【PART 1】 Mystery of Okinawa: Military Bases and the Constitution

 

【1】 The Reality About Japan That I Witnessed in Okinawa

 

What began all this was a short, two-week trip to Okinawa for shooting photos.

Four years ago, I went to Okinawa’s main island with a photographer. The two of us were planning to go to every corner of Okinawa to take photos of all 28 of the huge U.S. military bases there. Afterwards, we were planning to create a book.

The sights that I witnessed there were, to put it dramatically, life-changing for me. I came to feel compelled to share with as many people as possible the reality I’d seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.

For example, please observe the photo below. This was taken from the rooftop of a hotel I stayed at during the first trip. To be precise, it’s a shot of the view of the south side from the Costa Vista Okinawa Hotel, in the hills of midland Okinawa. On the top left, you can see the famous Futenma base in the distance. (The rooftop is currently closed.)

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Residential district for U.S. Forces officials and the Futenma base, viewed from a nearby hilltop/ c Shintaro Suda

 

When you go up to this roof, you get a clear view of U.S. aircraft taking off from the Futenma base and buzzing around. As you may know, Okinawa’s shape is long from north to south, short from east to west. Moreover, this part of Okinawa curves inward, so that it is only 4km from the east to the west end, and the ocean is visible on both sides. In this beautiful landscape, you can see American aircraft flitting here and there like flies on the land and sea.

Later I’ll explain the significance of this in detail, but basically, U.S. military aircraft are allowed to fly over Japanese territory at any height. Of course, in lands outside Okinawa, they do not fly over residential areas so boldly. But, if they wished, they could fly however they wanted. They have the legal right to do so.

There are certain places, however, that U.S. military aircraft never fly over. Can you guess where they are? One of them is in the photo. Yes, in the center of this picture is an area surrounded by grass that looks like a golf course. This is a residential district for officials of U.S. Forces stationed at the base.

   Low-altitude flight training is never conducted over these American residences.

   Why not?

   Of course, it’s because of the dangers in case of a crash.

I’m not joking. This is the truth. When I found this out, I realized I knew nothing about Japan, where I was born and raised. This was a mere four years ago.