On May 31st, Caleb Maupin sat down for a chat with Robert Kajiwara, the founder of Peace for Okinawa. Kajiwara is a spokesperson for the longstanding movement of people in RyuKyu Islands who seek sovereignty, rejecting colonization and occupation by Japan and the United States.
Karjiwara described the various ways the dignity of the people of the RyuKyu Islands has been trampled on. He said “Japan, they won’t allow the languages, the history and culture, to be taught in schools. They see the languages as second class.”
“The way Japan tried to suppress Korean languages, culture and identity, they are doing the same thing in RyuKyu today. All of the RyuKyuian languages are recognized as endangered by UNESCO. They are recognized as separate languages from Japanese and they are recognized as endangered,” He explained.
“The US military has a very long history of committing violent crimes against RyuKyuian civilians, especially women and children. This goes back to 1945,” he said. “They’ve committed hundreds, perhaps thousands of violent crimes against RyuKyuian civilians. During 1945 to 1972 when RyuKyu was under direct US military rule, the US military won’t even release the data, the prime data from that period. So we actually don’t have data to know for sure how many crimes were committed by US soldiers.”
“The US military forcibly relocated, and in some cases imprisoned RyuKyuians in order to build these military bases. A lot of the bases are built in the middle of cities, prime real estate. Its not off to the side somewhere, we’re talking right smack dab in the middle of the city… If you can imagine going downtown somewhere and having a foreign military base there,” he said.
When Caleb asked Kajiwara about a possible route to independence for RyuKyuians, Robert explained how referendums have been ignored. “Every time we have a referendum for anything, the US and Japan ignore it. Just a couple years ago, February 2019 we had a referendum in which the overwhelming majority of the population of Okinawa voted against the construction of another US military base in Okinawa. Overwhelming majority voted against it, but of course, the US and Japan simply ignored it.”
Kajiwara emphasized that the people of Okinawa and the surrounding Islands need support for the international community and that their struggle for independence is linked with Hawaiin independence activists and other peoples across the planet struggling to have their sovereignty recognized.