White and green polo shirt, rainbow mask and white gloves, Denny Tamaki has a smile. The outgoing governor of Okinawa, an archipelago in southern Japan, is the favorite to keep his seat in the elections, scheduled for Sunday 11 September. The half-caste born to a GI father and an Okinawan woman, radio host, peace activist and former deputy, is expected to retain the leadership of Japan’s southernmost department, and thus inflict an affront to the Japanese central government, which backs its first opponent. Atsushi Sakima.
Meanwhile, the dashing 60-year-old parades through Uruma, his hometown, flanked by banners displaying his slogan: “For a warm company, in the spirit of Okinawa, which does not disappoint anyone”. Coalition candidate “All Okinawa” bringing together democrats, communists, environmental NGOs and parts of the local business world, Tamaki expresses her desire to promote women, protect the environment and, above all, see “Okinawa remains an island of peace”.
What irritates the central government because “Denny”, as his supporters affectionately call him, remains determined to stop the move of the US Marine base of Futenma, currently in the city of Ginowan, to a developed site on a polder under construction in Henoko. Point, north of Okinawa.
” Nothing has changed “
This operation, negotiated by Tokyo and Washington in 2006, continues in a context of growing tensions with China around Taiwan. The maneuvers launched by Beijing in August after the visit of the President of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to the “rebel” island to China, have crossed over into Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Beijing did not hesitate to fire a volley of missiles that fell not far from Yonaguni, the westernmost island of the archipelago and part of Okinawa. For Tokyo, in this context, it is not a question of renouncing the transition to Futenma. Japan even wants to strengthen Okinawa’s defense.
But Futenma remains a point of tension for the local population, who see it as an expression of the central government’s contempt for a department that represents 0.6% of the Japanese territory but hosts 70% of the American bases in the archipelago. “The government doesn’t care. The problem of the bases dates back to the Second World War and nothing has changed “storm Hiroji Yamashiro, a tireless pacifist activist who crossed paths with the canvas and wood camp set up in Henoko by the opponents of the move. “We are concerned about the tensions with China. But the central government does not respect the will of the Okinawan people. We want a fair distribution of the weight of the American bases “adds Kenichi Moriyama, English teacher supporting “Denny”.
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