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

 

【11】 Excellent photo locations across Okinawa

 

In Okinawa, the photographer Mr. Shintaro Suda and I went as close as possible to U.S. military bases to take pictures, with no permission from them at all. It was actually the first-ever book of photos to be made in this style, with photos of the U.S. bases taken without consent. This was no surprise, since there was a chance you’d be arrested if you took photos of the bases without permission, according to an agreement between U.S. Forces and the Japanese government.

We only found this out later. But this is how I understand this situation: We Japanese of course have a right to know about U.S. bases in our country. There is no way something hazardous to the welfare of local residents and instrumental in the downfall of a prime minister can be accounted for exclusively by materials presented by U.S. Forces. We have a right to know firsthand where bases exist, what kind of bases they are, how big they are, and what kind of training is conducted there.

Alternatively, since these are military bases we’re talking about, public interaction with them is governed by the law mentioned above, the Act on Special Measures Concerning Criminal Cases. If taking pictures is seen as leaking military information, you can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to ten years. The border between what’s allowed and what’s not is unknown.

What is striking about Okinawa, though, is the number of locations across the prefecture that seem to tell you, “You can take pictures of the base from here!”

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Henoko Ammunition Storage, which used to have nuclear weapons/ c Shintaro Suda
 

 

For example, in front of the Kadena Air Base, an extremely important base, there is a four-story-high drive-in facility (Roadside Station Kadena) whose rooftop deck is a perfect location from which to take pictures of the base — as if it had been created for that purpose. There are always many airplane geeks hanging about, taking photos of U.S. aircraft using a telescopic lens.

Next to the famous Futenma base as well, a park on nearby Kakazu Hill offers an observation deck in the shape of a globe, from which the Osprey aircraft can be seen clearly.

In short, near every U.S. military base is a place where you can command a good view of it, and when asked, the locals kindly guide you there. That was why we were able to make the Visitor’s Guide to U.S. military Bases in Okinawa.

That was also why I believed we wouldn’t be arrested while taking photos. Of course, when we shoot, we go right up to the fence, and get it over quickly to avoid being noticed by any American soldiers. It was frankly terrifying, but I figured that once we had good shots of the bases a lawyer could tell me if it was legal or not. Something that obviously violates the law can’t be published commercially in the first place, so I assumed a lawyer’s check was essential.