by Nick Mele, Pax Christi USA National Council
Last week, I participated in the 3rd Asia Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9 of the Japanese Peace Constitution. For two days before the conference, most of the 220 participants also experienced an exposure tour highlighting Okinawa’s past, present and future. This is the first of three posts, photo courtesy of Filo Hirota.
My first full day in Okinawa was intense. Since I am here for an interfaith peace conference, whose organizing committee arranged the exposure tour as a prelude to the conference, its focus was on war, peace and the military bases which occupy significant portions of the island. Our first stop was a Japanese military base, to visit a patch of land in the middle of it that has been reclaimed from the military by its owner.
The owner, Mr. Takaesu Asao (see photo), is a native Okinawan who inherited
this land from his parents and then spent more than 15 years in court obtaining recognition of his right to own and use the land. It seems that both the U.S. and Japanese militaries rent the land on which they site bases from the legal owners. Mr. Takaesu and his wife have turned their small plot into a Peace Garden, although the Japan Self Defense Force refuses to allow him to pipe in water. He has hosted visitors from around the world, and has planted several trees whose wood he hopes to harvest and make into samisen, a three stringed instrument that evolved in Okinawa and is familiar throughout Japan. He told us that he wants to make musical instruments because music is one form of communication that crosses all borders. He also showed us a tree he calls the “Shalom Salaam Tree” because it was planted by two visitors, an Israeli and a Palestinian. He plans on making two samisen from the wood of this tree, one for each of them.