Note: This is a Oracion production. I do not claim to own any copyrights whatsoever related to the above clip.
Playback troubleshooting: If your youtube player doesn't show the English subtitles automatically, you can turn them on manually from the subtitle toolbar located in the below right corner, right next to the setting wheel.
Hi and welcome!
In the above youtube video you'll find a 10 minutes long introduction of Takae and how the surrounding U.S training grounds affect the residents' lives on a daily basis. This is a truly valuable asset for understanding both Takae's past as well as its current situation, and it's my sincere wish that you'll find it to be a useful supplement to the written background information provided below.
The information provided below are merely exerpts from the pdf file "Voice of Takae" (see link at the bottom for full text and download). "Voice of Takae" was written by Takae residents themselves and can be found in its original context on Takae's official website http://takae.ti-da.net/ (Japanese only).
Higashi village and Takae
Higashi is one of the villages in Yambaru, and the small district located in the northern part of it is called Takae. Its population is approximately 160 people. The kids are happily growing up in the surrounding beautiful mountains and rivers. However, adjacent to this natural area is U.S. marines' Northern Training Area (Jungle Warfare Training Center), which totals up to 7,800 hectares. U.S. started using this training area in 1957, few years before U.S. went down in to the quagmire of the Vietnam War, mainly for the purpose of the guerrilla warfare training. Currently, there are 22 helipads (landing zones) scattered in the training area, and Takae's local habitants have been forced to suffer from the ear-breaking sound of the propellers, and the high possibility that the helicopters might crash into the area. Even so, six more helipads are going to be constructed. The planned location is only 400 meters away from the nearest residence.
Sit-in action got started
Residents in Takae resolved to take actions against the helipad constructions on February 23, 2006. After that, we headed to the related organizations to appeal them to revise the construction plan. However, the Ministry of Defense began the construction on July 2, 2007, ignoring our voices. Since that date, we have been showing protest by sitting in at the construction area, sparing much of our daily lives.
Suddenly, the Japanese government sued us
On November 2008, ODB (Okinawa Defense Bureau, a subordinate agency of Ministry of Defense) filed 15 residents and supporters a provisional injunction with the Naha District Court for obstructing the construction. Without setting up the negotiation with us, the Japanese government unfairly chose to use the judicial power to promote their plan. Against this governmental decision, a team of 24 lawyers was organized to protect our rights. The litigation documents the government submitted to the court were very faulty. As we pointed out at the court, there were multifarious mistakes found in the documents such as scrambling of the names and faces of the accused. Moreover, an eight-year-old child was also included in the accused 15 (although there was no evidence). How is it possible for the child to block the construction by her or himself? After we strongly protested against that, ODB dropped charges of this child. But they did not admit their ethical fault at all.
The decision of the Naha district court
After five-time court hearing and the inspection of site by the judge, the judgment was given on December 11, 2009.Only two people out of 14 accused were charged with obstructing behavior, although other 12 people had been doing almost the same protest action. The Japanese government also alleged that even our activities including appeals on the website, holding the events, creating posters and DVDs, and proposing to ODB that construction be stopped, were obstructive behaviors. According to the court decision, however, 'the court must be very cautious about treating those activities as obstructive behaviors.' That means our activities were recognized as justifiable. The Japanese government, however, treats our actions as obstructive behaviors and has still been trying to eliminate our protest.
To the court
On December 14, 2009, we filed official complaints against the Naha District Court because we were not satisfied with their decision. On the other hand, if the government decides to drop the suit, the provisional injunction order will be reversed. We hoped that ODB would cancel the order as the Democratic Party's victory in the election led to the change of government. On January 29, 2010, however, the government filed a suit against 2 residents at the district court. The new administration continues to adhere to the administration policy of the previous Liberal Democratic Party regime. Hence the case will be referred to the open judicial court. The court decision for this case might set a crucial precedent for other protest movements in Japan such as anti-nuclear and anti-damconstruction movements which may face similar law suits.
Takae in 2010
On February 1, 2010, ODB held an explanatory meeting for the residents of Takae. But they repeated the same one-sided explanation without providing answers to our questions such as: whether V-22 Osprey, the US military's newest aircraft known for its safety risk, will be deployed, its flight route, degree of noise, and possible measures for the safety. This backhanded meeting made us more frustrated. Moreover, while ODB admits the lack of explanation they have given us, they also
declared the construction would continue. This duplicity reflects ODB's irresponsibility as a public institution. On February 18, 2010,ODB finally started installing the fences in front of the paths that lead to the planned construction site.
For recent updates be sure to visit the blog section.
What is the SACO agreement?
SACO is a term that always appears when discussing U.S. military bases in Okinawa. In 1995, right after the tragedy of three American soldiers raping a local girl, approximately one hundred thousand people in Okinawa had demonstrations against the military's presence. In response to this action, U.S. and Japanese governments established SACO (Special Action Committee on Okinawa).
Its official objective was three-fold; 1. To return land. 2. Adjust training and operation procedures. 3. Implement noise reduction initiatives. In other words, aimed at reducing the burden on Okinawan citizens. However, behind all this lurked the hidden intention of restructuring and re-strengthening those very same bases.
As for Takae, return of land meant that the greater half of the Northern Training Grounds would be returned to Okinawa. However, two conditions followed. One was to provide the estuary region of Uka river in order to ensure access from the training area to the ocean, while the other entailed the relocation of 6 helipads to the remaining training area. Conveniently enough, these helipads happen to surround Takae. Per date (November 2013) out of these six planned helipads, one has been completed.
For more detailed information as concerns the experience of actually visiting Takae as a sit-in volunteer, please see the blog post, My volunteer experience in Takae.