Yamada Keigo, layperson of Awase Parish (Naha Diocese)
Most people desire tranquility and dislike reform, even more so if reform entails pain. As a result it is natural to avoid reform.
On the other hand, the need for reform is an evident fact. At the time of the Second Vatican Council, the movement to replace the stale air of long-entrenched traditions was welcomed by many, although there was also much opposition and the great pain brought about by it still casts a shadow today in many different ways. In any event, the bold decision taken by the Church at that time developed into a revival movement in the spirit of the early Church, not only institutionally but also as affecting the personal faith of Christians.
When liturgical singing became popular, I personally felt out of place in church and could not adjust myself. I had gotten accustomed to Gregorian and other Catholic songs, which I enjoyed so much that for me, born and educated in Okinawa, the Yamato style musical scale fit well with me bodily. Nevertheless, I gradually grew accustomed to the Our Father and Ave Maria prayers by repeating them daily. I am confused and somehow irritated at things that change my former way of life and even feel some complicated mental frustration. But one has to accept and be aware that reforms come about because they are needed.
Do not many Japanese have the illusion that the country of Japan has existed for thousands of years just as it is now, even though the present division into 47 geographical sectors has existed for only 41 years?
Dialects and customs changed with the geographical expansion of Japan, the relocation of the capital, and various population moves. Even the folk song Hotaru no Hikari suffered change. Drastic reforms gave rise to great conflicts, but mild changes gradually permeated the lives of ordinary people. Nevertheless, becoming accustomed is not the same as forgetting.
About 20 years ago a person from Amami-Oshima said, “I was always a fan of the Okinawa High School baseball team, but after a while I began to cheer for the Kagoshima team.” He had considered himself a Ryūkyū citizen but, from constantly repeating that he was living in Kagoshima Prefecture, he came to consider himself a Kagoshima citizen. For better or for worse, he became used to that.
People seem to have forgotten that only 70 years ago, at the time when Taiwan was Japanese territory, the highest Japanese mountain was SHINKO. During World War II, Okinawa was “sacrificed” to regain national sovereignty and, with Japan’s defeat and the military occupation of Okinawa (Prefecture), the islands of Amami and Ogasawara were cut off from Japan by Imperial decree and on 28 April 1952 Japan became independent. Now on 28 April a special celebration takes place to commemorate the “Restoration of Sovereignty.” This is again a sign of historical oblivion. The Okinawa people were cut off and their views were not recognized. Even today such jeers as “Get out if you don’t like Japan” are hissed at the people Okinawa when they cry out in anger and frustration.
People of Japan, due to their own advantageous position, sometimes consider Okinawa Japan’s territory but, since Okinawa is far away, even if they cut off all links, its existence does not matter to most Japanese, who again prefer a status quo where no change occurs.
The islands of Okinawa constitute just 0.6% of the national territory but 74% of American military bases in Japan have been imposed on Okinawa. The Japanese attitude, chanting eulogies to its own peace movements, resembles the quarantine policies that asserted our own safety by confining Hansen disease patients to remote locations. (Of course, this is not only limited to Okinawa…). This attitude also appears in maps that do not include the Okinawa and Amami Islands, a proof that designers, editors, and the people looking at them are not even aware of their own discriminatory attitude. What does this imply?
Over 100,000 people attending a prefectural assembly in Okinawa to demonstrate against the deployment of Ospreys are disregarded, but when the same thing happens occasionally in other prefectures, the government takes the trouble to make public apologies. Can’t this be considered “structural discrimination”?
In the 1960s, during the movement for the return of Okinawa, a popular expression was “a little finger’s pain causes the whole body to suffer.” Will the day ever come when Okinawans’ pains will cause all Japanese to suffer.
“If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it, and if one member glories, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor 12: 26)