As Alyssa Pearl Fusek discussed earlier this week in her article on the Allied Occupation of Japan, one of the lingering effects of the Occupation has been the installation of a permanent American military air field in Okinawa. The base has been the source of consternation for many Okinawans for decades. Tensions have run particularly high since 1995, when a group of US soldiers kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl.
The continuing existence of the base has locked Japan into a weird three-way power struggle between the US, the central government run by Abe Shinzou, and the local Okinawan government. The struggle has intensified lately as the US, in cooperation with the Abe government, has begun moving the base from its current location, Futenma in the city of Ginowan, to a new location, Henoko in the city of Nago, in the hopes that moving the city to a less populated area will ease tensions with residents. The move has some Okinawans up in arms, with some citing the negative environmental impact of the move, particularly on local coral in the Henoko area, and with others using the move as an opportunity to voice their opposition to the very presence of the US military.
The Henoko move was opposed vociferously by Okinawa's former governor, Onaga Takeshi, who passed away from cancer last year. The election to replace him was won by Tamaki Denny, who campaigned on an explicit anti-base platform, and who is calling for a vote on the move. The issue has also spit Okinawans themselves. Older Okinawans oppose the move most strongly. Younger people, by contrast, are more accepting of the base's existence, and recognize the money and opportunity it brings to Okinawa.
(JP) Link: "I Oppose the Move to Henoko, But It's Hard to Say That"; "Ultimately We Chose Money" - The Real Opinions of Okinawa's Young?
But a new wrinkle's developed in the story. In 2016, a local Okinawan paper alleged that the Abe government had commissioned a private security firm to track the names and activities of a number of prominent anti-base activists, on the premise that they posed a security threat to the base. At the time, the Abe government denied the allegations.
Now, the Mainichi Shinbun reports that it's confirmed the existence of such a list from employees of Rising Sun Security, the Tokyo-based firm allegedly hired by the government. Mainichi printed excerpts of the documents it obtained from Rising Sun, which are internal company memos confirming a request from the Okinawa Defense Ministry (part of the central government) asking that such individuals be identified and their activities tracked to ensure they don't attempt to enter the construction site for the new base. The request supposedly asked the company to compile face shots, names, ages, and personal histories for all such individuals.
Mainichi confirmed the existence of the request with another employee of the security firm. But Suna Yoshihide, the cabinet secretary for the Abe government, has flatly denied the allegation, saying there's "no truth" to it.
(JP) Link: Henoko Opposition List "Requested by the Government"; We Obtained Internal Documents from the Security Company
辺野古反対派リスト「国が作成依頼」 警備会社の内部文書を入手 - 毎日新聞
In their write-up on the incident, the paper Nikkan Gendai points out that the Abe government has good reason to deny the existence of such a document: it's a clear violation of Japan's Constitution, and an infringement upon the rights guaranteed Japanese citizens. It hearkens back to wartime Japan, when the Imperial government kept careful track of "dangerous" individuals on both ends of the political spectrum. That history is a key reason why Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution includes an explicit right to privacy. In 1969, Japan's Supreme Court affirmed that the right to privacy explicitly prohibited photographing of individuals by the government without their permission.
(JP) Link: Is the Abe Cabinet Covering Up a Constitutional Violation? Shockwaves from the Uncovering of the Henoko "Opposition List"
The evidence seems pretty strong that such a list was requested. And the Abe administration has a terrible track record with written documentation. I wrote back in August about how the government denied the existence of a document related to the scandal surrounding the Kake Veterinary School, calling it a "phantom document". They were forced to backtrack and paper over those statements, however, when Asahi Shinbun obtained a copy of the document in question.
It seems far-fetched that the security firm would manufacture these claims; as Nikkan notes, there's no merit in it for them. The question now becomes whether the ruling party's political opponents can make enough of an issue of this in the Diet to unearth additional information supporting the charges.
Personally, I doubt anything will come of it. Abe has deftly survived numerous scandals in his multiple terms as Prime Minister, and has shown himself adept at getting his underlings to voluntarily throw themselves under approaching buses. Even if this does become a major issue in the Diet, I expect Abe will somehow thread the needle and come out the other side. But I'd also be happy to eat those words.
I'm the publisher of Unseen Japan. I hold an N1 Certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and am married to a wonderful woman from Tokyo.
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