The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

No to Henoko

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Around 7,000 people turned out yesterday afternoon to protest the construction of a new United States military base at Henoko in Okinawa.

The protest started at 2pm and ended by forming a human chain around the National Diet Building.

The US Military have a long and troubled history in Okinawa. While it is true the islands’ economy relies heavily upon the presence of 28 military camps and other facilities, most locals would rather they were not there. Plans to move the main US Marine airbase away from the suburban areas in Futenma to the much less developed Henoko, 50 kilometres north, are meeting large and very angry protests. The are chosen for the new base is a coastal area with tourist-valuable coral reefs. It is also a sanctuary for the rare dugong marine mammal.  Of course until Shinzo Abe came back to power at the end of 2012, the people of Okinawa had been led to believe that the Americans would be moved out of the prefecture all together to somewhere like Guam. But at the end of 2013 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then Governor of Okinawa, Hirokazu Nakaima signed the agreement to build the new US base at Henoko and the resistance started.

Protest have set up a camp outside the proposed site, they take to the sea in canoes and boats to protest the construction and are often met with aggressive and violent suppression at the hands of security by the police and coastguard.

Taking the fight to the heart of the government is a logical step. I doubt Shinzo Abe will listen however.

I went along to take a few photos, as I tend to do at most protests in Tokyo. This one was little different however as I had my two sons with me. A new and eye-opening experience for them for sure (and they were very good too because I didn’t even lose them once in the crowds). This meant, of course, that I couldn’t get quite as deep in among the protestors as usual. Though we did wiggle our way into the main speaking area where many well-known and passionate activists rallied the crowds including Catherine “Jane” Fisher, Mizuho Fukushima and the man in the bottom image, journalist, Satoshi Kamata.

A good day in the end.

More images of the Anti Henoko Base Protest in Tokyo at my archive here:

Damon

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