Gratitude to John Junkerman

Last week, I wrapped up the final session of my course, “U.S. Bases and Social Movements in Asia.” As a senior seminar course, where the classroom is a space for discussion rather than lecture, students wrote a 25-page graduation thesis as part of their work. I’ll have more to say about the class later on; for the time being, I’m sitting back and reflecting on both the course and the research projects that students chose to pursue (the exploitation of sex workers in Japan and Korea; the historical narratives surrounding the Mauna Kea telescope controversy in Hawai’i; nuclear testing and climate change in the Marshall Islands; basetowns in the Philippines; the legal framework of the status of forces agreements in Japan; the evolving raison d’état for U.S. bases in Turkey, etc). I have come out of the seminar more energized than ever about the subject.

Our last class was a real treat. Filmmaker John Junkerman came to our seminar to chat with us about his latest, Okinawa: The Afterburn/沖縄、うりずんの雨). The film joins other recent documentaries on Okinawa, including filmmaker Mikami Chie’s We Shall Overcome/戦場ぬ止み and The Targeted Village/標的の村 (both of which I was lucky to watch at the very cool Pole Pole Theater/ポレポレ東中野 in Higashi-Nakano). All of these films are useful tools for teaching Okinawa as both a beautiful and deeply complicated place, but one that is also constantly struggling under militarism. As Okinawa: The Afterburn so aptly demonstrates, the current base condition in Okinawa is built upon layers of war memory and American occupation that simply cannot be overlooked. They are embedded into the very fabric of Okinawan experience. This is not to say that Okinawa is not a dynamic space with dynamic people, but simply that Okinawa’s modern history is very surface at the surface of Okinawan experience today.

Here’s the film trailer:

After the seminar discussion, we headed over to a larger screening of the film that was open to the entire community. Co-sponsored by The Gail Project, the screening had an excellent turnout and a vibrant Q&A session, which I happily facilitated. Our deepest thanks to John for stopping by Santa Cruz during his busy U.S. screening tour!

Junkerman visit1

Filmmaker John Junkerman spoke to members of my “U.S. Bases and Social Movements in Asia” senior seminar during the last week of class.

Q&A after we screened the film for the entire campus. Great turnout!

Q&A after we screened the film for the entire campus. Great turnout! (Photo courtesy Tosh Tanaka and The Gail Project)

And since I'm feeling nostalgic for other films, here's a picture of me last June 23 (the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa/irei) getting ready to watch Mikami Chie's 戦場ぬ止み

And since I’m feeling nostalgic, here’s a picture of me last June 23 (the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa) getting ready to watch Mikami Chie’s 戦場ぬ止み.

Post-dissertation research

After filing the dissertation in June, I was able to spend more time in western Tokyo to meet other people who actually participated in the Sunagawa Struggle. Part of my post-dissertation research included re-interviewing some people and talking with journalists who have been reporting on the Japanese government’s recent moves to reinterpret Article Nine of the constitution. Enomoto Tetsuya, the chief of the Tachikawa bureau of The Tokyo Shimbun, has been writing a lot about the connections between the Sunagawa Struggle (and the 1959 Supreme Court case it spawned) and present moment, where many in Japan are troubled by both the expansion of American bases in Okinawa and what is seen as a more aggressive willingness to send the Self-Defense Forces into wars abroad.

Mr. Enomoto and I have kept in touch since this summer. On November 6, he published a short article on my dissertation project and, in particular, my belief that the Sunagawa Struggle was of global significance because it was a movement that was able to humble the U.S. military at a historical moment (the 1950s) when bases throughout Japan and Okinawa were undergoing massive expansion projects

 

Tokyo Shimbun Article

Shimada Seisaku, who was member of the Tachikawa city council from the late 1960s until the early 1990s. He was and continues to be an important fixture among the anti-base community in western Tokyo. Here he is after speaking about the significance of the Sunagawa Struggle at a gathering hosted by Koganei Peace Action (こがねいピースアクション). It was great to meet the person whose work featured prominently in Chapter Four of my dissertation!

Shimada Seisaku was a member of the Tachikawa city council from the late 1960s until the early 1990s. He was and continues to be an important fixture among the anti-base community in western Tokyo. Here he is after speaking about the significance of the Sunagawa Struggle at a gathering hosted by a group called Koganei Peace Action (こがねいピースアクション). It was great to meet the person whose work featured prominently in Chapter Four of my dissertation!

Vantage matters: The views from above and below

This sketch of a massive rally at the Azusami-suitengu Shrine in Sunagawa, August 20, 1955. Source: New Women's Journal (新女性), November 1955.

Sketch of a massive rally at the Azusami-suitengu Shrine in Sunagawa, August 20, 1955. U.S. warplanes blast over the rally, which was held just days before incredibly violent clashes between local farmers and police who were sent in with the base surveying crew. Source: New Woman (新女性), November 1955.

Tachikawa today, with the outline of the former U.S. base and the proposed runway expansion area into Sunagawa.

Tachikawa today. Google Earth is a useful tool for visualizing the immensity of the former U.S. base and the proposed runway expansion area into Sunagawa.