September 29, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo
On September 28, Takamatsu Gushiken, representative of “Gamafuya”, a volunteer group for collecting human remains from the Battle of Okinawa, submitted a letter requesting that the Okinawa Prefectural Government not approve the plan to use the southern part of Okinawa Island as a site for extracting earth and sand to be used for land reclamation in the new base construction in Henoko, Nago accompanying the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Explaining that the remains of people who died in the Battle of Okinawa are still buried in the limestone in the southern part of Okinawa Island, Gushiken criticized the plan, saying that building a new base using soil from there would constitute “desecration of the war dead.”
Extraction of earth and sand from the southern part of Okinawa Island was newly included in the construction design change application submitted to the Okinawa Prefectural Government by the Okinawa Defense Bureau in April 2020. Gushiken submitted his letter in response to the Prefectural Government’s solicitation of public comments in its process of reviewing the design change permit application.
“The remains have changed to the same color as the limestone and the earth. It is nearly impossible to distinguish them by sight, and they can only be distinguished by their weight when held in one’s hand,” explained Gushiken, who has worked on gathering human remains for more than 30 years. He is concerned that when the earth is excavated by machinery, it will have human remains mixed therein. He emphasized that human remains have in fact been discovered in quarries in the southern part of Okinawa Island in Kyan, Itoman and Nakaza, Yaese.
Gushiken intends to make a similar petition to Governor Denny Tamaki going forward. After submitting his letter, he told reporters, “For a country that carried out war to use earth in which human remains are intermixed to build a military base is an act that shows not a trace of respect for the dignity of those whose lives were sacrificed. I will continue my appeal together with the families of the deceased.”
(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)