Governor Takeshi Onaga and the US Bases in Okinawa: The Role of Okinawan Identity in Local Politics

Ms  Monica  Flint4

4University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

The longstanding debate concerning the US base presence in Okinawa has polarised many and garnered significant attention in scholarship and the media. Okinawa dispels widespread narratives of Japanese cultural and ethnic homogeneity and presents an interesting example of plural and incongruent Future Asias within Japan. Using a qualitative approach, the paper analyses the political rhetoric of the late Takeshi Onaga (Governor of Okinawa from December 2014 to August 2018). The paper finds that Onaga used an essentialist notion of Okinawan cultural identity and history in order to further an anti-base agenda. It contributes a new perspective to the literature on US bases in Okinawa by shedding light on the convergence of representations of contemporary Okinawan identity, ethnicity and history in the local Okinawan political debate. Further, in drawing on examples from Onaga’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, the paper responds to the scarcity of literature on the relationship between social media and politics in Japan.


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The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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