How the Hatoyama administration that tried to protect Japan’s treasure, beautiful Henoko, got shot down


Y: I met quite a few people who started to investigate then, and they supported me. Now, this is the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

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Futenma base in Okinawa
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U.S. aircraft flying low in Okinawa on a daily basis
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U.S. aircraft flying low over a downtown area in Okinawa


Y: Prime Minister Hatoyama was forced to resign because he failed to achieve his promise to relocate this dangerous U.S. base from the center of the city to outside Okinawa.
They fly unbelievably low, even in the city.

T: Skimming the rooftops.

Y: And this is Okinawa,

Approx. 18% of the main island of Okinawa occupied by U.S. military bases


Y: the southernmost island in Japan, where US military bases are concentrated. They account for 18% of the island. The red parts are marine bases and the blue bits are air bases, mainly the Kadena Air Base and the Kadena Ammunition Storage Area in the north of it.

T: So you photographed all U.S. bases in Okinawa for your book?

Y: Yes.

T: Weren’t you followed by American guards?

Y: Sometimes they’d follow by car, but they didn’t do anything. When I chatted with Mr. Magosaki, a former diplomat, he told me about a British officer who went from Russia to investigate a Mongolian base. His car was crushed by three trucks from three sides. So Mr. Magosaki was surprised when he first saw my book.
But in Okinawa, there are actually locations next to the bases where you can take photos of them. Many people were taking photos, so I felt safe.

T: The Futenma base also has an observatory.

Y: Now let’s look at this map, which is different from what the Japanese are used to. It was Mr. Takano who, 30 years ago in his book How to Read The World Map, taught us to view a map like this.

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Location of Japan in a globe tipped sideways


H: It takes a moment to realize where Japan is.

Y: From this angle, you can see that Okinawa is in the middle of China’s route to the Pacific Ocean.

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Y: Next, this is from April 6, 2010, the day your administration began to collapse. You had a plan to relocate the Futenma base to Tokunoshima in Kagoshima, the prefecture adjacent to Okinawa. You’d announced it earlier in a cabinet meeting, but in order to launch full preparations you invited two officials each from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Ministry of Defense (MOD). You asked them to design the final plan, and for complete secrecy. On the very next day it appeared in the evening edition of Asahi Shimbun.
Could you talk about that?

H: I’d set a deadline to decide by the end of May, but hadn’t had time to work on it until March because of budget-related work. So it was in April that I invited two officials each from MOD and MOFA to discuss the matter over drinks.

Y: In the Prime Minister’s official residence?

H: Yes. I wanted to achieve the plan at any cost. I told them it was crucial for us to exchange information without letting it leak. I asked them to make sure to keep quiet because it’d be difficult to carry out the plan if it was leaked. Everyone agreed, so I was very content and optimistic. Then, the very next day it was in the evening paper. I was shocked.

Y: How did you feel?

H: I lost trust in everyone. I’d confided my plan to those I trusted most, only to be immediately betrayed. I felt that I couldn’t trust them with negotiations any more, and that nothing would work. I sensed the presence of someone among us trying to crush my plan.

Y: Were you psychologically wounded?

H: Very.

Y: They betrayed you so quickly.

T: Probably their intention from the start.

Y: In a previous interview, you said MOFA and MOD officials’ loyalties lay not with you, the Prime Minister, but with someone else.

H: Since they weren’t loyal to me, presumably there was someone else. Maybe the ministries. MOFA and MOD are heavily leaning towards slavish obedience to the U.S. as a whole. They care excessively about U.S. intentions and feel obliged to keep a close relationship with U.S. officials to stay on their good side.
I talked to President Obama in the Prime Minister’s official residence as well, I think in October of 2009. He assured me it’s not necessary to adhere to the former regime’s policies completely now that the power had shifted. So I felt we could deal with this issue flexibly, and to express my sincerity I said “trust me.” But that phrase was twisted, and the media reported my remarks as “I’ll ultimately move the Futenma base to Henoko, trust me.” My intentions were distorted.

T: I remember the new government’s announcement that the Self Defense Force would no longer go to the Indian Sea to refuel American warships. The US accepted that. I was very surprised, but the media hardly covered it. They could’ve praised it, but instead, silence.
I thought there might be a chance to move the U.S. base outside Okinawa too. As Mr. Obama said, regime change means things can change.

H: After all, “change” was what he advocated himself.

T: So true.

Y: So we knew that the Hatoyama administration had been unjustly crushed by some unknown force. What’s different about Mr. Hatoyama is that he didn’t leave the problem in the air. He confronted it head-on.
What’s remarkable is that he’s been making statements afterwards. This is probably a first among Japanese politicians. He’s expressed his opinion about the issues by subordination to the U.S. and the betrayal of high-level bureaucrats. That’s how we became aware of the problem and why we can and must study these issues. I too began to research U.S. military bases in Okinawa in anger.
Henoko, the place for relocation within Okinawa, hadn’t even been known in mainland Japan until you raised the issue. You’re highly regarded in Okinawa for that.

H: When Oliver Stone visited Japan, I asked if he thought the President would know of Henoko. He said it’s unlikely. So I think the Americans just wanted a proper conclusion, and they didn’t mind the details. I believe President Obama wouldn’t have minded if we changed more of the plan.

Y: So now we know, it’s clearly mistaken to simply assume that the Hatoyama administration collapsed because of the U.S.

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Y: As I mentioned, Okinawan U.S. military bases, oddly enough, all have places nearby where you can observe them. The top left is Kakazu Takadai Park, and from there you get a full view of the Futenma base. See. Below that is Roadside Station Kadena, from which the Kadena Air Base is clearly visible.

T: Just across the street. Plainly visible.

Y: There’s a terrace on the 4th floor that is perfect for taking photos of the base.

Y: On the top right is an observatory tower where you can oversee the Kadena Ammunition Storage Area. It’s supposedly for observing a nearby dam, but it’s so obviously for the base.

H: And this?

Y: Below that is Heshikiya Park, where you get a clear view of the White Beach, a naval base that was once a candidate for relocation. From such locations Okinawans have kept an eye on these dangerous bases.

Henoko sea, planned site for new U.S. military base


Y: Now, this is Henoko, the place where the new U.S. base is to be built. It’s so stunning. It’s great to canoe here. But we’re about to use our own taxes to build a base for foreign forces on one of our own beautiful coasts. Anyone would understand its absurdity if they stopped and thought about it. The destruction of nature alone is unforgivable.

H: And the American lawsuit regarding dugongs too.

Movements and lawsuit to protect endangered dugongs inhabiting Henoko
※Data provided by Zan, research team for northernmost-living dugongs (June 2014)


T: Yes, the Dugong Case. In Japan, lawsuits against the government are hopeless, but not in the U.S. Japanese and American environmentalists actually won a case in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. U.S. environmental laws are very strict, so if something is bad for the environment, even a federal government agency has to halt operations. For example, they canceled Osprey training exercises in Hawaii and couldn’t deploy them because the downwash might have harmed King Kamehameha I’s grave.

Y: Mr. Yoichi Iha, former mayor of Ginowan City where the Futenma base is located, always said that the impacts of bases on people aren’t the main issue in the U.S. Instead the concerns are archaeologial sites, as you mentioned, or the ecosystem of bats, for example.

T: U.S. bases are completely extraterritorial for Japan, so I believe they should apply the same domestic laws in their country to the bases.

H: So American bats’ rights are more protected than the Japanese people’s.

Y: It’s not a joke. We need to make an appeal to the world on this matter.

H: I’ve visited Henoko a few times, and last time they showed me a type of seagrass called zostera marina that dugongs had chewed on.

Y: Dugongs sometimes appear in the midst of tense situations. (laughs)

Dugong swimming in the beautiful Henoko sea
※Data provided by Zan, research team for northernmost-living dugongs (June 2014)


T: Dugongs move along the Kuroshio current, and the sea around Henoko is the northernmost point they come to. Their habitat also stretches horizontally, to the Indian Ocean as well. What we’re about to do is to appropriate the nature-rich ocean which is a habitat of dugongs, a globally rare species. It can’t be allowed.

Y: Anyone would know that instantly if they saw for themselves.

H: Yes, if they went they’d understand.

Y: So now, we know why bats are prioritized over the Japanese.