December 22, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo By Shohei Tsukazaki
“No Helipad” Takae Residents’ Association (“Helipaddo Iranai” Takae Jumin-no-kai) is a local group that protested the construction of helipads inside the U.S. Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center, located in Higashi and Kunigami villages. The group now disseminates updates on military base issues through YouTube. December 22 marks four years since the helipads were completed and over half of the Jungle Warfare Training Center was reverted to Japan. Even after the reversion, residents of Takae are forced to deal with noise pollution. With trial and error, the “No Helipad” residents’ association is creating videos to convey the current situation in Takae.
The “No Helipad” Takae Residents’ Association created the YouTube channel “Arigato Yanbaru” in June. One member, Ikuko Isa, explained, “Many people were unable to travel to the site due to the pandemic, and we wanted to convey the situation on the ground to a diverse crowd.”
In its videos, the group explains the history of the helipad construction issue and shares the protestors’ voices. Some of the videos are subtitled in English so that people in Guam, where the U.S. Marines in Okinawa will relocate to, can also watch them.
In early December, the residents’ association made a video reporting on an area of the Jungle Warfare Training Center that was reverted to Japan in 1993, guided by a butterfly researcher, Akino Miyagi. In 2020 alone, waste materials believed to be left behind by the U.S. military, such as MREs and empty bottles, as well as hand grenades and bullets, have been found in the area. At another location in Ada, Kunigami Village, the group found electronic parts containing the radioactive substance cobalt-60. They collected the waste materials and asked the camera, “Shouldn’t the U.S. military clean up the site before returning it?”
Construction of the helicopter landing site began in 2007 and continued intermittently until its completion in July 2020, when the peripheral roads were finished. The residents’ association began protesting in 2007 through sit-ins and other means. To this day, they continue to monitor the helipad’s operation from a tent set up in front of the base’s N1 gate along Prefectural Highway 70.
Satoru Shimizu, a member of “No Helipad” Takae Residents’ Association, said, “The helipad is now completed, but we will demand its removal. We want to connect with the [other] islands through our videos.”
Visit the “No Helipad” Takae Residents’ Associateion Youtube channel at
or from the QR link below.
(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)