Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Journey Begins in Berkeley CA

I'm feeling my way here. The idea  is to set up a traveling blog for my upcoming trip to Okinawa.

I made a lot of trips there when I was a newspaper correspondent in Tokyo during the 1980s and I last visited in 1995 from Hong Kong when I was working for a busines magazine whose mission was to rank billionaires and glorify the architects of greed.

The editors didn't understand why I was writing about Okinawa in a "wither Japan" feature article, for which I persuaded them I should travel around the country to take the pulse. I thought it would be a great place to explore the dynamics of change in the Japanese economy that was then sailing into the doldrums of its infamous "lost decade." Okinawa, after all, is Japan's Third World prefecture in terms of it relative poverty and unemployment. It is a remote place without any industry to speak of, a place where chowder heads in the prefectural government were encouraging farmers to cultivate pineapples just as the global market for that commodity was collapsing.

The magazine's editors thought I had lost my mind. They deleted every reference to Okinawa from the text. In blistering business-journalism rage they rewrote my article top to bottom and refocused it on the Japanese auto industry.

The fact is, Okinawans get no respect. The world doesn't understand Okinawa. Mainland Japan doesn't understand Okinawa. The U.S. Military, which crassly occupies a big chunk of the main island of the Ryukyu Arcipelego and annoys the natives almost to the point of insurgency, doesn't understand Okinawa.

I don't understand Okinawa.

June 10. 20010

Post script:

Not understanding Okinawa didn't stop me from traveling there to help a colleague from UC Berkeley's journalism school who was taking a half-dozen student into the field to train them on state-of-the are digital TV cameras so they could film short documentary stories. I ssupposedly playing the role of advisor.

About the 0nly thing tangible I did for them was to line up a session with Oto Masahide, the former governor  of Okinawa Ppefecture and an anti-base historian I interviewed a couple of times many years ago.  I don't think her really remembered me but he took my word for it and gave tbe students an incredible breifing on Okinawan politics.

By the way, the fix was in one the base relocation. The Americans didn't budge on their position and Henoko is going to be absorbed by Camp Schwab to make way for the Marine Corps airstrip. Prime Ministe5r Hatoyama was forced out of office, largely because of the Okinawa base issue.