Media Mix, June 26, 2021

Map of Yambaru National Park

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the bill passed on June 16 in the Diet to monitor property sales to foreign entities. As pointed out in the column, over the last several months the bill’s wording was made more ambiguous to the point where its proscriptions and conditions can apply to almost anyone and any situation. I used the police raid on entomologist Akino Miyagi’s home in Okinawa as an example of what might become more common once the law is fully implemented, but Miyagi’s case is indicative of so many other things related to the way “national security” is carried out in Japan that it’s worth exploring further.

First of all, Yambaru Forest, the area that Miyagi was researching when she found all the trash, including live blanks and irradiated materials, left behind by U.S. forces that used the forest for training exercises in the past is on track to become a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s why Miyagi was there. A number of animal and plant species are considered unique to the area and presumably need to be studied in order to qualify for the designation. It’s not clear if Miyagi was there on her own or in some sort of official capacity, but, in any case, all news reports have said that the UNESCO designation is a foregone conclusion, so inspecting the area is nothing more than a formality. Nevertheless, it would be logical to assume that the area needs to be in some sort of pristine condition for it to qualify for a World Heritage nature site, and though the central government asked the U.S. military to stop using the forest for drills for that purpose, they didn’t demand they leave it the way they found it, which is usually the rule in Japan for people (i.e., renters) who use other people’s property. This fact was made clear by journalist Isoko Mochizuki on one of the Democracy Times’ programs cited. Apparently, there is a little known article in the Status of Forces Agreement that says the U.S. military doesn’t have to clean up after itself in such situations; that the Japanese government will do it for them. Miyagi may not have known about this term of SOFA, but in any case she dumped some of the trash at the gate of the Northern Training Center in April in protest after being ignored by local police when she complained about the litter as early as last fall. It was only then that the police acted—but against Miyagi, allegedly for “interfering” with the center’s business (reportedly, vehicles couldn’t pass through the gate for 50 minutes, though the amount Miyagi deposited was rather small and witnesses said any vehicle coud easily go around it). Why they needed to raid her home and confiscate her phone and computer, however, has never been properly explained. And here’s where the inevitable Catch-22 comes into play. When Asahi Shimbun asked the police why she was being investigated—after all, she admits to dumping the garbage—they said they couldn’t talk about it because it would violate Miyagi’s right to privacy. 

Is this Kafka or Keystone Kops? Here we have a national forest that the central government wants a world cultural organization to authorize as something special, likely for economic reasons, even though it’s been desecrated by a foreign military presence with the blessing of the central government; and the world cultural organization doesn’t seem to care since they’ve already approved the authorization. Then, when a person qualified to inspect the forest in order to determine its uniqueness as something special actively complains about the above-mentioned set of contradictions to the parties responsible, she is treated as a possible threat to national security. Where is Terry Southern when you need him?

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2 Responses to Media Mix, June 26, 2021

  1. Dear Mr. Philip Brasor,

    My name is Hideki Yoshikawa, and I am the Director of the Okinawa Environmental Justice Project, an NGO based in Okinawa, Japan.

    I have read your articles in the Japan Times and your website with great interest, and I was wondering if you would be interested in civil groups’ action regarding the nomination of the Northern Part of Okinawa Island (Yambaru forest), Okinawa, Japan for UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage inscription.

    For more information, please go to:
    http://okinawaejp.blogspot.com/2021/07/39-civil-society-groups-ask-unesco.html
    https://apjjf.org/2019/08/Yoshikawa.html

    Best,

    Hideki Yoshikawa

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