Octave and Helene went to study trip in Okinawa with Prof. Kazuyuki Sasaki who came back to Japan temporalily from Protestant Institute of Arts and Soial Sciences (PIASS) in November 2019. Prof. Sasaki plans the trip to give the students from PIASS an opportunity to learn peace building in Japan. Shukulu and Rodrigue, our exchange students from PIASS last year, also went in 2018.
Octave was impressed, and also sometimes was shocked by the history of reconstruction after WWII and the influences Okinawa has still faced. He talked a lot about his experience in Okinawa at the exchange meeting with supporters in November 2019. On the other hand, he enjoyed the warm climate and beautiful scenery of Okinawa.
The following is his report.
Okinawa is a place I always wanted to visit since coming to Japan. Although we did not go there for vacation, I had many good experiences and met very interesting people that I still think about today!
Compared to the main part of Japan, Okinawa was pleasantly warm and comfortable. It was a study that felt like a vacation. Okinawa is very beautiful place with clear blue seas and amazing cuisine. It was there that I actually tried my very first Sashimi and tempura, I instantly fell in love with it! We had to go almost every day that we were there to many different churches and met a few people who helped us in our travels to come to Japan. Meeting them was a blessing and having conversations with them was an interesting element of the trip, mainly because they could speak English properly but were so kind and generous and most had a good sense of humour. They gave us souvenirs of Okinawa and we left them very grateful and looking forward to the next we meet again.
We travelled to Futenma one early morning and met a pastor of a church located close to the Futenma US military base. He told us the history of the place and how they protest every week, trying to get the Government to close the base since it has been around since after WWII and a promise was made to close it but they never did. Aircrafts travelling through the area would sometimes drop their parts. One helicopter part dropped in the play-ground close to where children were playing in the church premises, but thankfully no child was hurt. Another aircraft part dropped in a school nearby as well, and more cases like this was reported yet the Government did nothing to stop this from happening again. To create that base, a lot of the environment was destroyed and even more people were displaced as a result. I was very hurt to hear this and felt hopeless because I wanted to help but had no idea how. After that we went to Henoko and on the way there I was thinking of how to bring about a solution in Futenma and what should be done to compensate for the families who lost their land.
In Henoko we protested! It was a lot of fun, especially seeing my professor being carried away by police men because he refused to move from the entrance of another base called Camp Schwab. The point of the protest was to block trucks carrying loads of sand and rock to fill up the beautiful coast of Henoko into the base Camp Shwab. Although we could not block the entrance forever, we did manage to slow down the construction of the base. We met other people doing the same and we were told that they do it almost everyday, through sunny days or rainy days, it really inspired me.
My perspective of Okinawa changed and got the chance to see how the people live there and I was glad to see that even though Okinawa has gone through a lot and continues to do so, the people are very warm and welcoming; just like the weather there!