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

 

【10】 My driving force was Run, Melos-esque rage

 

After publishing my book (What Mainland Japanese People Don’t Know, but All Okinawans Know – the Visitor’s Guide to U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa), I was talking about my writing on a talk show held at a bookstore in Tokyo. At that time a reader of my book commented, “Your rage is like that of Melos in the novel, Run, Melos!

I was startled, and became curious to see if this was true. So at home I pulled out my copy of Run, Melos, the famous Japanese classic written by Osamu Dazai. I read it to find that it was indeed true.

Run, Melos is famous as a story of friendship. The scene near the end where Melos exclaims to his friend, “For one moment, I doubted you. So hit me!” is especially well known. However, the story begins with Melos as a shepherd, ignorant about politics, going to protest against the king’s tyranny. Let me give you an excerpt of the beginning:

Melos was enraged. He was determined to get rid of the cruel, ruthless king. Melos didn’t understand politics. He was only a shepherd in a village. He spent every day playing the flute and taking care of sheep. Yet he was more sensitive to evil than any other.
Today, he left the village before dawn and crossed the fields and hills to reach the city of Syrucs, 40 kilometers away from his village.

My trip to Okinawa was exactly like this. I was like a shepherd with no knowledge of politics.

Besides, the expression “He spent every day playing the flute and taking care of sheep” applied so well to me too. After graduating from university, I started to work for a major advertising company, but I quit after a mere two years to found my own small publisher. Since then, I’d been publishing books in genres of interest to me, like art and history. As you can see, I’m an extremely individualistic person. I’d hardly ever voted in elections. So it was a completely non-political person like this who decided to go all the way to Okinawa with a sense of almost child-like justice, accompanied by a photographer.