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Resistant Islands

Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States

Gavan McCormack and Satoko Oka Norimatsu

Resistant Islands offers a comprehensive overview of Okinawan history over half a millennium from the Ryukyu Kingdom to the present, focusing especially on the colonization by Japan, the islands' disastrous fate during World War II, and their subsequent and continuing subordination to US military purpose.

Adopting a people-centered view of Japan’s post Cold War history and the US-Japan relationship, the authors focus on the fifteen-year Okinawan struggle to secure the return of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, situated in the middle of a bustling residential area, from US to Okinawan control. They also highlight the Okinawan resistance to the US and Japanese governments’ plan to build a substitute new base at Henoko, on the environmentally sensitive northeastern shore of Okinawa. Forty years after Okinawa's belated "return" to Japan from direct US rule, its people reject the ongoing military role assigned their islands, under which they are required to continue to attach priority to US strategy.

In a persistent and deepening resistance without precedent in Japan's modern history, a peripheral and oppressed region stands up against the central government and its global superpower ally. One recent prime minister who tried to meet key Okinawan demands was brought down by bureaucratic and political pressure from Tokyo and Washington. His successors struggle in vain to find a formula that will allow them to meet US demands but also assuage Okinawan anger. Okinawa becomes a beacon of citizen democracy as its struggles raise key issues about popular sovereignty, democracy and human rights, and the future of Japan and the Asia-Pacific.

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 312Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-1562-7 • Hardback • July 2012 • $39.00 • (£24.95) - Currently out of stock. Copies will arrive soon.
978-1-4422-1564-1 • eBook • July 2012 • $37.00 • (£24.95)
Gavan McCormack is emeritus professor at the Australian National University and author of a number of studies of modern and contemporary East Asia, including Client State: Japan in the American Embrace (2007), which was also translated and published in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, Target North Korea: Pushing North Korea to the Brink of Nuclear Catastrophe (2004), and The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence (1996).

Satoko Oka Norimatsu is director of Peace Philosophy Centre (est. 2006), a peace education organization that engages world citizens in learning and acting to create a fair and sustainable world, and provides key information through the Centre's widely-read website (www.peacephilosophy.com) on issues such as the military occupation of Okinawa, the history and memory of World War II, and abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

The authors are coordinators of the
Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (www.japanfocus.org), which in 2008 was awarded the Inaugural Ikemiyagi Shui Prize by the Okinawan daily Ryukyu Shimpo for the dissemination of Okinawan issues to the world.

Chapter 1: Ryukyu/Okinawa: From Disposal to Resistance
Chapter 2: War, Memory, and Commemoration
Chapter 3: Japan’s American Embrace and the “Partnership” for Peace and Prosperity
Chapter 4: Okinawa: Separation and Reversion
Chapter 5: Henoko: The Unwanted Base
Chapter 6: The Hatoyama Revolt
Chapter 7: Post–Cold War: Elections and Democracy
Chapter 8: Environment: The “Non-Assessment”
Chapter 9: “Deepening” the Alliance: The Kan Agenda
Chapter 10: “Deepening” the Alliance: Washington Agendas
Chapter 11: Senkaku/Diaoyu: Okinawa as Militarized Outpost or as Bridge of Nations?
Chapter 12: Turning History Around: History as Lived Experience
Chapter 13: Prospect
In recent years, the main source of friction in the U.S.–Japanese defense relationship has been local opposition to the basing of U.S. marines on the Japanese island of Okinawa. . . . McCormack and Norimatsu lay bare the resentment’s deeper historical roots. . . . The larger frame for McCormack and Norimatsu’s analysis is their sharply worded indictment of the U.S.–Japanese relationship, which they believe is constructed not so much to defend Japan as to serve a U.S. forward deployment strategy aimed at Southeast Asia and China.

Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia University; Foreign Affairs

McCormack and Norimatsu provide the first comprehensive overview of Okinawan history from earliest times to the present. They devote most attention to Okinawa's relationship with Japan since the 19th century, its terrible fate in WW II, and its status as the keystone of the US military presence in East Asia and the main source of friction in the US-Japan defense relationship. The authors show that Okinawan resistance to the basing of US Marines there is not of recent origin but has deep historical roots in Okinawans' view of themselves as an ethnic minority historically separate from the Japanese and in their belief that Tokyo treats them as second-class citizens, sacrificing their interests to Japan's relationship with the US. Basing their work on a wide range of sources and interviews, including WikiLeaks documents, the authors frame their analysis in a harshly worded indictment of the bilateral US-Japan relationship, which they claim is designed to serve US geopolitical strategy in Asia rather than to defend Japan and forces Tokyo to take a subservient role. For those interested in Okinawa and Okinawa's relationship with mainland Japan and for a different perspective on US-Japan relations. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.

The U.S. bases in Okinawa continue to be an irritant in bilateral relations. This book shifts our focus from Tokyo and Washington to the perceptions and grievances of Okinawans and why they oppose the U.S. presence. The authors help readers understand a grassroots democratic movement challenging the garrison island status quo.
Japan Times

Resistant Islands draws a wide picture around the efforts by the people of the Okinawa island chain, Japan's southernmost prefecture, to throw off the enormous US military presence lodged on their limited land area since the horrific battles of early 1945, when a quarter of the Okinawan population died as drafted civilian pawns in the defense.

Resistant Islandsoffers unique perspectives on the islands tragic history and current plight.
Asian Studies Review

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary U.S.-Japan relations. It draws on public statements and 'confidential' communications by officials of both governments . . . They reveal, in graphic detail and colorful language, the unrelieved condescension of U.S. officials and the shameless subservience of their Japanese counterparts in this decidedly '[un]equal partnership.' The messages include 'secret accords' to maintain extraterritorial status for U.S. forces in Japan and to perpetuate the disproportionate U.S. military presence in Okinawa with the option to introduce nuclear weapons even after its reversion to Japanese administration in 1972. . . .The most moving portions of this book are the personal statements by individuals who have resisted U.S. and Japanese oppression through their public protests, their writings, and their policies as elected officials.
Journal of Japanese Studies

Deeply informed and rich in insight, this study brings to light the conquest of the peaceful and prosperous territory of Okinawa, its brutal integration into the nation-state/imperial system of East Asia, and after the murderous slaughter of World War II its conversion to a U.S. military base under the administration of America’s Japanese client state. And finally the courageous resistance of a proud people determined to regain what has been lost in centuries of oppression, and to lead the way to an Asian community of justice and hope. It is a tale of horror and inspiration, with lessons of large and enduring significance.
Noam Chomsky, MIT

You may pick up this book because you think you ought to read an "Okinawan-centered" view of modern Japanese history, but you will find yourself riveted and wanting to recommend it to friends with no particular ties to Japan or Okinawa. The peculiar and noxious US-Japan dance designed to defer, preferably forever, respect for sovereignty, constitutionality, and democracy, in Japan as a whole and in Okinawa especially, makes for sober reading for citizens of the United States and the world. The outlines may be familiar to those who’ve had US interests reign paramount in their own societies, but the painstakingly researched details will find all readers catching their breath. The whole is written with the graceful clarity of principled commitment. The penultimate chapter, devoted to transmitting the voices of Okinawan activists spanning several generations, an enactment of such principle, is a gift to all readers.
Norma Field, University of Chicago

Resistant Islands is a tour de force—not only a stunning introduction to the resilience and vision of the people of Okinawa but also a devastating critique of official Tokyo’s obsequiousness to dictates emanating from Washington.
John Dower, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Okinawa problem is a key pivot of modern Japan. It condenses the internal tensions between East Asia and the West, between war and peace; within it the most basic contradictions of the contemporary world are concentrated. This book possesses keen and spirited insight, revealing that these deep contradictions belong to Okinawa and to human kind.
Sun Ge, Chinese Academy of Social Science, Beijing

Why, despite the end of the Cold War and the end of Liberal Democratic Party predominant party rule, does Okinawa still host 75 percent of US military installations in a prefecture making up no more than 0.6 percent of the land mass of the Japanese archipelago? Placing the base issue in the historical context of Japan's incorporation of the Ryukyu Islands into the Japanese state in the 1870s and the 'smoke and mirrors' reversion of Okinawa from US control to formal Japanese sovereignty in 1972, Gavan McCormack and Satoko Oka Norimatsu offer a trenchant analysis of the fate of the islands as a military outpost of the American eagle. With chapters on the current battle over the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko in the face of local resistance, along with a penetrating analysis of the alliance under Prime Ministers Hatoyama and Kan, this book should be read by everyone interested in understanding the true nature of the US-Japan alliance from the perspective of the inhabitants of Okinawa.

Glenn D. Hook, University of Sheffield

Essential reading for all those interested in Pacific politics, even if they do not share the authors' passionate sympathy for the underdog. Apart from the book's readability, its historical depth and accuracy explains why the possibility that the Okinawan public might opt for Chinese rather than Japanese sovereignty—which is already agitating Japan's right-wing—will play a crucial role in the coming US-Chinese Cold War. The Japanese government is caught between a rock and a hard place. The hard place is Okinawa, but the rock, the deep military alliance with the United States, is of the Japanese governmental elite's own choosing.
Ronald Dore, Grizzana, Italy

• Winner, A Japan Times Outstanding Book of the Year 2012