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Ask Udder Smith: What’s the big deal with Okinawa?

May 27, 2010

Dear Udder:

I am an American about to be stationed in Okinawa.  I do not understand all the controversy surrounding the base in Okinawa.  Doesn’t Japan depend on America for military protection?

Honorable American

Dear HA:

Yes, Honorable American, Japan does depend on America for military protection, something one can not take lightly with the instability of North Korea and it being so close to Japan’s shores.  The Okinawan people do have reason for their complaints, however, as Okinawa accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s land mass, but hosts about two-thirds of the 40,000 American forces in the country.  Further controversy stems from alleged environmental damage and noise pollution from the bases, and the unfortunate crimes occasionally committed by US servicemen.

Okinawa itself was only made a part of Japan in 1879, and has a rich culture of its own as the Ryukyu Kingdom.  I suggest you read more about your future home – it is a complicated issue that does not have easy answers.

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