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 an “Okinawa-centered,” or 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, and 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. 40 years after Okinawa’s belated “return” to Japan from direct US military rule, its people reject the role assigned their islands by the US and Japanese governments under which they are required to continue to attach priority to US military strategy, with the islands serving as a kind of stationary aircraft carrier offshore from East Asia.
Without precedent in Japan’s modern history, a peripheral and oppressed region stands up against the central government and its global superpower ally. The resistance persists and deepens. 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. Its struggles raise key issues about popular sovereignty, democracy and human rights, and the future of Japan and the Asia-Pacific.