be sure, but the overwhelming majority fell into the latter two categories. "Throw out the incumbent" fever and the decision of all parties to increase the number of "celebrity" candidates (like judo olympians and retired baseball stars) seem unlikely to improve the situation. Many of my friends in Tokyo despair of ever having a quality leader as PM and surely getting rid of Hatoyama is not a cure for all that ills this country politically.

 Nonetheless, and I say this as a former supporter who had highest hopes for his Administration, I don`t see how he can stay on. He focused attention on Futenma and brought it to the center of his agenda. He let economic and educational issues takes a backseat to this matter and generated considerable US ire. If he had succeeded in making a significant improvement in the issue, I would have given him begrudging respect. But having apparently capitulated and accepted the 2006 accords almost verbatim, it is hard not to wonder if the whole Administration to this point has been a waste of time.

 And how can we take seriously any policy pronouncement he makes in the future after he has flip-flopped so serially on this one, despite vowing to "risk his (political) life" to secure an acceptable outcome on Futenma and breaking his own self-imposed deadlines (the first was the end of 2009) time and again.

 I like the PM, personally, loud shirt not withstanding, and I get a kick out of the first lady and her occasional off-the-wall "alien abduction" and "eat the sun" comments, but the time has come to replace him. How much worse could a new PM be? Ouch, I don`t even want to think about that.

Okinawans are Feeling Like They are Sitting At The Kids Table

May 20, 2010 ... I don`t hear many Okinawans calling for Hatoyama`s neck here in Okinawa. Those cries are from the LDP and mainland Japanese