Showing posts from May, 2012

Occupied Okinawa #12: Utaki

After several days of lecturing, presenting and meeting with people for our Okinawa trip, Ed Alvarez (the Director of Guam's Commission on Decolonization) and I were given a rest day. One of the organizers of our trip Yasukasu Matsuhima, a professor of economics at Ryukyu University in Kyoto took us on a tour of various parts of central Okinawa. One of the highlights of the day was when we were taken to a string of islands to the Eastern coast of Okinawa all connected by bridges. On one of the islands Hamahiga, we visited an utaki, a sacred place where one would pray to spirits for various things ranging from having a safe journey, to increasing the harvest for a season, to helping increase the chances of a woman getting pregnant. Women played a significant role in this aspect of Okinawan religion as often the chosen women alone, or uta would be able to visit these places. In the area around Shuri Castle in Naha, there was an utaki which eventually became a private sacred place f…

Occupied Okinawa #11: The Battle of Okinawa

The Sakima Art Museum in Ginowan City Okinawa is a very inspiring place. When you drive up to the museum you might notice that the fence for Futenma Base is almost too close for comfort, right up to the edge of the road. This is because the land was formerly a part of the base, but returned to the family years ago. In 1989, Michio Sakima, an acupuncturist wanted to start an art gallery but didn't have any land to do so. His family's property, including their family crypt was right on the edge of Futenma, and so he requested it be returned so that he could start his gallery. He was able to do so successfully and open his museum in 1994. His intent was that the museum be a place of reflection on the pain of war and importance of peace. Today more than 40,000 people visit the museum each year.

One can go there and view the exhibits that change very few months, or one can go there and be taken on a tour of Futenma, which is visible from the roof. In one room they feature the wor…

Occupied Okinawa #10: Hajichi Decolonization

Most of my trip to Okinawa dealt with explicitly political matters; militarism, base issues, peace, decolonization, independence, self-determination. But this wasn't all I wanted to learn about on my trip, I also had a lot of conversations about Okinawan culture, trying to learn as much as I could about it and how there might be similarities to Chamorro culture and also differences between it and mainland Japanese culture. One of the difficulties in learning about this by simply driving around and seeing things is that the Japanese government attacked many aspects of Okinawan culture long ago, and even if Okinawans kept much of their identity, the practices and symbols disappeared.

For example, most people in Okinawa as well as mainland Japan were intrigued by the tattoos on my arms. Although there is a tradition of tattooing in both cultures, this is something that is done primarily by "low" or "suspect" people, such as gangsters, gangstas and hoods. It is mo…

Occupied Okinawa Will Continue

Even though I'm back on Guam I still intend to keep posting about my trip to Okinawa. I met so many fantastic people, got to see so many incredible things and made quite a few new friends. I'm still typing up all my notes and downloading all pictures (I took 3600 over the course of 10 days), but I should have at least five more posts about my trip.

Historical Scavenger Hunt

"Historical Scavenger Hunt"
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety

LAST Saturday I took my Guam History students on a historic scavenger hunt in Hagåtña. Right now, we are at the beginning of the semester and learning some basic ideas about both what Guam is as a place and what the nature of history is as a concept. For this semester I wanted to try out a new approach to introducing students to Guam, and thought that giving them a “self-motivated” tour around the historic sites of Hagåtña in order to find the meaning of a vague set of clues was ideal.

I have taken my students to Hagåtña several times before over the years because of the way it provides a very clear example of how history is all about layers. Most people think of history as being something determined by a clear line. What is on one side is the past and what is on the other is the present. It is for that reason that if you ask most people why history is important, they will say some…

Occupied Okinawa #9: Out of Okinawa, Into Japan

One of the people that I’ve really enjoyed talking to and listening this trip to Okinawa is Usii Chinin.
She is a writer and strong voice for both decolonization and independence for Okinawa. She was on a panel with me during the first day of the decolonization symposium at Okinawa International University. The second day she was a moderator for another panel that I was on. Over the course of my time here she has been interviewed several times by mainland Japanese media interested in this idea of “Okinawan Independence.”
During the question and answer period one of the audience members criticized Usii. Every member of the audience was given a sheet of paper to write their questions or comments on. One such sheet asked Usii why she was dressed in such an uncool and outdated way and also commented on her hair looking too old-fashioned. I should note that this phrasing comes from someone who translated for me and so I don’t know exactly what was said or how it was crafted, but the gist…

Occupied Okinawa #8: Naming Nationalism

Naming is necessary in life, but there is always a violence that accompanies is.
When you name something you cut it off from something. You give it an identity and also take away a multitude of other possible identities at the same time.
The most fundamental way in which we can feel this is through the simple assertion of “I.”
To speak, you must presuppose a self who can speak, from which the thoughts, the discourse, the words, the responsibility can originate. But when you do so, you create a barrier that implicitly disconnects you from the world. Language has the interesting quality of both making you feel part of something, but alienating you at the same time. When you speak, you reach out into the word and try to make sense of the person next to you, the things you see around you, but as you, you cannot help but feel as if you actually have no control over things. Language is a terrible lover. He or she can make you feel as if you are truly loved and he or she only serves you a…

Occupied Okinawa #7: The Guam Delegation

Usually when I go on trips like this I start with a post introducing everyone and everything. Unfortunately because of time constraints and the hectic nature of my schedule it completely slipped my mind.
I am not alone on this trip, I am accompanying two others as we meet with activists and academics and everyone else we can talk to throughout Okinawa.
Ed Alvarez, the Director for the Commission on Decolonization is the one who organized this trip. He has been working under less than ideal conditions over the past year trying to get this process for self-determination up and running again. For the first year he had no budget, no office, not even a salary. He instead focused on reestablishing contact with the UN at the governmental level, and has travelled trying to get Guam’s message to whoever would listen to him. For his presentations he has focused informing the Okinawans that should they pursue decolonization Guam will provide them with guidance and advice on what we have done …

Occupied Okinawa #6: Coming Home

Every time I would travel to Japan I would be asked several things as to where I came from.

#1: People would ask me if I was Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan who the government and most people pretended to be non-existent for quite a while.

#2: I was from Hokkaido. I have no idea what people from Hokkaido look like, but if I was to imagine myself as some sort of Japanese person, it would be from Hokkaido.

#3: People regularly asked if I was from Okinawa.

I had no idea for years as to why people thought I might be from Okinawa. Even when I was living in the states I would sometimes meet Okinwans who thought I might be Okinawa. I would never begrudge people their mistakes. Being Okinawa sounds pretty cool, and besides when I travel places, it doesn't matter where, I constantly think that anyone around me could be Chamorro.

I've asked some people in Okinawa so far, why people might mistake me as one of them? They have laughed and said I do look Okinawa, and the only satisfac…

Occupied Okinawa #5: My Unused Pokemon Metaphor

The past few days have involved alot of very interesting discussion about the possibilities for Okinawa to become an independent country or seek greater autonomy from Japan. While at the conference that I attended most people were sympathetic in some ways to an independent Okinawa, some were still very resistant. If you are from Guam, then you may not think that Guam is very close to becoming independent. You may think of it as being an idea that only a few people take seriously. You would be right for the most part, but you would also be diminishing the fact that over the past 40 years Guam has come to accept the possibility of the idea being independent. The majority of people may not like it or may be afraid of it, but they can imagine it, albeit in very rudimentary and crude ways.
In Okinawa people seem not to be able to accept this yet. There is an independent past, but like Guam, the present seems so intimately connected to the colonizer and so independence seems like such a fool…

Occupied Okinawa #4: Beyond the Base

In Guam we are already very accustomed to thinking about military bases as being essential, safe and secure engines for an economy. This is true to some extent. In Guam, the military presence and strategic importance opened many doors in terms of Federal funding that Guam would not have received otherwise. Furthermore, the local economy is supported by the income taxes payments for Federal employees on Guam, and that gives some stability to the coffers of GovGuam. The military is also a chance for economic improvement and was something that played a very significant role in creating a middle class on Guam.
One mistake that people often make is believing that the military bases on Guam help tourism. The fact that the US owns Guam does help support the tourism industry, as Guam is considered to be a part of America and therefore gains some of its credibility, sense of stability and so on, but the bases are not part of that. If Guam were a colony with no bases, it could still make use …

Occupied Okinawa #3: Independence for Okinawa

The symposium at Okinawa International University that I attended and had the privileged to speak at today and yesterday is historical I’ve been told. While speakers and organizers were introducing themselves, it became clear that not only were all of them liberal and critical, they were all openly supportive of Independence for Okinawa. This conference on decolonization and demilitarization is one of the first public gatherings of academics who want Okinawa to become an independent state.
Given my experiences over the years interacting with Okinawan activists I knew that this wasn’t the norm. The first activist I ever met from Okinawa was a trade union leader and although he expressed a clear different between himself and Japan, it was not a political one, but a cultural one. He felt that Okinawans had a right to protect and promote their own culture and what disgusted him, were Japanese attacks on Okinawan culture.
I met Shinako Oyakawa a political and linguist activist in 2010 w…

Occupied Okinawa #2: Life Without Pictures

During my first day here in Okinawa I ended up taking 600 pictures.

When I go on trips like this I often end up taking a lot of pictures so I have plenty of evidence when I go back to Guam that I indeed did travel somewhere else and talk to people, look at things, etc.

When I was in Hiroshima in 2010 for the World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs I was methodically taking pictures of every speaker, no matter who they were, even if they weren't really that interesting. I would take at least three pictures of every speaker, each from a different angle. A European at the conference later laughed at me saying that I was Aerosmith for my constant picture taking. Although I smiled in a very friendly native sort of way, I was confused as to why he would call me this. Was it because I look like steven Tyler? (sa' siempre ti duminga ham). Was it because he was crying when he met me and now he was dying to forget me? (lao sa' hafa? sa' kalang ti umatungo' ham na …

Occupied Okinawa #1: Tinituhun

I will be in Okinawa for the next 10 days. Over the course of that time I will give several academic presentations at different universities to both professors and students about the historical and contemporary connections between Guam and Okinawa. I will also be meeting with some local political leaders and community organizations who are committed to demilitarization on the island. Ed Alvarez, the Director of the Decolonization Commission organized this trip through cooperation with some universities. He will be speaking on Guam's political status and current efforts to decolonize. Former Senator and self-determination pioneer Marilyn Manibusan is also on the trip.

This year represents the 40th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese control. One of the biggest blind spots in recent Asia Pacific history centers around what exactly happens to Okinawa after World War II. Although we may see it as very Japanese, from the end of World War II to 1972, the islan…

Bai Hu Mahalang

Este i dos famagu'on-hu.

Ti apmam para bai hu hanao para Okinawa.

Gof magof hu put i hinanao-hu, lao esta gof mahalang yu' nu i dos famagu'on-hu.

Sen kinute este na dos.

Families Under Siege

Tonight my grandfather (Tun Jack Lujan) and I will be on a panel at the T. Stell Newman Center near the entrance to Big Navy. We'll be talking about the film Families Under Siege, created by the Guam Humanities Council on the effect of World War II on Chamorro families.

Panel is at 6 pm. It'll begin with a screening of most of the film, followed by reactions from the panelists, and then a question and answer period.

See the flyer for more details.

Occupy Hawai'i

An interesting article on Hawai'i through the framework of occupation.

I was thinking that someone should write an article like this for Guam, but then I remembered that alot of people (including myself) have already written articles like this.


Occupying Hawaii: Paradise Lost and Found Sunday, 29 January 2012 07:44 
By Michelle Fawcett, 
Truthout | News Analysis
Ever since the Garden of Eden headlined the Torah, savvy marketers have realized that we all deeply desire a slice of paradise. Utopia is woven into America's national fabric starting with the Puritan ideal of a "city upon a hill" and progressing through the centuries to Shakers, Mormons, Manifest Destiny, socialists and suburbia. These days, paradise is all around us from potato chips seasoned with "harmonic convergence" to bath soaps that "take me away" to Steve Jobs' "quest for perfection."
Utopia has always been half the equatio…