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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Earthjustice: Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Construction of U.S. Military Airstrip in Japan That Would Destroy Habitat of Endangered Okinawa Dugongs

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Construction of U.S. Military Airstrip in Japan
That Would Destroy Habitat of Endangered Okinawa Dugongs

Marine Base Threatens Survival of Manatee Relative

SAN FRANCISCO— American and Japanese conservation groups today asked a U.S. federal court to halt construction of a U.S. military airstrip in Okinawa, Japan that would pave over some of the last remaining habitat for endangered Okinawa dugongs, ancient cultural icons for the Okinawan people. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is the latest in a long-running controversy over the expansion of a U.S. Marine air base at Okinawa’s Henoko Bay. Preliminary construction on the base began earlier this year.

Dugongs are gentle marine mammals related to manatees that have long been revered by native Okinawans, even celebrated as “sirens” that bring friendly warnings of tsunamis. The dugong is listed as an object of national cultural significance under Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, the equivalent of the U.S. National Historic Protection Act. Under this act and international law, the United States must take into account the effect of its actions and avoid or mitigate any harm to places or things of cultural significance to another country.

“Our folktales tell us that gods from Niraikanai [afar] come to our islands riding on the backs of dugongs and the dugongs ensure the abundance of food from the sea,” said Takuma Higashionna, an Okinawan scuba-diving guide who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Today, leaving their feeding trails in the construction site, I believe, our dugongs are warning us that this sea will no longer provide us with such abundance if the base is constructed. The U.S. government must realize that the Okinawa dugong is a treasure for Okinawa and for the world.”

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has listed dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there may have been as few as 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world; more recent surveys have only been able to conclude that at least three dugongs remain in Okinawa. Although the Defense Department acknowledges that this information is “not sufficient,” and despite the precariously low dugong population even under the most conservative estimates, the Defense Department has authorized construction of the new base.

The Nature Conservation Society of Japan reported earlier this month that it had found more than 110 locations around the site of the proposed airstrips where dugongs had fed on seagrass this spring and summer.

“Okinawa dugongs can only live in shallow waters and are at high risk of going extinct. These gentle animals are adored by both locals and tourists. Paving over some of the last places they survive will not only likely be a death sentence for them, it will be a deep cultural loss for the Okinawan people,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Today’s legal filing, which supplements a suit filed in 2003, seeks to require the U.S. Department of Defense to stop construction activities on the new airstrip until it conducts an in-depth analysis aimed at avoiding or mitigating harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong. In April 2014 the Defense Department concluded that its activities would not harm the dugong, but that conclusion did not consider all possible effects of the new airstrip and ignored important facts. In addition, the department excluded the public, including local dugong experts, from its analysis.

For years many locals have protested and opposed the base-expansion plan for Okinawa, where 20 percent of the island is already occupied by U.S. military.

“Basic respect demands that the United States make every effort not to harm another country’s cultural heritage. U.S. and international law require the same,” said Earthjustice attorney Martin Wagner. “The Defense Department should not allow this project to go forward without making every effort to understand and minimize its effects on the dugong. That means fully understanding the state of the entire Okinawan dugong population, how it depends on the seagrass beds around the proposed airstrip, and how construction and operation of the base might harm it. To ensure that no relevant information is excluded, the process and all related information must be fully open to the public.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the U.S. organizations Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network; the Japanese organizations Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation and the Save the Dugong Foundation; and three Japanese individuals.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Asahi: Unique, unknown species living in Oura Bay & Sea of Henoko ("treasure trove" of biodiversity) under threat of destruction, extinction...

A newly discovered species of a parasitic conch 
(Via Asahi, via Diving Team Snack Snufkin)

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%.

10 years ago, 889 coral scientists from 83 countries, attending the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, signed a resolution calling on the govs of Jp and the US to abandon their joint plan to construct a base at Henoko.

Coral reefs and lagoons used to be major source of cultural distinctiveness in traditional Okinawa, as with other indigenous cultures in the Pacific islands. Coral reefs are called the "rainforests of the sea" because they nourish a rich abundance of biodiversity. Worldwide, coral reefs only comprise 0.1% of the global ocean area, yet they contain a quarter of all marine species. Reef-building coral, fish, shellfish, sponges, and other marine life gather to create a unique ecosystem. They are of incomparable value for food and eco-tourism destinations.

Almost 400 types of coral form Okinawa’s reefs, which support more than 1,000 species of fish, marine mammals, including the beloved dugong, and hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles.

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%. This is part of a global trend: coral reefs will become the first ecosystem that human activity will completely destroy by global warming, pollution and landfill, in just a few decades.

The beautiful and vital Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay ecoregion is an exception to the trend of dying coral reefs in Okinawa and the world.

Takao Nogami's Asahi article outlines the incredible (largely undiscovered) biodiversity that will be destroyed if the Japanese and US governments landfill and build an airbase over Oura Bay and the Sea of Henoko:
Researchers are raising new alarms about the ecological threat posed by land reclamation work planned for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture in a bay where 10 new species have been discovered since 2007...

...these newly discovered species as well as countless others that still remain unknown could be destroyed forever by the construction work, which would not only reclaim land but also change currents and could adversely impact the coral ecosystem...

The unique structure of Oura Bay is believed to be the major reason many rare species live in the ecosystem...the entrance to the bay not only has a well-developed coral reef, but the area is also shallow. However, the bay becomes deeper, and that unusual structure is believed to allow many unknown species to survive there.

Two rivers empty into the bay and the river mouths are covered in mangrove forests and mudflats. Beyond that area is a wide variety of environments, such as seaweed beds, sandy bottoms, muddy areas and coral reef...the interlaying and connecting of such different environments, each of which has its own ecosystem...

Makoto Kato, chairman of the nature preservation committee of the Ecological Society of Japan, said Oura Bay was especially important because it contains the last coral ecosystem in Japan that has remained relatively undisturbed by human development.

"The presence of unrecorded species, such as huge sea cucumbers, shellfish and crustaceans, is but one example of how valuable that ecosystem is," said Kato, who is also a professor of environmental studies at Kyoto University. "While Japan does not have much in the way of underground mineral resources, its marine biodiversity is its true treasure. Unfortunately, political leaders in Japan do not realize that fact.

"The coral ecosystem and biodiversity of the Ryukyu archipelago is undoubtedly Japan's largest treasure trove, and land reclamation work in such waters would be an act of stupidity that would be irreversible."
Nogami's entire article is a must-read for all interested in marine life preservation.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marine biologist Dr. Katherine Muzik diving at the Sea of Henoko, the best (one of the few still living) coral reef in all of Okinawa & Japan


Katherine Muzik diving at the Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay, July 2013

10 years ago, 889 coral scientists from 83 countries, attending the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, signed a resolution calling on the govs of Jp and the US to abandon their joint plan to construct a base at Henoko.

Coral reefs and lagoons used to be major source of cultural distinctiveness in traditional Okinawa, as in other South Pacific islands. Coral reefs are called the "rainforests of the sea" because they nourish a rich abundance of biodiversity. Worldwide, coral reefs only comprise 0.1% of the global ocean area, yet they contain a quarter of all marine species. Reef-building coral, fish, shellfish, sponges, and other marine life gather to create a unique ecosystem. They are of incomparable value for food and eco-tourism destinations.

Almost 400 types of coral form Okinawa’s reefs, which support more than 1,000 species of fish, marine mammals, including the beloved dugong, and hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles.

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%. This is part of a global trend: coral reefs will become the first ecosystem that human activity will completely destroy by global warming, pollution, and landfill, in just a few decades.

The beautiful and vital Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay ecoregion is an exception to the trend of dying coral reefs in Okinawa and the world.

Katherine Muzik via JT on May 2, 2014:
Having lived in Okinawa and worked there as a marine biologist for 11 years, long ago (1981-1988) and more recently (2007-2011), I have dived the entire Ryukyu archipelago from Amami and Kikai in the north to Yonaguni in the south. I can therefore assure you there is no comparable reef ecosystem remaining such as the beautiful reef at Oura. It is indeed miraculous that it is still surviving. Aki samiyo (“Oh my goodness!” in Okinawan)! There is no disease nor bleaching there! It has so far avoided the troubles that continue to plague and destroy coral reefs worldwide, whether in the Pacific or the Caribbean. (I am sure that you are quite painfully aware that reefs all over the world are dying, thus making any coral reef alive anywhere a truly sacred place.)

Oura Bay is a unique and spectacular ecosystem, including mangroves, a river, a sandy beach with crabs, numerous patch reefs in shallow water (where my specialty, blue corals and red sea fans, thrive), not to mention threatened dugongs and all of the species of clownfish in Japan, shallow beds of sea grasses beyond count, and, most amazingly, a very spectacular deeper reef, nicknamed the “Coral Museum,” with countless gorgeous corals...

Crushing these beautiful and quintessential corals just must not, cannot happen...

Last July, I returned to Okinawa from here in Kauai at the request of the Okinawan Environmental Network. I was asked to dive at Oura Bay and to lend my support to its protection. During my visit I met with the mayor of Nago, who is valiantly opposed to construction/destruction at Oura...

I am deeply honored to have met him [the Emperor] and the Empress several times at their palace during the time I lived in Okinawa. He is a marine biologist too, and since his goby fishes often find their home on the branches of “my” octocorals, I collected some for him to study...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sherry Nakanishi: "Music vs Militarism: OKINAWA"


"Music vs Militarism: OKINAWA" by BY SHERRY NAKANISHI

In total, 150,000 Okinawans died during the final battles of the Second World War, a third of the civilian population. The number exceeded the total of American and Japanese dead during the same period.

Things start off quite innocently. I receive two tickets from a colleague at school. On them is printed “Okinawa LIVE.” On the appointed day I arrive at the venue, Higashi Honganji, a large Buddhist temple in midtown Kyoto.

My husband, child, and I cross the vast pigeon-thronged gravel spaces of the temple precincts, reach the correct hall and are greeted warmly by monks...

The auditorium is large, and filled. Hundreds upon hundreds of people have come to hear the Okinawan message. On center stage, a man stands alone, holding a sanshin, the traditional Okinawa three-stringed instrument. “We can only fight through our music, it is all we have,” he says. And an hour and a half passes by as the truth of Okinawa’s recent history spills out, accompanied by intermittent notes played on the sanshin — sounds of nodding agreement.

The speaker is Chibana Shoichi, an Okinawan. Labelled an “anti-base activist” by Time Magazine [April/May 1997], perhaps he is more of a peace activist; one who out of love tries to protect the children, the people, the land, and the sea from being misused and ill-treated....

In ancient times Okinawa was independent, and known as Ryukyu Onkaku, the Ryukyu Kingdom. Before being annexed by Japan in 1865 this peaceful kingdom had no army. Looking into Ma-chan’s youthful face, I recall Chibana telling me how young Okinawans are picking up the traditional instruments, shamisen , jamisen, and sanshin, and proudly carrying on their culture. Okinawa has remained connected with its ancestral soul through its music, and this is how it has responded to an unimaginable military onslaught — with songs that are the spiritual poetry of peace, prayers for nature and for people.

We bow again, he departs; I am left holding the hope of Okinawa — the ancient teaching of the sanshin, the music and song of Okinawa; its gift to the people of Honshu, and the world.

I have a friend in Kyoto, a former soldier whose mind remains disturbed by his intensive military training. He knows he’s crazy, and travels the world sporadically, soul- searching for the truth. I tell him what I have learned about Okinawa, and ask for his response. He says:

This — as all things —
does not exist to be changed,
but for us to change.

His words send a shiver through me.
“I didn’t say it — it came from up there,” he says, pointing to the sky.
Read this rest of Sherry Nakanishi's beautiful essay at Kyoto Journal.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Story behind the Global Uchinaanchu Video Support Message for Henoko & its classic Okinawan antiwar song: "You & I are all leftovers from ships' bombings."


Via our colleague and friend, Dr. Hideki Yoshikawa of Citizens Network for Biodiversity in Okinawa, Save the Dugong Campaign Center, and Okinawa Outreach: "Inspiring Video by Uchinaanchu".
Support for the Okinawan struggle against the construction of the military base in Henoko/Oura Bay is pouring in from around the world. Here is a great example of such support.

Three Uchinaanchu (Okinawans/Okinawan descendants), Brandon Ing from Hawaii, Carolina Higa from Argentina, and Karina Satomi Matsumoto from Brasil, have created and uploaded this wonderful and inspiring video “No New Base in Henoko” on YouTube. 

Compiling photos of people from different parts of the world, holding signs supporting Okinawa’s struggle, this video is a powerful remainder to those of us in Okinawa that we are not alone and that we need to continue our fight.

Brandon, Carolina and Karina Satomi, thank you very much for creating and uploading this wonderful video!  Ippe nihe debiru!!!  

The Song and the Story behind

As an Okinawan myself, I was especially moved by their choice of the song accompanying these wonderful photos, "Kanpo nu kenukusa" ("Leftovers from the ships’ bombings), performed by the Deigo musume (Coral Tree Daughters). 

An Okinawan post-war classic song, Kanpo nu kenukusaa was written by Higa Kobin in 1971, who lost his parents, his first wife and children in World War II.

The song depicts in the Okinawan language the hardship and the hope that the “leftovers” (survivors) from the ships’ bombings experienced and embraced. The word “kenukusaa” (leftovers) captures the nature of the devastating bombings the Okinawan people experienced, as well as the feelings of guilt of those who survived them. At the same time, the everyday nature that the music expresses makes the word “kenukusaa” resonate with the meaning of the English word “survivor”: People who are able to cope with hardship.

Sadly, Kobin himself was killed along with his second wife after he wrote the song in 1971 in Okinawa in a horrible traffic accident caused by a drunken US soldier.

The singers, Deigo musume, are Kobin’s beloved daughters and they are one of the most respected Okinawan music groups (see this Youtube video).

I hope that this song and the story behind it help explain to people in the world why we Okinawans and our supporters are determined to stop the construction of the base in Henoko/Oura Bay and to challenge the militarization of our islands.  And I hope many people watch and get inspired by the Video.

Below is my humble English translation of "Kanpo nu kenukusaa."

H.Y.

"Kanpo nu kenukusaa"

1) When we were young, it was a time of war.

Young flowers never bloomed, Young flowers never bloomed.

Our houses, our ancestors, our parents, and our brothers and sisters were all targets of ships’ bombings

We had no clothes, no food, nothing at all.

We ate fern palms to survive.

You and I, you and I are all leftovers from the ships’ bombings.

2) We had no Gods and no Buddha to rely on.

With our farmlands enclosed by the fence, we had no way to make a living. With our farmlands enclosed by the fence, we had no way to make a living.

Our humble houses were blown off by the wind of war. 

Trying to steal food and goods (from the military) to survive, we were caught, pushed, pulled and rolled over.

All despite, we had honest and sincere hearts.

You and I, you and I are all leftovers from the ships’ bombings.


3) Rising up from the muddy ground,

I wanted to have a family, and I found my wife, I wanted to have a family, and found my wife.

We had and raised our first son, second son, and third son, just like snails do.

Amidst our hardship, we sought comfort and soul in the laughter of the children. 

You and I, you and I are all leftovers form the ships’ bombings.


4) Years have passed since peace returned

Our children are now all grown-up, our children are now all grown-up

Like a poor wild boar who got shot but still worrying about her piglet,

I cannot sleep at night,

worrying that the waves of war will return.

You and I, you and I are all leftovers from the ships’ bombings.

5) The war that ate my parents, 

The ships’ bombings that ate my village, the ships' bombings that ate my village.

How could I forget that, even if I were to be born again?

Who started this?

My resentment and my sorrow were never enough and never end.

I want to tell this as my last words to my children and grandchildren,

You and I, you and I are all leftovers from the ships’ bombings.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

8月1日大阪、8月13日沖縄/名護イベントのご案内 Symposia on Okinawa - August 1 in Osaka, and August 13 in Nago, Okinawa


Via our colleague and friend, Satoko Oka Norimatsu, of Peace Philosophy Centre.
8月1日大阪、8月13日沖縄/名護イベントのご案内 Symposia on Okinawa - August 1 in Osaka, and August 13 in Nago, Okinawa

「海外識者・文化人沖縄声明」メンバー、ピーター・カズニック、ジョセフ・ガーソン両氏と、8月1日大阪で、8月13日沖縄・名護で行う公開イベントを紹介します。詳細はチラシにある各イベント主催者にお問い合わせください。また、オリバー・ストーンとピーター・カズニックが2013年夏来日したときの講演録集、新刊『よし、戦争について話をしよう。戦争の本質について話をしようじゃないか!オリバー・ストーンが語る日米史の真実』(金曜日)を各イベント会場で販売します。どうぞふるってご参加ください。

8月13日・名護

Symposium in Nago, Okinawa, 7-9 PM, August 13, Nago Civic Centre (Mid-Hall)
"What Okinawa Expects from the World" - with members of the International Okinawa Statement

Panelists: Peter Kuznick, Joseph Gerson, Masahide Ota, Keiko Itokazu, Satoko Oka Norimatsu (also translating), Hideki Yoshikawa (also chairing).

A Video Message from Susumu Inamine, Mayor of Nago City.
More info here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

14 Japanese peace, anti-nuclear, Article 9, & religious groups send statement to the Israeli Embassy on July 20, demanding a halt to bombing of Gaza • "Arabs & Jews Refuse to be Enemies" • "If not now, when?"

July 30 update: Death toll now at 1,300+ Palestinians, mostly civilians; 
3 Israeli civilians; and 56 Israeli soldiers (Haaretz.com).
New Japan Women's Asssociation sign. (Photo: Shingetsu News Agency)


広島の14団体が連名で7月20日、イスラエル大使館に送った要請を紹介します。14 Japanese peace, anti-nuclear, Article 9, and religious groups sent a joint statement to the Israeli Embassy on July 20, demanding an immediate halt to the Israeli Army's bombing and bombardment of Gaza.
---


Peace Boat Candle Action in Tokyo on July 21, 2014. 
call for an immediate halt of military attacks in Gaza,
 and remember the lives that have been lost in the violence. 

---

Middle East and worldwide Arabs and Jews have started a new anti-hate, anti-war campaign (Abrahamic interfaith peace initiatives have been ongoing for decades): "Arabs and Jews Refuse to be Enemies."




Sulome Anderson posted a photo to Jews and Arabs Refuse To Be Enemies's timeline — with Jeremy Berg.
"He calls me neshama, I call him habibi. 
Love doesn't understand the language of rocket fire, occupation or airstrikes."
‪#‎JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies‬

---

May Shigenobu and Anna Balzer (Photo: Kimberly Hughes)

Kimberly Hughes' Nov. 16, 2010 post, "Speakers contemplate Palestinian human rights, urge action at Tokyo event," on May Shigenobu and Anna Baltzer's interfaith dialogue event in Tokyo provides some more context and background on Japanese support for peace, justice, and repair in Palestine and Israel:
Both speakers emphasized that the present conflict is one of human rights and justice—and most certainly not one of Islam vs. Judaism. They also both encouraged everyone attending the event to take action on the issue, whether by joining an organization, visiting the region, or just sharing knowledge with others.
---



Reading Kaddish for those killed in Gaza and Israel
On Thursday, July 24th, 2014 we [If Not now, When?]  gathered in front of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations to call for an end to the war on Gaza and the occupation, and for freedom and dignity for all. We delivered this letter: https://www.facebook.com/IfNotNowOrg/...

We believe it is up to our generation to respond to Hillel's 3 Questions: If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?
---


1980's postage stamp depicting friendship between Arabs and Jews in Israel. 
(Photo: Makiko Sato, via TTT)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Charlie Madison: "War is always fought for the best of reasons...We will never end wars by blaming ministers & generals & war-mongering imperialists & all the other banal bogey."

"It's not war that's insane. It's the morality of it. It's not greed and ambition that makes war. It's goodness. War is always fought for the best of reasons. For liberation or manifest destiny. Always against tyranny and always in the interest of humanity.

So far in this war, we've managed to butcher some 10 million humans in the interest of humanity. In the next war, we'll probably have to destroy all of man to preserve his damned dignity...

We will never end wars by blaming ministers and generals and war-mongering imperialists and all the other banal bogey.  It's the rest of us who build statues to the generals and name boulevards after those ministers. The rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields...

We perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifice...It may be generals and ministers who blunder us into war, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution."

- The great American actor James Garner (1928-2014) as Charlie Madison in the great American antiwar film, The Americanization of Emilyreleased in 1964, the same year as Dr. Strangelove and Seven Days in May.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tim Shorrock: "You don't have to even take sides to EMPATHIZE with the ordinary people victimized by fire bombing. It is a horrific & searing experience."

Our friend, Tim Shorrock, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TimothyS
Tim Shorrock @TimothyS  ·  22h

You don't have to even take sides to EMPATHIZE with the ordinary people victimized by fire bombing. It is a horrific & searing experience.

Tim Shorrock @TimothyS · 23h

I grew up in postwar Tokyo, bombed for days in 1945. My step-mother lived through it as a kid. I've always had empathy with bombing victims.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Robert Jacobs on the 1954 Castle Bravo thermonuclear blast as the turning point in global awareness about nuclear test fallout • July 19, 2014 • Meiji Gakuen Univ, Tokyo

Crew member of Lucky Dragon Number Five, suffering from acute radiation exposure
The fishing boat was 90 miles from the Castle Bravo thermonuclear test explosion epicenter.

If you live in Tokyo and want to learn more about nuclear radiation and the history of the nuclear-free movement, don't miss Hiroshima City University Professor Robert Jacobs' talk about how the 1954 Bravo Castle thermonuclear explosion catalyzed global awareness about the dangers of nuclear fallout.  A sharp, humane, and engaging writer and speaker, the nuclear historian will be speaking on July 19 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the International Conference Hall at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo.

Jacobs explains that during the atmospheric nuclear test explosion era (1945-1963) radiation became a part of the lives and bodies of people around the world, carried into their homes as radioactive fallout from hundreds of experimental nuclear explosions. However, it was not until the death of a Japanese fisherman who was exposed to radiation while trawling for tuna 90 miles from the epicenter of a US nuclear explosion at Bikini, a tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands, that people realized the real consequences of experimental nuclear explosions.

Just as the shock of 3/11 spurred people worldwide to give louder voice to their fears about radiation from nuclear power plants, nuclear waste, nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons plants, and uranium mines—the shock of the Bravo Castle thermonuclear explosion in Bikini spurred people worldwide to give louder voice to their fears about radiation from nuclear test explosions.

Castle Bravo thermonuclear explosion on March 1, 1954

Bravo was one of six thermonuclear (H-bomb) explosions between March and May 1954 on Bikini and one of 67 thermonuclear test explosions in the Marshall Islands spanning 1952 to 1958 . The formerly inhabited tropical atoll (ring-shaped coral reef that encircles a lagoon) is one of the 29 atolls and five islands that compose the Marshall Islands. The largest (15-megaton) American H-bomb ever, Bravo hit the tropical atoll with the force of 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.  The explosion created an immense fallout cloud that covered thousands of square miles.

Bravo's fallout (radioactive dust from calcinated Bikini Island coral that resembled snow except it didn't melt) exposed over 1,000 fishing and naval vessels to high levels of radiation, causing significant exposures to crews. All of these vessels were outside the official exclusion zone.

The most famous of these vessels was the Japanese tuna fishing boat Lucky Dragon No. 5. Nuclear fallout fell on the boat and its crew for three hours.  When the Lucky Dragon returned to port three weeks later, the entire 23-member crew had to be hospitalized for acute radiation sickness; one crew member later died.

Roberts sums up, "This showed that you could be 100 miles away from a thermonuclear explosion and it could still kill you."

Suffering from nausea, headaches, burns, pain in the eyes, and bleeding from the gums, the Lucky Dragon crew returned to to their home at Yaizu Port, Shizuoka Prefecture, They were diagnosed with acute radiation syndrome and admitted to two Tokyo hospitals. Analysis of the fallout that fell on the ship revealed strontium-90, cesium-137, selenium-141 and uranium-237.

On September 23, Captain Aikichi Kuboyama, 40, died — the first Japanese victim of a hydrogen bomb. His parting message: "I pray that I am the last victim of an atomic or hydrogen bomb." Since then 13 other members of the crew died from cancer.

Lucky Dragon Number Five Captain Aikichi Kuboyama died on September 23, 1954.

We don't know the fates of the crew members of the other 856 Japanese fishing boats that were irradiated from Bravo and other nuclear test explosions in 1954. (The Asahi has brought to light some of the victims' experiences in "‘Forgotten’ victims of U.S. H-bomb testing dying in despair, hopelessness.")

Jacobs describes how Bravo's fallout cloud extended over 200 miles to the northeast of the explosion, creating a lethally contaminated area of 7,000 square miles of the Pacific. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) calculated that Bikini islanders (who had been located about 100 miles from the epicenter of the blast) were exposed to radiation at levels equal to that suffered from hibakusha 1.5 miles away from the epicenter of the Hiroshima blast. Many of the islanders suffered from radiation sickness, experiencing hair loss, low white blood cell counts, hemorrhages, and skin lesions. They and their descendants continue to suffer from cancers, miscarriages, and genetic defects.

Bravo fallout pattern 35 days after the explosion.

The Lucky Dragon's contaminated tuna was sold in Osaka and eaten. As with the post-3/11 experience, the Japanese public grew increasingly anxious about food safety as radioactive fish was found throughout the Pacific Rim.

Map of radioactive contamination of fish by the Bravo explosion. 

Lewis Strauss, the head of the AEC, issued a series of denials regarding the Lucky Dragon.  He said the lesions on the fishermen's bodies were not caused by nuclear radiation, but instead by the caustic burnt lime produced by calcined coral. He told President Eisenhower's press secretary that the boat may have been a "Red spy outfit", commanded by a Soviet agent who intentionally exposing the ship's crew and fish to embarrass the United States. 

However, nothing could keep the lid on what happened. Jacobs tells us the fact that the Lucky Dragon returned to Japan made it impossible for Washington to keep the massive levels of radioactive fallout secret although they had succeeded in doing this for three weeks.

Because the Lucky Dragon irradiation happened when Japan was about to introduce nuclear power plants from the United States, both Tokyo and Washington wanted to quiet the issue as quickly as possible. They, therefore, limited acknowledging the consequences of radiation exposure from the hydrogen bomb testing to the Lucky Dragon, and ignored the crews of other boats and vessels exposed to fallout.  Eventually the U.S. government paid "condolence money" to the Japanese government, but did not compensate the actual victims who were exposed to the nuclear test explosion fallout, not to mention the people who purchased and ate irradiated fish.

Jacobs explained in an email that the Lucky Dragon's return was a historical turning point: the thermonuclear blast's "terrible toll on human health and life marked the end of the previous containment of the issue of radioactive fallout" that Washington had been able to maintain for the first nine years of U.S. experimental nuclear test explosions.
The fact that someone located over 100 miles away from the blast epicenter died from radiation exposure led people all over the world to understand that the nature of the Earth’s ecosystem made it impossible to use highly toxic materials in one place without later contaminating many other places, raising ecological awareness.
Before Bravo, nuclear abolitionists opposed nuclear weapons in several countries.  After Bravo, "news about the irradiation of Lucky Dragon generated a large movement in Japan where it was seen that Japanese were the first victims of the A-Bomb, and then the first victims of the H-Bomb," said Jacobs. After the Bravo test, people began to protest against nuclear testing, and not just nuclear weapons. Japanese women opposing nuclear tests initiated a citizens' petition, the largest of its kind ever, signed by 32 million Japanese.  In August 1954, the first Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs was held in Hiroshima.

Bravo did the same in the U.S., long irradiated by nuclear test explosions in Nevada:
By the mid-fifties, “residual” and “lingering” radiation had given way to almost universal use of the word “fallout.” Maps were printed in magazines and newspapers showing the paths of fallout clouds from tests in Nevada over the continental United States. The Bravo test had opened the eyes of Americans about the dangers of nuclear testing, and how radioactive their world was becoming—what they would see with these new eyes would very much surprise them.
Fallout patterns from nuclear test explosions in Nevada. 

The irradiation of the Lucky Dragon inspired the original Godzilla, the story of fire-breathing sea monster, spawned by nuclear testing, that attacks Japan. The film was released on Nov. 3, 1954. It was the first of hundreds of similar films about the terrors of nuclear test blast radiation.

Bravo catapulted worldwide public opposition to atmospheric nuclear weapon testing, Jacobs relates:
By the end of the 1950s it was clear to anyone that paid attention that there was no place that would be unaffected if the United States and the Soviet Union were to engage in a total global thermonuclear war. The battlefield would be the Earth itself, and the people of every nation, whether they were at war or not, would be its casualties. This understanding did have some positive outcomes. A great deal of the environmental movement as it emerged in the 1960s and 1970s built upon the worldview constructed through the awareness of the global nature of the threat of radioactive fallout in the 1950s. Bravo was where this awareness was born.
Nuclear weapon states realized that the only way to quiet rising opposition to nuclear weapon testing was to halt testing in the atmosphere and in 1963 the major nuclear powers signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty that banned testing in the atmosphere and moved most nuclear testing underground.

In June 1976, the decontaminated Lucky Dragon Number Five (Daigo Fukuryu Maru) was restored and displayed at an exhibition hall in Yumenoshima Park, in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, open to the public.

This year, just after the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Bravo explosion on Bikini, the Republic of the Marshall Islands filed an extraordinary lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, suing all nine nuclear weapons possessors for failing to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. The lawsuit explicitly demonstrates the connection of nuclear nonproliferation goals with humanitarian issues.

---
Sources:

"Managing Public Perceptions of Fukushima: First Emergency Response of the Nuclear Complex," Robert Jacobs, DiaNuke,org, March 10, 2013.

"Radiation as Cultural Talisman: Nuclear Weapons Testing and American Popular Culture in the Early Cold War," Robert Jacobs, The Asia-Pacific Journal, June 25, 2012.


"Nuclear Conquistadors: Military Colonialism in Nuclear Test Site Selection during the Cold War." Robert Jacobs, Asian Journal of Peacebuilding Vol. 1 No. 2, Nov. 2013.

"United Nations Report Reveals the Ongoing Legacy of Nuclear Colonialism in the Marshall Islands," Robert Jacobs and Mick Broderick, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Nov. 19, 2012.

Global Hibakusa (Robert Jacobs) on Twitter.

"Blast from the past: Lucky Dragon 60 years on," Jeff Kingston, The Japan Times, Feb. 8, 2014.

"The import of the Marshall Islands nuclear lawsuit," Avner Cohen and Lily Vaccaro, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 6, 2014.

"‘Forgotten’ victims of U.S. H-bomb testing dying in despair, hopelessness,"Hajimu Takeda and Yasuji Nagai, The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 28, 2014.

The Day the Sun Rose in the West: The Lucky Dragon, and I, by Matashichi Oishi, University of Hawaii Press, 2011.

 More Info:

Nuclear Savage: Islands of Secret Project 4.1 (Documentary film by Adam Jonas Horowitz that exposes the decades of human radiation testing in the Asia-Pacific.  After the Cold War, declassified documents showed that, before the bombing,  the U.S. had organized  Project 4.1,"The Study of Response of Human Beings Exposed to Significant Beta and Gamma Radiation Due to Fallout from High Yield Weapons,” a medical study of the residents of the Marshall Islands exposed to radioactive fallout from Castle Bravo. The people of Rongelap describe an extreme level of suffering from recurring cancers, miscarriages, and birth defects that have affected multiple generations.)


"BRAVO and Today: US Nuclear Tests in the Marshall Islands," Tony de Brum, The Asia-Pacific Journal, May 19, 2005.

"Bikini and the Hydrogen Bomb: A Fifty Year Perspective," Senator Tomaki Juda and Charles J. Hanley, The Asia-Pacific Journal, April 25, 2004.

"Remember," Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Feb. 26, 2013.

"Marshall Islander Darlene Keju's Historic Call for a Nuclear-free Pacific and World," TTT, April 29, 2013.

-JD

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shiga voters respond to "reinterpretation" of the Japanese Peace Constitution by electing Taizo Mikazuki as new governor

Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada congratulates her successor, Taizo Mikazuki.

Eric Johnston reports on the first electoral check of constitutional "reinterpretation" in "LDP Candidate flounders in Shiga governor race," published at JT today.
In a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling coalition, Shiga voters chose as their next governor Taizo Mikazuki, the designated successor to Yukiko Kada, over a candidate heavily backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

The election was the first voter test of the ruling coalition’s decision to reinterpret collective self-defense, as well as the Liberal Democratic Party’s credibility after one of its Tokyo assembly members insulted a female politician...
 Support for Mikazuki, a former Lower House member from the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), came from the grassroots: small-business owners, farmers,  environmentalists, nuclear-free advocates, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the DPJ.

Mikazuki's election reflects a growing political mobilization of Japanese people outside of Japan Inc. to save what's left of postwar Japan's pacifist, middle-class society and to get rid of the nation's greatest threat to lives and well-being: nuclear power plants.  The administration favors international finance, construction, and nuclear industries to the detriment of Japan's mainstream.

Public debt-fueled quantitative easing has artificially boosted the stock market, resulting in quick profits for speculators. However, ordinary Japanese people are bearing the cost: the average standard of living in Japan is at its lowest point in three decades. The childhood poverty rate in Japan has climbed to 16%, under the current administration, the highest level recorded, since poverty surveys began in 1985. Over 16% of the entire population, 23.2% of people aged 65 and older, and 54.6% of single-parent households are suffering from poverty. On April 1, the Abe government raised the consumption tax, which disproportionately hurts the poor, from 5% to 10%; and wants to raise the consumption tax again, to 10% in 2015, if the GDP hits 3%. This is unlikely, as the GDP is now at 1.4%, and expected to decrease under Abenomics.

Behind the scenes, the government is pushing forward on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) corporate trade agreement, which would undermine what's left of already eroded protections for small farmers, workers, and consumers.

A majority in Japan opposes the restart of nuclear power plants. Moreover, they don't approve of taxpayer subsidization of nuclear power exports; nuclear-free advocacy groups in Japan are closely connected with overseas counterparts.  Mikazuki, like his predecessor, supports a phasing out of nuclear energy in Japan. He campaigned on the issue of Shiga having a larger say in the massive nuclear power complex in neighboring Fukui prefecture.

Known as “Gempatsu Ginza," (“Nuclear Alley”) four complexes containing 13 reactors are clustered along a 55-kilometer (35-mile) stretch of coast facing the Sea of Japan. On May 21, the Fukui District Court in a landmark ruling, decided that it will not allow the restart of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant.

Shiga residents are also concerned about expanded use of Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force’s Aibano Training Area near the city of Takashima, on the western shore of Lake Biwa. The US military trained the accident-prone V-22 Osprey aircraft at low altitudes over residential and environmentally sensitive areas at Lake Biwa last year.

The Asahi reported on the protests on Oct. 7, 2013, Anti-Osprey protests spread to mainland where Japan-U.S. exercise planned :
About 1,000 demonstrators showed up Oct. 6 to denounce the inclusion of the U.S. military’s accident-prone MV-22 Osprey aircraft for the first time in joint Japan-U.S. drills to be held at a Self-Defense Forces training range here on the mainland...

“It is a lie (to claim) that the drills (here) will contribute to reducing the burden forced on Okinawa,” said Mitsunori Yoshioka, 67, one of the protesters who came here from Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, to participate. “I am afraid these exercises will only lead to the deployment of more Osprey across Japan.”
Shingetsu News reported that some analysts are suggesting that Mikazuki's victory may be a signal that New Komeito party members have stopped voting for LDP candidates. Last month, in defiance of its rank and file members, New Komeito, the LDP's coalition partner, approved the executive branch's unilateral "reinterpretation" of Article 9, the Peace Clause.

Residents of Kyoto prefecture (adjacent to both Shiga and Fukui prefectures) closely watched this election. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Wave to HOPE, Team Zan, & Scholar Gavan McCormack survey the Sea of Henoko



Takuma Higashionna on right. (Photo: New Wave to HOPE)

Scholar Gavan McCormack, author of Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, and an associate with The Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, is now in ‎Okinawa‬ to support the Henoko community. Today he surveyed Oura Bay with Takuma Higashionna (co-plaintiff in the historic Dugong v. Rumsfeld Lawsuit), and members of New Wave to HOPE (local resident group) and Team Zan, an Okinawa dugong conservation group.

One of the photos of the translucent, aquamarine Sea of Henoko at the New Wave to Hope FB page
Today no spectacle is sadder to the regular visitor to Okinawa than to see, in the north, the steady pressure designed to impose a huge new military complex on the quasi-pristine waters and reef of Oura Bay (and associated helipads throughout the Yambaru forest)... Base-dependent development replicated two decades later than mainland Japan the worst features of the construction state,” with devastating consequences for the prefecture's economy and ecology. In 2010, however, the people of Nago City demonstrated that they had seen through this manipulative device and decisively rejected it.

-Gavan McCormack

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Henoko elders (childhood Battle of Okinawa survivors) continue to lead movement to save Henoko, an 18-year second Battle of Okinawa

Henoko elders express commitment to saving Sea of Henoko at June 28 rally. 
(Photo: New Wave to HOPE) 

Some of Okinawa's elected officials, including MP Keiko Itokazu
 join Henoko elders on boat in the Sea of Henoko during June 28 rally. 
(Photo: New Wave to HOPE)

Henoko elders have always been the heart of the movement to save the Sea of Henoko. Supported by many of Okinawa's elected officials, at all levels of government, these Henoko residents, all child survivors of the first Battle of Okinawa, have been in this second Battle of Okinawa for 18 years. They have dedicated their lives to saving Henoko for their children and grandchildren.

See more photos of the June 28 rally at Henoko at New Wave to HOPE's website. New Wave to HOPE is a local civic group in Henoko, made up mainly of young families.

Schoolgirl Wakana Toguchi, a member of the group, wrote a letter to Ambassador Kennedy last December that received widespread media attention. The letter reads:
Please do not build a new military base...Please, Caroline-san, come visit to see the beautiful sea of Henoko and Oura Bay. I am confident that you will love the sea, too.
Miss Toguchi is still awaiting a reply.