The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 40. 2012   

October 1, 2012   
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This Newsletter is prepared as the controversial tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey aircraft takes off for Okinawa's Futenma Base while thousands of demonstrators protest and the police move in to make arrests following the largest demonstrations in Okinawan history.

While we post today an analysis of events in Yonaguni, the fact is that today events at Futenma upstage the problems evolving there: bringing into full view the clash between the Okinawan people in opposition to the stationing of the dangerous Osprey, and the concerted power of the US and Japan, and their willingness to ride roughshod over opinion in the islands.

The situation is particularly volatile because it is taking place in the context of the most serious China-Japan conflict of recent decades, one that has spurred nationalist responses on all sides.

By the time you read this, scores or more of  arrests are likely to have been made. Washington and Tokyo continue, with consummate arrogance, to assume that they can force capitulation on a unified Okinawan resistance.

Our two lead stories convey different dimensions of the Okinawa story. Gavan McCormack, recently back from Yonaguni, introduces the battle on the frontlines of the China-Japan territorial conflict over Diaoyu/Senkakus through a deep analysis of the conflicting forces in the tiny island that is closest to Taiwan and China. That island, undefended throughout the Korean and Vietnam Wars down to the present, now faces pressures from Tokyo to build a naval base on the island as territorial conflicts in the region crescendo. The second story is the latest in Jon Mitchell's story of the storage of the deadly pesticide Agent Orange in Okinawa-long denied by the Pentagon and now documented in US military documents for the first time. David Chapman introduces Japan's koseki system of family management and citizenship, a system that is organized not on the basis of individuals, but of families, in ways that create enormous difficulties for multi-national families and others.

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Gavan McCormack, Yonaguni: Dilemmas of a Frontier Island in the East China Sea 


Forty years after they were "normalized," relations between Japan and China are so abnormal that events planned to celebrate the anniversary in September had to be scrapped. Tension rises throughout the East China Sea and especially in the vicinity of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands where Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese fishing and coastguard vessels jostle, each insisting that the islands and their adjacent waters are their own sovereign territory. The tiny island of Yonaguni presents in microcosm many of the issues that tear apart insulate communities that now find themselves at the center of China-Japan tensions, with important human as well as strategic consequences.    

Gavan McCormack is an emeritus professor at Australian National University, a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal, co-author (with Satoko Oka Norimatsu) of Resistant Islands - Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012) and author of recent studies on this site concerning  Okinawa, US-Japan relations, and territorial disputes in the Pacific and East China seas.


Recommended citation: Gavan McCormack, "Yonaguni: Dilemmas of a Frontier Island in the East China Sea," The Asia- Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 40, No. 1, October 1, 2012.



Jon Mitchell, Agent Orange on Okinawa - The Smoking Gun: U.S. army report, photographs show 25,000 barrels on island in early '70s 


During the Vietnam War, 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange were stored on Okinawa, according to a recently uncovered U.S. army report.1 The barrels, containing over 1.4 million gallons (5.2 million liters) of the toxic defoliant, had been brought to Okinawa from Vietnam before being taken to Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean where the US military incinerated its stocks of Agent Orange in 1977. New documents blow sky high the Pentagon's claims that Agent Orange was stored in Okinawa, paving the way for successful GI, and perhaps Okiinawan suits for damages.   

Jon Mitchell teaches at Tokyo Institute of Technology and is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. In September 2012, "Defoliated Island", a TV documentary based upon his research, was awarded a commendation for excellence by Japan's National Association of Commercial Broadcasters. An English version of the program is currently in production in order to assist U.S. veterans exposed to military defoliants on Okinawa.



Recommended Citation: Jon Mitchell, "Agent Orange on Okinawa - The Smoking Gun: U.S. army report, photographs show 25,000 barrels on island in early '70s," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 40, No. 2, October 1, 2012.

Read More. . . 
David Chapman, No More 'Aliens': Managing the Familiar and the Unfamiliar in Japan


A Chinese woman said that when her children first started school, she initially had difficulty getting information about their schoolwork as she was not listed on the registration document. 'They wouldn't accept me as the 'real' mother because I wasn't listed [on the family registry].'

An American man, who remarried following his wife's death, said his family had the unique situation of having three different 'registrations'. Separate family registries for his daughter and second wife, and separate registration as an [sic] foreign resident for himself. 'It was really strange that my daughter was listed as the head of household when she wasn't even in school'.

 A Korean woman, herself born in Japan, reported their landlord at first did not believe she and her husband were really married. 'We had to go as far as showing our marriage certificate to prove we weren't 'living in sin'.

The three cases above exemplify the problems encountered by multinational families in Japan. The genesis of the unusual situations explained above can be traced to the legislative intertwining of family and nationality in Japan.

David Chapman is the convenor of Japanese studies at the University of South Australia.  He is the author of Zainichi Korean Identity and Ethnicity published by Routledge. 


Recommended citation: David Chapman, "No More 'Aliens': Managing the Familiar and the Unfamiliar in Japan," Vol 10 Issue 40 No. 3, October 1, 2012.


Read More. . .