Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A protester at Sunday's rallies against U.S. bases on Okinawa. (Photo: AFP)

28,000 Protest War-Mongering, US Military Footprint in Japan

28,000 protesters circled Japan's parliament on Sunday to voice their fierce opposition to the proposed relocation of a U.S. base on Okinawa, while synchronized protests took place nationwide

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Tens of thousands of protesters surrounded Japan's parliament on Sunday in the latest rally against the unpopular plan to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps base to Okinawa's northern coast, while simultaneous protests took place in the cities of Toyama, Okayama, Sapporo, Nagoya, and Osaka.

"Don't build the base," and "follow the will of Okinawa," shouted the protesters, according to Reuters and Business Standard. The protests took place in advance of Japan's upcoming parliamentary elections in July.

The plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from heavily populated areas to the island's less-populated Henoko coastal area of Nago was first proposed by the Japanese and U.S. governments 20 years ago, after a local 12-year-old girl was gang raped by U.S. service members.

“The central government is trying to force through landfill work to move the base to Henoko, but justice and righteousness are on our side,” Nago mayor Susume Inamine told the Japan Times at the rally on Sunday.

Protesters in front of Japan's Parliament on Sunday. (Photo: AFP-JIJI)

Okinawa is home to over half of the 50,000 U.S. service members stationed in Japan, and residents have long resented the military's large presence on the small island. "Okinawa accounts for less than one per cent of Japan's total land area but hosts about 75 per cent of US military facilities in the country," reports the Business Standard. Okinawa officials sued the country's central government in December in their latest effort to halt construction of the military base.

For decades, locals have complained of accidents and crimes — particularly sexual violence — on the part of service members, as well as environmental contamination from the bases.

"In July [of 2014], the Japanese government unearthed 88 barrels containing ingredients used to produce Agent Orange in reclaimed land next to the Kadena Air Force Base," which is also located on Okinawa, wrote Christine Ahn, founding board member of the Korea Policy Institute and the National Campaign to End the Korean War.

Critics in the U.S. and Japan have also noted the threat that the proposed Henoko base poses to the endangered dugong, a mammalian relative of the manatee and an ancient cultural icon.

Also on Sunday, 5,000 high school students rallied in Tokyo's Shibuya district against the country's controversial new law that would allow its Self-Defense Forces to defend Japan's allies from attack, even if Japan itself is not under attack. The Japan Times notes that "[i]t is scheduled to take effect in March but has raised fears that Japan might be dragged into a foreign war."

View footage of Sunday's protests here:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Intentional Vandalism' Leaves Thousands Without Power in North Carolina

One right-wing extremist implied that multiple electrical substations were targeted to disrupt a drag show in Moore County. Local law enforcement authorities and the FBI are investigating.

Kenny Stancil ·


GOP Silence on Trump's Call to Axe Constitution Reveals 'Full Embrace of Fascism': House Dem

"Last week the leader of the Republican Party had dinner with a Nazi leader and a man who called Adolf Hitler 'great,'" said Rep. Bill Pascrell. "Yesterday Trump called for throwing out the Constitution and making himself dictator."

Kenny Stancil ·


Protesting Fuel Poverty, People Tell UK Government to 'Keep Everyone Warm This Winter'

As energy bills—and fossil fuel profits—continue to soar, demonstrators around Britain demanded immediate action from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and members of Parliament.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·


EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo