OKINAWA – THE GEOGRAPHICAL AND POLITICAL PERIPHERIES OF JAPANn
For years, the Japanese government propagated the image of Japan as a culturally and ethnically homogenous entity. The official stance has changed, but the vision of “exceptional Japan” is still powerful and it is shared by numerous Japanese, even though there are minority groups of the Korean and the Chinese descent. They have been brought in to forced labor during the World War II. There are also the indigenous people of the Japanese archipelago: the Ainu, presently living on the northern island of Hokkaidō, or the burakumin – the former outcasts, and at the south the inhabitants of the Ryūkyū archipelago within boundaries of the present day prefecture of Okinawa.
The study analyses this prefecture, although it offers a wide range of issues relevant also to other minority groups elsewhere in Japan. The “Okinawa problem ” (Okinawa mondai) is the euphemism by which the Japanese offi cials conceal the political and economic discrimination that the prefecture has suffered in the result of its historic, cultural, geographic, political and social differences.
The authoress discusses the geo-cultural characteristics of Okinawa, its historical background since the time of Ryūkyū Kingdom, the problem of the American military bases covering approximately 20% of the most populous main island. The American presence constitutes the key to the “Okinawa problem” because of the prefecture’s economic diffi culties arising thereof. She also points out the implications of this particular situation to local politics.
The study rejects the often-cited opinion that the essential problems of the prefecture cannot be solved due to its peripheral location. The authoress points out that a change for the better is conceivable, but might be expected only in case of transfer of power from the long-ruling, conservative and pro-American Liberal Democratic Party to a more open-minded political groupings.