RYUKYU - OKINAWA
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RYUKYU - OKINAWA
There was once a tiny island-kingdom called "RYUKYU", now it is a part of Japan named "OKINAWA". Everything about Okinawa, past & now.
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Crowdfunding project kicks off to create manga promoting Okinawa history, culture | The Japan Times

Crowdfunding project kicks off to create manga promoting Okinawa history, culture | The Japan Times | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it

An Okinawa resident, originally from the U.S., is calling for donations to publish a manga book and an animated film through crowdfunding to promote the unique history and culture in the prefecture, which historically had been the independent Ryukyu Kingdom until the late 1800s. The driving force behind the project to create the anime “Tedashiro no Kuniuta” (“The Song of the Sun Goddess”) is Julia Aimi Olivares, 30, from Minnesota, whose mother, Kazumi Mechler, hails from Naha, Okinawa. Olivares, who had lived in Okinawa for about 10 years from when she was age 8, is well-versed in the regional culture and has won a top prize in a Ryukyu buyo dance competition, which was organized by The Okinawa Times. Olivares returned to Okinawa from the United States in 2015 and set up a content production company, Ten Tun Ten Inc., in the town of Nishihara in the prefecture the following year. In establishing the company, she drew from her experience working at a California publishing firm specializing in the gaming and anime business. In a fantasy story written by Olivares, Maka Arakaki, an female college art student who learns to perform Ryukyu traditional dance, meets Ba Kensai, an official from the Ryukyu Kingdom who time-travels to the modern world...

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Japanese first as ancient Roman coins found in Okinawa ruins:The Asahi Shimbun

Japanese first as ancient Roman coins found in Okinawa ruins:The Asahi Shimbun | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
URUMA, Okinawa Prefecture--Ancient Roman coins have been discovered in Japan for the first time at the ruins of Katsuren Castle here, where they are thought to have arrived via the maritime trade in the 14th to 15th centuries with other parts of Asia.

Ten copper coins were excavated at the site, the city education board announced Sept. 26.

“This significant discovery will contribute to the study of world history including west Asia and the West,” said a city education board official.

Four of the coins, which bear what appear to be the faces of Roman emperors and Roman letters, are believed to have been minted in the fourth century.

The ancient coins, which measure from 1.6 to 2 centimeters in diameter, were found at a geological layer dating to the 14th to 15th centuries, which also contains Chinese ceramics.

One of the other pieces, found in another geological layer, bears Arabic letters and is believed to be an Ottoman Empire coin likely made in the 17th century. Five other coins are under analysis.

Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, Katsuren Castle was built around the 12th to 13th centuries.

The maritime intermediate trade thrived in Okinawa from the 14th to the 16th centuries, when the Kingdom of Ryukyu traded with China and realms in Southeast Asia.

“People involved with Katsuren Castle might have obtained these coins somewhere in Asia that had contact with the West,” said the education board official.

They added that the Ottoman coin was likely to have been brought to Okinawa a long time after the Roman coins in the haul.

Yasuhiro Yokkaichi, a researcher at Waseda University’s Institute for Central Eurasian History and Culture, urged a cautious stance on the discovery.

“Roman coins were also found in Southeast Asia, so the coins are likely to have arrived in Okinawa through trading with Southeast Asia," he said. "I want those who conduct an investigation of this discovery to closely examine different possibilities including that the coins came to be mixed in after much time had passed.”
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La révolte d’Okinawa | L'Hebdo

La révolte d’Okinawa | L'Hebdo | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
Okinawa est aujourd’hui la province la plus au sud de l’archipel nippon, mais elle fut pendant longtemps un royaume indépendant, au cœur des réseaux culturels et commerciaux de l’Asie de l’Est. Sa position stratégique, plus proche de Taiwan et de la côte chinoise que de Tokyo, en faisait un lieu de rencontres et d’échanges prisé. Cette géographie avantageuse est de nos jours un facteur important dans la grande controverse qui agite la province depuis plus de deux décennies, à savoir la présence sur son petit territoire de la plupart des troupes américaines stationnées au Japon.

 

Une situation volatile

Cette controverse s’est enflammée en 1995 après que trois soldats américains eurent enlevé et violé une enfant japonaise. Ce crime abject causa une telle rage sur l’île que les gouvernements japonais et américains s’accordèrent après de longues négociations pour fermer l’une des bases les plus encombrantes (la base de Futenma, au cœur de la petite ville de Ginowan), à déplacer une partie de son personnel vers un coin moins peuplé de l’île et à réduire au maximum l’empreinte américaine à Okinawa.

Peu de progrès a cependant été fait depuis pour implémenter cet accord, et la frustration des habitants d’Okinawa a continué de croître. La province est maintenant en révolte ouverte contre le gouvernement central. Le gouverneur ainsi que la quasi-totalité des autres élus locaux sont opposés au projet de relocation de Futenma (ils demandent la fermeture pure et simple de la base), qui a été bloqué sur le terrain par des activistes très déterminés. Tous demandent que le nombre total de troupes à Okinawa soit fortement réduit et que les crimes commis par des soldats américains soient traités au Japon par le système de justice japonais. Un nouvel incident de viol et de meurtre d’une jeune japonaise par un ressortissant américain en mai de cette année n’a fait que renforcer leur détermination.

 

Un sentiment de discrimination et d’abandon

Les doléances des habitants d’Okinawa ne sont cependant pas limitées à ce genre de crimes et d’autres incidents (un avion américain s’est une fois écrasé sur un campus universitaire). Elles trouvent leur source dans un ressentiment plus profond envers la façon dont le gouvernement central de Tokyo a traité l’île au cours des décennies.

Durant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale déjà, pour prévenir une invasion des îles principales de l’archipel nippon, l’armée impériale avait monté une féroce défense d’Okinawa face au débarquement américain, défense dont ses habitants avaient payé le prix. Plus de 100'000 d’entre eux avaient péri (certaines estimations sont bien plus élevées), dont une partie non négligeable à cause des troupes japonaises qui les avaient forcés à entreprendre des missions dangereuses, les avaient utilisés comme boucliers humains, avaient réquisitionné le peu de nourriture qu’ils possédaient et avaient commis d’autres atrocités.

Okinawa a ensuite passé près de trente ans sous administration directe américaine (la seule province de l’archipel à subir ce sort) et continue aujourd’hui encore de supporter la majeure partie du fardeau de la présence américaine au Japon, qui en dépend pour sa défense. Okinawa reste également la province la plus pauvre du pays. Il n’est donc pas surprenant que ses habitants puissent avoir le sentiment d’être des citoyens de seconde zone, aisément sacrifiés pour le « bien du pays » et négligés par la lointaine et arrogante élite de Tokyo.

 

De vraies solutions difficiles à mettre en œuvre

Le résultat de décennies de frustration et de ressentiment est aujourd’hui un ras-le-bol général et une forte détermination à faire cette fois respecter la volonté de la population de l’île. Tokyo et Washington s’évertuent à tenter d’apaiser la colère de celle-ci, mais on peut douter que les mesures proposées soient suffisantes. Le Pentagone a promis plus de discipline parmi ses troupes et a accepté de discuter de la levée des protections dont bénéficie le personnel américain en cas de crimes commis sur territoire japonais, tandis que le gouvernement japonais s’est résigné à suspendre temporairement la construction de la base sensée remplacer Futenma.

Les habitants d’Okinawa ne sont pas pour autant prêts de renoncer à leurs demandes. Celles-ci se heurtent à une réalité inéluctable, à savoir l’emplacement stratégique de l’île. A l’heure ou la Chine étend son domaine d’activité militaire en ignorant largement les inquiétudes de ses voisins, Japon y compris, la présence américaine sur une île qui reste idéalement placée au cœur de l’Asie maritime est considérée par le gouvernement japonais comme par ses voisins coréens, taïwanais et philippins, comme plus nécessaire que jamais.

 

Un compromis encore lointain

Une solution capable de satisfaire les habitants d’Okinawa est-elle donc possible ? Plusieurs experts américains ont proposé des alternatives visant à éviter la construction d’une nouvelle base et à réduire et à reconfigurer le nombre de troupes étrangères au Japon, en s’appuyant sur d’autres installations militaires américaines à travers l’océan Pacifique. Cependant, le capital politique utilisé par Washington et par Tokyo pour promouvoir le plan actuel a été considérable, et les deux gouvernements sont sans surprise très réticents à reprendre à zéro des négociations qui furent déjà si longues et pénibles.

Difficulté supplémentaire, les citoyens d’Okinawa ont plus ou moins éjecté de leur province le Parti libéral-démocrate, le parti au pouvoir sur le plan national, ce qui les privent d’ambassadeurs ayant l’oreille du gouvernement central. Les tentatives de leurs élus de convaincre Washington directement semblent également vouées à l’échec. Il est donc difficile d’être optimiste quant aux chances que le contentieux trouve prochainement une résolution. L’alliance entre les Etats-Unis et le Japon ne pourra pourtant pas se passer éternellement du soutien de la population de l’île qui en est la base.

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Ryukyu Life: 2016 Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival

Ryukyu Life: 2016 Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it

Only 86 Days Away !
 
 
In case you've never heard of this event, I'll tell you why it's so important.
Once every five years, Okinawans from around the globe converge on this island.
People from the Ryukyu Islands have emigrated to 170 countries around the world.
This gives them a chance, to reunite with family and friends throughout the prefecture.
And, some of their descendants, get to see where their families, originally came from.
If you haven't already guessed, Uchinanchu, means Okinawan, in local dialect.
Thousands of Uchinanchu get together for a few days and share their culture.
I figured, it was time to dig up some links so, everyone knows the schedule of events.
First, a YouTube video to show what took place 5 years ago in case, you're afraid of crowds.
Tom Corraro, posted this one. He came all the way from Chicago for the festival.
It's a bit long; 41:34 minutes but, covers almost everything...


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“Why do we need to get permission from U.S. marines to visit our ancestors’ graves?”

“Why do we need to get permission from U.S. marines to visit our ancestors’ graves?” | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
April 18, Ryukyu Shimpo

On April 17, at graves within U.S. Marine Corp Air Station Futenma, Ginowan, residents held the Shimi Festival to celebrate their ancestral spirits.

After getting permission from the authorities, about 490 people visited their ancestors’ graves.

The Futenma airfield remains 20 years after the governments of Japan and the United States agreed to close it and return lands to the owners. For the annual Shimi Festival, residents have to get the permission from the U.S. Marine Corps to visit their ancestors’ graves.

Seizen Ameku, 76, and about 20 of his family members gathered at the ancestors’ grave.

Ameku revealed his mixed feelings. “We family members gathered at the grave. It was only in order to tell our ancestors what we have been doing lately. Why do we need to get the permission from the U.S. marines?” he said.

According to Ameku, when he was a child, the residents could visit the grave freely because there was no fence between the base and local residential areas.

When he came back from out of Okinawa after finishing his school life in 1960s, fences surrounded the base. The U.S. military now requires the local residents to request permission to visit the graves.
Ameku said he had been repeatedly asked to identify himself by the military officials.

One of the family members was followed by a Japanese security guard employed by the U.S. military all the way to in front of the grave from gate of the base.

“American soldiers go out and come into the base freely. Why aren’t Okinawan citizens allowed to do it?” Ameku said.
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Former president Gorbachev writes letter to encourage Okinawan people

Former president Gorbachev writes letter to encourage Okinawan people | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
April 22, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Ryukyu Shimpo has received a letter from Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union who led to the end of the Cold War and won the Nobel Peace Prize. In his letter, Gorbachev encourages Okinawan people to resist against militarization. His letter to Okinawan citizens marks 15 years since he first visited Okinawa.

Gorbachev wrote, “But today, to my great regret, we again are speaking about growing instability, terrorism, about military conflicts, militarization and arms race. The world did not take the chance given to all of us after the end of the Cold War. ”

“That is why I welcome the struggle of Okinawan citizens for peace, against militarization of the Island, and for the transformation of Okinawa into an even more attractive place for Japanese and foreign tourists from around the world,” he stressed.

The letter refers to his visit to Okinawa: “I had just turned 85 years old. This is a solid age. I often recall the long-livers of your Island and I’m trying to follow their example (drinking tea with goya, for example).”

“Every day when I come to my office my mood lifts when I see the photo taken many years ago in Naha City.”
Gorbachev visited Okinawa in November 2001, invited by the Naha city government commemorating the 80th anniversary of its municipal system. He gave a lecture titled “Peace and Stability in the 21 Century”.

He has visited Okinawa three times. He also gave a lecture at the Ryukyu Forum hosted by the Ryukyu Shimpo.

(English translation by T&CT)

Go to Japanese

The full text of the letter is below:
Dear citizens of Okinawa, Dear Governor Onaga,
Dear president Tomita and journalists of The Ryukyu Shimpo,

15 years passed since I first visited your wonderful Island. I and my colleagues fondly remember that very first visit and of course all trips that followed. In general, I was particularly impressed by the meetings with citizens of Okinawa. We learnt a lot of interesting facts about your rich history and culture. As the founder of The Green Cross International, I highly appreciate and welcome your activities to preserve environment.

I remember the theme of my lecture during that first visit – “Peace and Stability in the 21 Century”. At that time all of us were full of hopes that we would be able to come to a new secure and prosperous world. But today, to my great regret, we again are speaking about growing instability, terrorism, about military conflicts, militarization and arms race. The world did not take the chance given to all of us after the end of the Cold War. That is why I welcome the struggle of the Okinawan citizens for peace, against militarization of the Island,and for the transformation of Okinawa into an even more attractive place for Japanese and foreign tourists from around the world.

I had just turned 85 years old. This is a solid age. I often recall the long-livers of your Island and I’m trying to follow their example (drinking tea with goya, for example). Every day when I come to my office my mood lifts when I see the photo taken many years ago in Naha City. The photo shows a small girl musician in national clothes in my arms. I consider it as a symbol of intergenerational ties. Using this opportunity, I convey greetings and best wishes to this girl and in her person to all Okinawan citizens.

Sincerely yours, Mikhail Gorbachev

April 5, 2016
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Okinawa - L'archipel du royaume Ryukyu

Okinawa - L'archipel du royaume Ryukyu | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
Souvent cité comme le "Hawaii japonais", Okinawa s'étend comme l'archipel paradisiaque du Ryukyu. De nombreux touristes, en particulier Japonais, viennent y passer quelques jours de vacances pour profiter de ses plages magnifiques et son eau turquoise, notamment pour la farniente ou la plongée. On y apprécie une température moyenne de 23°C.

Situé à l'extrême sud-ouest du Japon, Okinawa se trouve à mi-chemin entre Kyushu et Taiwan. L'ensemble d'îles n’a été annexé au Japon qu’à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, pour devenir ensuite la préfecture d’Okinawa-ken. On lui compte 3 grands ensembles, dont l’île principale Okinawa-Honto, qui s'étale sur 1.200 km² et accueille plus d'un million d'habitants.

Les Okinawaïens sont connus pour leur longévité : ils détiennent le record mondial du nombre de centenaires et la plus grande espérance de vie. Physiquement, ils sont légèrement différents de la plupart des Japonais de "métropole". On les trouvera évidemment plus bronzés, un peu plus gros également, mais surtout plus cool voire plus lents. Cette impression est particulièrement marquée en comparaison avec des mégapoles comme Tokyo ou Osaka, connues pour être plus stressées.

Le patois local est l’Okinawa-ben, sensiblement différent du japonais classique. Bien que tout le monde parle la langue officielle, on sent une fierté de ce langage notamment dans l’utilisation de haisai et mensôre, équivalents respectifs de konnichiwa (bonjour) et yôkoso (bienvenue). Le symbole de l’archipel, le Shisa (un mélange de chien et d’ours), est également très présent un peu partout au cours des visites.

On connaît également Okinawa comme une zone-clé dans la seconde Guerre mondiale avec la célèbre bataille éponyme. Naha, la capitale de la préfecture, est à ce titre controversée pour la présence proche d'une base militaire américaine héritée de la guerre de 1939-1945.

Pour la petite anecdote, on aperçoit des paysages d’Okinawa dans les films Karate Kid 2 ou encore Kill Bill.
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Okinawa, Tokyo begin working-level talks over future of Futenma base | The Japan Times

Okinawa, Tokyo begin working-level talks over future of Futenma base | The Japan Times | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
OSAKA – Okinawa and central government officials began working-level talks Thursday under a court-mediated settlement deal that calls for both sides to find a solution to the long-stalled issue of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

But while the discussions, which take place nearly 20 years to the day after the U.S. and Japan reached an agreement to return Futenma, are taking place with the agreement of both sides, Okinawa and Tokyo remain far apart on the basic issue of whether to relocate Futenma to Henoko in northern Okinawa or outside the prefecture entirely.

Okinawa continues to demand that operations at Futenma cease within five years, a timetable that is virtually impossible if a new Henoko facility is to be built, which both Tokyo and Washington continue to insist is the sole option.

As the meetings go forward, politics will come increasingly into play, including the results of several elections.

The prefectural assembly elections in June and the Upper House election in summer will be key. Aiko Shimajiri, an Okinawa lawmaker and state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, will run in the latter poll.

The results could lead to concessions at the meetings by either Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who wants Futenma relocated outside Okinawa, or Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is trying to build the Henoko facility and whose bargaining position would be weakened by the possible loss of Shimajiri.

Friday marks the 20th anniversary of an interim report by U.S. and Japanese officials that said Futenma Air Station would be returned to Japan “within the next five to seven years, after adequate replacement facilities are completed.”

Though Henoko as a choice for relocation was not specified in that particular report, it became the choice over the next few years, to the consternation of Okinawans who opposed it.

“The agreement to return Futenma was announced in April 1996, but I am truly regretful that it remains unresolved. In the previous year, after the rape of an Okinawan girl by U.S. service members, a reported 85,000 people gathered to protest,” Onaga said in a statement earlier this week.

“At that time, both the U.S. and Japanese governments listened to the voices of the Okinawans and agreed to a full return of the base.”

“Yet the condition for the return was to relocate Futenma within the prefecture and the plan progressed without the understanding of prefectural citizens. We want to break the Japanese government’s obsession with the idea that ‘Henoko is the only option’,” he added.

In December 2013, Onaga’s predecessor granted permission for a landfill project at Henoko, saying that, in return, Abe promised him Futenma operations would be halted within five years — a deadline American officials have indicated is impossible.

But Onaga repeated the five-year limit Tuesday, saying there were only about three years left.
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Japanese PM suspends construction of controversial US base in Okinawa

Japanese PM suspends construction of controversial US base in Okinawa | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it

Construction work on a new US airbase in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa is to be suspended, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday. Abe says the base needs to be built, but will engage in further dialogue with the Okinawa authorities.
"The government has decided to accept the court-mediated settlement plan," Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said, according to the Kyodo news agency.

The settlement plan was agreed with the Okinawa prefectural government and concerned landfill work, which needed to take place in order for the US military base to be built.


Tokyo has been locked in a war of words with the Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who opposes a new base being built in the Henoko area of Nago. The US and Japan say the current US Marines’ Futenma airbase needs to be relocated to a less populated part of the island, but Onaga is adamant it will not be built in his prefecture.


Prime Minister Abe still believes the only option is to build the airbase in Henko, which is a sparsely populated coastal area in the north of Okinawa. However, he says the government will halt construction work and will try to reach a mutually acceptable solution with the Okinawan authorities.


Abe’s announcement to suspend the construction of the airbase came after the head of the US Marine Corps said the project to move the airbase from Futenma, which is in a built-up residential area, to Henko, was merely behind schedule.


General Robert Neller told Congress on Wednesday the project had been “delayed partly due to demonstrators and lack of support from the government of Okinawa,” the Japan Times reported. 


Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the US Pacific Command, said he believed the plan to relocate the base would be delayed until 2025. However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was irked by the admiral’s remarks remarks.


“We have never told the United States that there will be a delay in the Henoko relocation plan until 2025,” Suga told a parliamentary session....

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Tokyo goes for broke in Okinawa poll at U.S. airbase city

Tokyo goes for broke in Okinawa poll at U.S. airbase city | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it

Japan's government is pulling out all the stops to ensure a candidate backed by the ruling party wins an mayoral election in the Okinawan city hosting a U.S. airbase whose planned move elsewhere on the island has set Tokyo and Okinawa at odds.

To help the incumbent's chances at Sunday's poll, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has dangled prospects of a bigger budget for Okinawa, backing for a Disney resort and aid for impoverished children in Japan's second-poorest prefecture.

Defeat would galvanize resistance to moving the Futenma base to the less populated Henoko area as agreed with the United States two decades ago.

The opposition candidate in Ginowan, like Okinawa's governor and many island voters, resents hosting the majority of U.S. troops in Japan and wants the base off Okinawa altogether.

The controversy poses headaches for Abe, six months ahead of elections for Japan's upper house, as close U.S.-Japan ties are regarded as crucial given China's increasing assertiveness in the region and North Korea's unpredictability.

"The central government always just talks about security and the U.S.-Japan alliance, giving the sense they aren't thinking seriously about Okinawa's benefit," said Tomoaki Iwai, a law professor at Nihon University in Tokyo.

"There is a sense of money being used as a sweetener."

Tokyo said in December it would boost Okinawa's budget by 1 billion yen ($8.5 million) to 335 billion for the fiscal year starting in April, having cut it last year in reaction to the election of anti-base governor Takeshi Onaga.

Ginowan's mayor, Atsushi Sakima, has played up his ties to Abe's government, and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has sent Shinjiro Koizumi, a telegenic lawmaker who is popular with unaffiliated voters, to campaign for him, along with the cabinet minister for Okinawa.

"The incumbent appears in the lead, but his opponent is catching up ... There is some doubt about whether the government-offered 'services' are helping," said Katsuhiko Nakamura, executive director at Asia Forum Japan, a think tank.

If the LDP's favored candidate does hold onto the mayorship in Ginowan, it won't remove all the hurdles to relocating the base.

"I don't think if the incumbent wins that it is a vote of support for the Henoko relocation, it is just a vote in favor of getting rid of the base and getting a Disneyland in its place," said Gerry Curtis, Burgess Professor Emeritus at Columbia University.

"But if the opposition wins it is a huge defeat for Abe."

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Yakuza arrested in extortion of Taisei Construction over Okinawa land deal | The Tokyo Reporter

Yakuza arrested in extortion of Taisei Construction over Okinawa land deal | The Tokyo Reporter | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
TOKYO (TR) – Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Wednesday arrested an organized crime member for the extortion of a construction company over a land transaction in Okinawa Prefecture, reports TV Asahi (June 11).

Between November and January, Ryokichi Takaesu, a 64-year-old executive of the Kyokuryu-kai, is alleged to have received a total 13 million yen from a manager at Tokyo-based Taisei Construction in the purchase of a plot of land measuring 15,000 square meters in Naha Ciy.

Police also arrested 71-year-old businessman Koichi Yoshizawa. Both suspects have denied the allegations.

According to police, a fishery cooperative requested that the manager at Taisei purchase and resell the property, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun (June 10). However, the manager failed to find a purchaser, and the cooperative sold it to a third party.

The chairman of the cooperative then consulted with Takaesu about receiving compensation from Taisei for the non-completion of the request.
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Abe’s Botched Handling of Henoko

Abe’s Botched Handling of Henoko | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
The PM’s handling of the relocation of the U.S. military base will cost Japan in the long term.

 

The Abe administration has resorted to high-handed measures in resuming a seabed-drilling survey as part of the move to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa prefecture to Henoko in Nago city. The Japan Coast Guard has used exceedingly rough tactics to remove local residents, and there have been cases of security guards working at Camp Schwab detaining citizens protesting the relocation. The Abe administration’s repeated use of heavy-handed political tactics with regard to this important political issue is extremely dangerous.

Respecting the will of the people, and basing policy on their wishes is a fundamental principle of democracy. Of course, public opinion is not always the best guide to what is right for the people and for the nation; politicians may sometimes have to go against the majority opinion for the sake of the people and of the nation. That is part of parliamentary democracy.

So it is impossible to state categorically that politicians should always take a particular action just because it has majority support. Despite this caveat, it is hard to see how the heavy-handed methods used by Abe and his administration in this case are in the interests of the Japanese people. Forcing through the relocation of facilities at Futenma to Henoko will not benefit the citizens of Okinawa, or the nation as a whole. But it will leave a huge stain on the reputation of Japan and the Japanese people.

The Japanese government insists that problems with the relocation of the facilities at Futenma to Henoko will have a negative impact on the Japan-U.S. relationship. I believe this to be false. Of course, the reservations felt by the United States regarding China’s military expansion are shared by Japan and neighboring countries. It goes without saying that the U.S. military presence in Okinawa is necessary for this reason.

However, the United States is currently withdrawing its front-line forces not only from Asia but from Europe as well. This is because the U.S. has shifted its military strategy from permanent deployments to an approach that uses rapid-reaction forces to respond to emergency situations. The redeployment of the Marines stationed on Okinawa to Guam and elsewhere is one part of this strategy, and is not being undertaken purely out of consideration for Japan or for Okinawa.

Given this shift in U.S. military strategy, I do not believe it is necessary to build an alternative facility for Futenma at Henoko, or to construct a runway there. However, if a runway truly is required, then there are adequate locations in Okinawa or Honshu that could serve as an alternative. Therefore, I cannot agree with either the shape or form of Abe’s actions in forcing through land reclamation and construction preparations at Henoko.

Nor do I believe that the U.S. will benefit by pushing ahead with building a runway at Henoko, riding roughshod over the opposition of the residents’ of Okinawa, which hosts 74 percent of U.S. bases in Japan. Even if a runway is militarily justified, it would entail nothing less than turning into a landfill site a crystal-clear ocean that is home to beautiful corals and is the most-northerly natural habitat for the rare species of dugong, a manatee-like marine mammal. We should all strive to protect Okinawa’s precious natural environment.

If the Abe administration is still determined to relocate to Henoko in spite of this, then it should first consult fully with the local authorities. The prefectural governor, who has been duly elected by the residents of Okinawa, has requested a meeting with the prime minister. For Abe to refuse to meet him simply because he has a different opinion on the issue is exceedingly childish. It is behavior unbefitting a prime minister, and infantile conduct that makes it difficult to think that any rational discourse can ever take place.

Former Governor Hirokazu Nakaima may have given his approval for the relocation, but the residents of Okinawa have delivered a resounding “No” to the plan with the result of the subsequent gubernatorial. The current governor, Takeshi Onaga is acting in line with the will of the people of Okinawa by attempting to reopen discussions with Tokyo. For Abe to refuse to engage with him is to deny the democratic political process. What the Japanese government ought to be doing now is first to listen to the people of Okinawa, and then to enter into discussions with the U.S. to resolve the issue.

If, as a result of these negotiations, U.S. forces end up withdrawing from Okinawa, Japan itself must take responsibility for its own defense and decide how to fill the gap. The Abe administration wants to avoid this debate, and prefers to simply go along with what Washington wants. Again, that is an abandonment of the political process.

Okinawa is extremely important both strategically and geopolitically. All Japanese should think seriously as to how Japan should shoulder the burden, if U.S. forces depart. Rather than expecting the United States to do the work, Japanese should be resolved to share the burden and take responsibility.

I believe that we should reduce the U.S. military presence on Okinawa to the minimum possible. If Japan demonstrates a strong resolve to engage in burden-sharing, I believe that the United States will be responsive to discussions. I am not of the opinion that the failure of the relocation to Henoko to take place as planned will have any immediate, grave impact on the Japan-U.S. Alliance.

Rather, the use of heavy-handed tactics by the central government with regard to the relocation of Futenma will merely create antagonism and mistrust, and harden the opposition. The old adage “more haste, less speed” surely applies here. Abe should engage in exhaustive discussions, even if they do take more time. Attempting to forge ahead regardless will only end in failure and the impact on the Japan-U.S. relationship will only be worse. The prime minister and his office should take a more conscientious approach, and consider the broader perspective.

Ichiro Ozawa is a Japanese politician and president of the People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends.

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Typhoon Neoguri sweeps across Japan's southern Okinawa islands

Typhoon Neoguri sweeps across Japan's southern Okinawa islands | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it

A typhoon paralyzed transportation and knocked out power to thousands on the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa on Tuesday.

The Okinawan government said 17 people were injured, one seriously. Separately, a man was reported missing from a fishing boat in rough seas off Kyushu island, to the north.

One of the strongest and biggest typhoons to hit during Japan's summer, Typhoon Neoguri was packing sustained winds of 100 miles per hour and gusts up to 134 mph in late evening, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The storm was weakening, but forecasters said its wide area and slow movement could add to the potential damage. Japan is relatively well prepared for typhoons, but torrential rains could cause greater damage if the typhoon moves across the Japanese archipelago as expected on Thursday or Friday.

"Please refrain from nonessential activities and from approaching hazardous areas," said Meteorological Agency official Satoshi Ebihara. "Please show extreme caution."

Local airports were closed and about 600,000 people were advised to evacuate their homes, though most remained put, taking refuge from the destructive winds, waves up to 46 feet high and storm surges that were set to intensify as the storm passed the main island of Okinawa in the evening.

More than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan are based in Okinawa, the location of several bases, including Kadena, the biggest U.S. air base in Asia. An advisory on its website said the storm was at a level for which all outdoor activity was prohibited.

Television footage showed a building shattered, damaged storefronts and trees toppled as winds picked up in the Okinawan capital of Naha.

 

Since typhoons track along Japan's coasts, often veering onshore every summer, the country is relatively well prepared. Much greater damage is likely from torrential rains if the typhoon hits land as expected on Thursday or Friday and moves across the Japanese archipelago.

The storm was moving slowly and diminishing in intensity, but its wide area and slow movement could add to the potential damage, weather forecasters said.

Authorities in China and Taiwan also warned ships to stay clear of the storm.

Forecasts show the storm tracking toward Kyushu and then across Japan's main island of Honshu. It is forecast to lose more of its power over land, but much of the damage from such storms comes from downpours that cause landslides and flooding. Such risks are elevated by the storm's timing, on the tail end of Japan's summer rainy season.

The Philippines, which suffered the strongest typhoon to ever hit land when Haiyan struck in November, was spared the ferocious winds of Neoguri. The storm did not make landfall and was closest to the country Monday when it was about 300 miles east of the northernmost province of Batanes before it started to blow away toward southern Japan.

The typhoon did intensify the Philippines' southwest monsoon, dumping heavy rains on some western provinces without causing any major damage.

Neoguri is a Korean word meaning "raccoon dog," a knee-high animal that looks like a cross between a dog and a raccoon but is a separate species common in East Asia.

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4 arrested in Okinawa for obstructing U.S. base transfer work

NAHA —
Four men were arrested Tuesday for obstructing work on moving a major U.S. military base within Okinawa, despite local pressure for it to be moved outside Japan’s southernmost island prefecture, police said.

The four men are suspected of piling around 1,400 concrete blocks at the gate of the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab from Jan. 28 to 30, blocking the passage of vehicles used for construction work, the police said.

The four also allegedly obstructed the movement of trucks hauling construction materials by standing in front of the vehicles, and had other protesters sit on the blocks on Jan. 30, the police said.

Camp Schwab is located close to where Japan is building a replacement facility for the Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma.

The four are Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, the head of a social activist group opposing to the base relocation, Hiroshi Inaba, 66, Takemasa Kinjo, 59, and Kobun Sasaki, 40. The police did not say whether the four admitted to the charge.

Protesters have staged sit-ins in front of the gate in an attempt to block construction work for the relocation, frequently leading to scuffles with riot police.

Under the relocation plan, which is based on a 1996 agreement between Japan and the United States, the Futenma base is to be transferred from a crowded residential area in Ginowan, to the less-populated area of Nago in the Henoko coastal area, all areas of Okinawa.

While the central government has maintained that the plan is the only solution to address safety and noise problems posed by aircraft at the base, many Okinawa residents want the base moved outside the prefecture, where the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan are located.
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Okinawan Longevity and Health

A documentary about the health and longevity of Okinawa - and a warning of the health dangers posed by modern 'American lifestyles'. VISIT
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You can help save Okinawa’s environment

You can help save Okinawa’s environment | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
Oura Bay in Okinawa is home to 262 endangered species, including the very rare Japanese dugong, blue corals, sea turtles, rays, and clownfish.

But their home is under threat. Unless we take action now, the Japanese government is going to destroy the bay and the nearby forests to create new airstrips and helipads for a US military base!

For 20 years, an unlikely group of heroes have stood together to protect Okinawa.

Grandparents in Okinawa have been joined by students, community groups and peace activists from across Japan. Right now, 500 security officers are trying to silence their protest. We know that support from people around the world will strengthen their resolve and keep the forests and the oceans beautiful and pristine.

Send a message to Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and demand the construction stop now.
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U.S. military prepares for biggest Okinawa land return since 1972

U.S. military prepares for biggest Okinawa land return since 1972 | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
TOKYO —
The United States military is preparing for the biggest land return in Okinawa since 1972, as it faces a surge in opposition to its presence following the arrest of one its civilian contractors for the murder of a local woman.

Okinawa is the U.S. military’s key base in Asia where it faces an increasingly assertive China. It hosts 30,000 military personnel on bases that cover a fifth of the island.

“We are respectful of the feelings of Okinawans that our footprint must be reduced,” Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, the U.S. commander on the island, said in a press release.

Once new helipads are completed, the U.S. military will hand back 4,000 hectares (40 square kilometers) of land to the Japanese government, which is 17% of the area it controls.

The tract is part of the U.S. Marine Corp jungle training camp known as Camp Gonsalves in Northern Okinawa.

Okinawa was under U.S. occupation until 1972.

The return of the land was agreed in 1996, but has been delayed by protesters blocking the construction of the helipads. The Japanese government recently resumed work at the site.
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UN Special Rapporteur shows concern over Japanese government’s crackdown on Henoko protesters

UN Special Rapporteur shows concern over Japanese government’s crackdown on Henoko protesters | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
April 20, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, visited Japan to research how the Japanese government has been handling its citizens’ freedom of expression. Kaye held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on April 19. Kay said he had reported concerns to the Japanese government about a crackdown on protesters opposing the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, Nago.

After hearing reports of excessive force being used by the police and the coast guard against the citizens’ nonviolent protest, Kaye decided to report his concerns to the Japanese government. He also expressed his concerns over hate speech against citizens opposing U.S. military bases in Okinawa and Japanese politicians’ pressure on two Okinawan newspapers. Kaye stated the situation was very serious and said he would continue to research the matter further and report concerns to the Japanese government.

Kaye said that he had personally researched the crackdown on protesters opposing the construction of the new military base in Henoko. He said that he had heard about the excessive security blocking the citizens’ nonviolent protest in Henoko and said he would continue to pursue the issues.
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Ancient letter from Shimazu to Ryukyu King found in Ehime

Ancient letter from Shimazu to Ryukyu King found in Ehime | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
On April 13, a letter sent from Yoshihisa Shimazu, a Satsuma warlord, to Sho Nei, king of the Ryukyu Kingdom was discovered in an old house in Iyo City, Ehime Prefecture , according to Kyodo News. The letter was a request to send envoys, celebrating Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s subjugation of the Kanto region.

The letter is known as the 1950 “Shimounake County Public Office Preserved Document” (Ancient documents related to Ehime Prefecture from the Meiji Era) and copies of it have been confirmed. Satoru Kuroshima, an associate professor of History from the Historiographical Institute, the University of Tokyo believes that this is the original letter because it bears Yoshihisa’s stylized signature.

The letter is about 33 cm long and 45 cm wide. In the same year this letter was written, Hideyoshi defeated Hojo and dominated the whole country. To seal the Satsuma victory, Hideyoshi sent a letter requesting envoys to be sent to Kyoto as soon as possible. The letter is written in an oppressive tone, warning that there would be consequences if the Ryukyu king failed to oblige.
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Royaume de Ryūkyū — Wikipédia

Royaume de Ryūkyū

琉球國 ( Ruuchuu-kuku) Carte du Royaume de Ryūkyū Initialement divisé et limité à l' île d'Okinawa il fut unifié et élargi jusqu'aux îles Amami et aux îles Yaeyama près de Taïwan par Shō Hashi.

Le royaume de Ryūkyū (琉球國, Ruuchuu-kuku?) était un royaume indépendant qui a régné sur les îles Ryūkyū du xive au xixe siècle.

Initialement divisé et limité à l'île d'Okinawa il fut unifié et élargi jusqu'aux îles Amami et aux îles Yaeyama près de Taïwan par Shō Hashi. Diplomatiquement, le royaume avait établi une relation tributaire avec l'Empire chinois, notamment avec les dynasties Ming et de Qing, et développé les relations commerciales avec le Japon, la Corée et un grand nombre de pays d'Asie du Sud-Est, notamment le Siam, le royaume de Patani, Malacca, le Champâ et Java.

En 1623, le royaume tomba devant la force expéditionnaire de Kagoshima et la famille Shimazu. L'Empire des Ming ayant prohibé le commerce avec les Japonais, le seigneur de Satsuma utilisait alors Ryūkyū comme couverture pour établir des relations commerciales profitables avec la Chine. Le gouvernement japonais moderne a définitivement annexé le royaume de Ryūkyū et y a établi la préfecture d'Okinawa en 1879, malgré les protestations de l'Empire Qing...

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Okinawa protesters call for return of U.S. base 20 yrs after accord

NAHA —
About 200 people in Okinawa on Sunday called for the early return of land occupied by a U.S. military base, ahead of the 20th anniversary of a Japan-U.S. accord on the return of the facility to Japanese control.

The protesters gathered near the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma located in a crowded residential area of Ginowan and held placards with slogans such as “Take down the fence!” and “Let’s take back Futenma.”

In the wake of public anger over the 1995 rape of a local girl by three American servicemen, Tokyo and Washington agreed on April 12, 1996, that the land used for the Futenma base should be returned to Japan.

But the return is yet to be realized amid strong local opposition to the bilateral plan to relocate the military facility to the less populated Henoko coastal district in Nago, also in the southern Japan island prefecture.

Tamayo Yamashiro, 50, a protester who was pregnant when the Japan-U.S. accord was struck in 1996, said, “I felt glad as I thought the (Futenma) base would be gone by the time (my child) could walk and talk, but that feeling was replaced by anger after learning that the facility would be moved within the prefecture.”

“Why do only Okinawa residents have to shoulder the burden of hosting the base?” she asked.

“I want the (central) government to return (the land occupied by) the dangerous base unconditionally, if it is aware of its task of protecting Japanese nationals,” said Mutsuki Kikumura, a 25-year-old university student. “I cannot trust the government as it has left the base as it is for 20 years.”
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Thousands surround Diet to protest at U.S. base relocation plan

Thousands surround Diet to protest at U.S. base relocation plan | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it

TOKYO —

Thousands of protesters formed a human chain around Japan’s Diet Sunday in protest at the planned construction of a new U.S. base on the southern island of Okinawa.

Some 28,000 people, according to local media, surrounded the building holding banners reading “No more US bases in Okinawa” and “Follow the will of Okinawa”.

Many wore blue, the color symbolising support for the island.

Police did not give an estimate of the number taking part in the rally, the latest in a long series of protests.

The dispute has intensified mistrust between the central government and the southern island chain.

Okinawa accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s total land area but hosts about 75% of U.S. military facilities in the country.

The central government wants to construct a new U.S. Marine air base in a remote part of the island to replace the existing U.S. Futenma air base in heavily populated Ginowan, where it is widely seen as a potential danger to residents.

But Okinawa Gov Takeshi Onaga and many island residents want a replacement for Futenma built outside Okinawa—either elsewhere in Japan or overseas.

They say they can no longer live with the noise, accidents and occasional crimes by U.S. service members.

Japan and the United States first proposed moving Futenma in 1996. But they both insist the replacement base must remain in Okinawa, from where US troops and aircraft can respond quickly to potential conflicts throughout Asia.

Tokyo is keen to keep its crucial security ally satisfied, but frustration over the seven-decade American military presence is rife in Okinawa.

 
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Okinawa NPO chief stabbed to death | The Tokyo Reporter

Okinawa NPO chief stabbed to death | The Tokyo Reporter | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it
OKINAWA (TR) – With the director of a non-profit organization found stabbed to death in her home in Okinawa City on Thursday afternoon, Okinawa Prefectural Police have launched a murder investigation, reports the Sankei Shimbun (April 9).

At 12:50 p.m., the collapsed body of Shizue Ueta, 63, was discovered by her oldest daughter in the living room of the second-floor residence they shared in the Takahara area. The victim was bleeding from a single stab wound to the lower back.

The first floor of the building is used as an office by Support Center Yumesaki, an NPO headed by Ueta that offers assistance for children struggling in school.

An exterior stairway allows for access to the residence on the second floor. The daughter, 23, had encountered her mother in the bedroom at midnight. At 12:30 p.m., she entered the living room and found her mother lying face down.

Police have not found any traces of a struggle or that a robbery took place, according to Nippon News Network (April 9). The murder weapon has not yet been located.
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Learn value of peace by studying Battle of Okinawa: ex-U.S. soldier | The Japan Times

Learn value of peace by studying Battle of Okinawa: ex-U.S. soldier | The Japan Times | RYUKYU - OKINAWA | Scoop.it

NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Harold Okumura, a former U.S. serviceman who fought on Okinawa, has called for peace through learning about some of the bloodiest battles there, 70 years after the U.S. military landed on the islands in the later stages of the Pacific War.

On Wednesday, the 70th anniversary of the U.S. landing in the village of Yomitan on Okinawa Island, Okumura, a 91-year-old third-generation Japanese-American, visited the village for the first time since the war, with his daughters and grandchildren in tow.

The savage ground battle between Japanese and U.S. troops known as the Battle of Okinawa began in full after the April 1, 1945, landing. During the battle, many residents died in mass suicides or murders, urged on by Japanese propaganda that often portrayed U.S. soldiers as rampaging barbarians.

War destroys everything, Okumura said, adding that he wants future generations to learn a lesson from it.

Standing on the coast of Yomitan, Okumura, who served as a translator during the war, noted that nothing had changed about Okinawa’s beautiful ocean scenery. It was “entirely as usual, nice and green,” he said, except that 70 years ago there were landing craft bobbing just off shore.

Okumura, born in Hawaii, was drafted a few years after the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and later underwent Japanese-language training.

After landing on Okinawa, he helped call on Japanese soldiers and residents hiding in the caves to come out and surrender.

“Hey, come out,” Okumura said to them in Japanese. “Don’t worry, I’m a third-generation Japanese-American from Hawaii.”

If the hiding Japanese troops and residents did not come out, U.S. troops mercilessly set fire to the caves, Okumura said, adding this was a terrible thing to see. He said he was very glad when they did emerge.

In the Mabuni district of Itoman, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the battle, Okumura watched helplessly from afar as civilians jumped off a cliff.

“Actually, I didn’t want to come back,” Okumura said, remembering the horrors of the experience. Still, to teach his children and grandchildren the preciousness of peace, he came to the conclusion that another visit to Okinawa was necessary.

Impressed by how Okinawa has been restored since the end of the war 70 years ago, Okumura said he was extremely happy to see “all this improvement.”

“Now my family can see what I did, where I was,” Okumura stressed. “I’m really glad to come back.”

He emphasized that he wants the next generation to create a peaceful world without war.

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Ainu, Okinawans join first U.N. indigenous peoples' conference - 毎日新聞

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- Delegates for indigenous peoples from around the world, including Ainu and Okinawans, came together Monday at the United Nations to discuss measures aimed at ensuring their political representation and freedom from discrimination in the first U.N.-backed conference of its kind.

Kazushi Abe, vice president of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido and Shisei Toma of the Association of the Indigenous Peoples in the Ryukyus, an Okinawa civic association, were among those invited to speak at the two-day World Conference on Indigenous Peoples through Tuesday.

The two-day conference is focused on the implementation by the U.N. and national and local governments of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Rights adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2007.

The declaration promotes the rights of indigenous peoples to organize their own political systems, live free from discrimination, hold their traditional land, be consulted on development which affects them, and other human rights.

According to the U.N., there are at least 370 million people making up 5,000 indigenous people groups in 70 countries throughout the world.

Opening the conference on Monday, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said its success "is integral to progress for all humanity."

Abe, 67, told Kyodo News, "It's outstanding that an indigenous people's conference is staged for two days (when world leaders gather) during the U.N. General Assembly."

The Ainu group leader was planning to speak to press the Japanese government to implement the U.N. declaration but could not do so because an allotted time for speakers ran out.

Abe, who participated as a member of the Japanese government delegation, said he was "very impressed that the Japanese government was understanding and took part together."

"We hope to work together with other indigenous peoples in the world and that our children and grandchildren will be proud of being Ainu in the future," he added.

Also at the opening session at the General Assembly hall, participants adopted a resolution reaffirming U.N. member states' commitment to the declaration and asking the Secretary General to create an action plan.

September 23, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

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