1. About the Activists
  2. Historical Background
  3. Historical Timeline
  4. Photo Archive
  5. Additional Resources

About the activists

We interviewed Suzuyo Takazato, Hiromi Minamoto, and Kozue Akibayashi about their experiences in organizing against U.S. militarism in Okinawa. For approximately 40 years, Hiromi Minamato worked at Radio Okinawa as a radio producer, creating programs centered on women leaders, human rights, and environmental issues in Okinawa. Hiromi met Suzuyo in 1985 when she interviewed Suzuyo for her radio show, and the two have been working together since then on issues related to gender and peace in Okinawa. Together, they formed Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence (OWAAMV) in 1995 after the rape of a 12 year old Okinawan girl by U.S. servicemen. Kozue met Suzuyo, Hiromi, and others in OWAAMV in 1996 in New York while doing graduate work on feminist peace education. Through their work they've connected with other women and organizations across the globe that are fighting against U.S. militarism.

Video one subtitles

Today, 70.6% of US military bases in Japan are located on the small island of Okinawa, which comprises just 0.6% of Japanese land mass. In this way, US military presence in Okinawa cannot be denied, and this presence has led to countless acts of violence against the Okinawan population. So as to remember those who have been sacrificed, OWAAMV has been creating a chronology of violence and rape against Okinawan women at the hands of US military personnel since their arrival 76 years ago. Recently, OWAAMV has been organizing protests against the construction of the new military base in Henoko Bay, which is home to coral reefs and rare marine populations. Beyond this, OWAAMV works to call attention to issues related to US military violence in Okinawa, as well as to organize women's gatherings.

Video two subtitles

Ultimately, the women behind OWAAMV would like to see Okinawa overcome colonial control, in order to create a society in which everyone can live safely and confidently. Hiromi wishes to eliminate poverty and violence against women and children, problems which she argues are underlied by war and militarism. Suzuyo hopes that those who see this project are better informed about the history of Okinawa so that they may understand why the situation in Okinawa is where it is today. They hope that by sharing their own experiences and knowledge, future generations may continue the work they have been doing, so that one day Okinawa can be free again. The song heard in the video is a protest song the women and other protesters sing when they sit at the gates of the Henoko construction site.

Video three subtitles

Check out the video below if you are interested in learning more about some of the problems that U.S. military bases bring to Okinawa, Japan.

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Historical Background

US military presence in Okinawa can be traced back to World War II, when the US army used Okinawa for island-hopping to mainland Japan. After the war, the US Navy took control of Okinawa. In 1951, Japan signed the Treaty of San Francisco along with the 48 victorious countries in World War II, extending the jurisdiction of the US over Okinawa for 20 years. Even after 1969, when the island was returned to Japanese sovereignty, the US remained a significant military presence on Okinawa. As of 2013, the US military still takes up over 18% of the land area of Okinawa. In recent years, in response to Okinawans' resistance, there have been plans for relocation of some of the military bases to other locations in Japan, yet many military bases still remain and some, like the Henoko base, are in the process of construction.

It has been 25 years since the pivotal US military sexual violence case in Okinawa Prefecture in 1995, during which 3 US troops stationed in Okinawa abducted and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl. In response, more than 80,000 people gathered to protest, demanding that the US and Japanese governments amend the agreement and reduce the size of the US military base, making it the most representative protest in Okinawa after World War II. Since then, civil organizations have also begun to attempt to create a chronology and record of assaults as well as contact the victims of sexual assault by the US military in Okinawa (Johnston).

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Historical Timeline

Below is a timeline that outlines the chronology of several important events that were discussed in our interviews. Much of the information is from Kozue Akibayashi's article "Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence: An Island Feminism Reclaiming Dignity" linked below. While this is not an exhaustive list of all important moments in these women's organizing against US militarism in Okinawa, it provides context for some of the events that they often spoke about in our interviews.

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Photo Archive

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Additional Resources

Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence : An Island Feminism Reclaiming Dignity by Kozue Akibayashi
Okinawan women's civic group chronicles sex crimes by US military by Tomomi Tomita
Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence Website (Japanese)
Okinawa and the U.S. military, post 1945 by Lane Johnston

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