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Asian RoyalsJapan

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako remotely take part in poignant anniversary of Okinawa returning to Japan

By TICAD7 Photographs -, CC0, Wikimedia Commons

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have taken part remotely in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Okinawa Prefecture returning under Japanese control. 

The celebrations are bittersweet, as many residents are still feeling the burden of the US occupation. The prefecture currently houses about 70% of the US military bases in Japan, which creates a lot of noise pollution, as well as some reported accidents. 

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio spoke about the Government’s commitment to reducing those burdens for the local population, which has experienced some reported instances of US military personnel sexually assaulting local women and even a helicopter crashing in the courtyard of a local school. 

Okinawa prefecture’s Governor Tamaki Denny spoke about the importance of the area returning under Japanese control following American occupation during World War II. He also reiterated the country’s commitment toward “eternal peace” and the task of creating “a peaceful and prosperous Okinawa where all citizens of the prefecture can truly feel happiness.”

The last and current eras of the Japanese government all have references to peaceful coexistence – Emperor Akihito’s era was named Heisei, or “becoming peace”, while Emperor Naruhito chose “Reiwa”, or “beautiful harmony.”

The Emperor said during his video connection, “As I extend my thoughts to the history of the people of Okinawa who went on to tread paths fraught with hardships, I am filled with deep emotion as I attend this ceremony.”

Okinawa was invaded towards the end of World War II and has remained a US military base ever since. However, the government of the area by the US ended 27 years after, marking 2022 as the 50th anniversary of Japan ruling over the islands once again. 

But even before that, Okinawa has almost always been independently governed and, as a result, has a big difference in culture and language compared to the mainland. In particular, the archipelago speaks six different languages that come from Ryukyuan tradition and that, although related to Japanese, sound incomprehensible to the ears of Japanese speakers.