Thursday, June 2, 2016

U.S. Marine training text said to disparage Okinawans

OKINAWA--Okinawans are "more emotional than logical," have "double standards" and fail to "take responsibility and initiative, with much pass-the-buck phenomenon," according to U.S. Marine Corps training material.

The guidance information also warns new arrivals to Okinawa with regard to drinking and other entertainment activities, saying they might be pampered by certain locals due to their "gaijin power, or 'Charisma Man' effect.” ("Charisma Man" is a comic strip in an ironic superhero style that ridicules the self-confidence of some foreign men in Japan.)

The slides and texts have been slammed as "disparaging" by the Okinawa media and the prefectural government plans to investigate the documents in detail at the earliest opportunity.

They were obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act by Jon Mitchell, a British journalist who is well versed on the Okinawa military base issue.

“Because the lectures give them incorrect information about Okinawa, the impact on how they treat Okinawan people and how they see themselves on Okinawa must be very large,” Mitchell said.

Providing the newcomers, many of whom are on their first assignment abroad, with accurate information is crucial in equipping them with a better understanding of the prefecture and islanders, Mitchell added.

The material is titled “Okinawa Cultural Awareness Training” and has been used in the initiation presentation sessions for marines newly assigned to U.S. bases in Japan's southernmost prefecture.

There are two versions of the literature: one compiled in February 2014 and another that is believed to have been produced between 2009 and 2012 when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power.

They discuss a range of topics related to Okinawa such as history, politics, public opinion and local news organizations.

The new revelation comes hot on the heels of a U.S. base worker and ex-marine being arrested in connection with the death of a local woman and amid continual widespread opposition in Okinawa to the relocation of a Marine Corps base within the prefecture. Also on May 26, the prefectural assembly passed a strongly worded resolution calling on the Marines to get out of Okinawa Prefecture, which is home to 74 percent of U.S. military installations in Japan.


The training material states that Okinawan politicians exploit the U.S. base issue to benefit the prefecture.

“It pays to complain,” one excerpt reads. “Anywhere offense can be taken, it will be used.”

It also says the prefectural government and heads of local governments actually regard the presence of U.S. forces on the island as a source for growth of the local economy.

On local news organizations and politicians, the text says, “(They) will eagerly report on half-truths and unconfirmed allegations in order to continue to underscore their burden and extract their political mileage to further certain agendas.”

It goes on to note three characteristics of the islanders when it comes down to the base issue: “more emotional than logical,” “double standards” and “failure to take responsibility and initiative, with much pass-the-buck phenomenon."

The literature informs the new arrival of the political landscape and the degree and type of opposition to U.S. bases.

It says the pro-U.S. base bloc is mainly made up of conservatives, including local business leaders, while the anti-U.S. base side includes civic groups and the local news media.

Local daily The Okinawa Times slammed the documents for “being full of disparaging comments on Okinawa.”

The U.S. forces have not commented on whether the slides and texts are still being used.


Lawrence Nicholson, commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Forces Japan, stationed in Okinawa, refuted local news reports, saying their coverage was unfair and one-sided.

He also promised the U.S. military would open its training sessions to the media.

Nicholson added that the content of the training material is under constant review and that the U.S. forces are open to discussion with regard to any inappropriate expressions that might have been employed in the texts.

Masaaki Gabe, a professor of international relations at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa Prefecture, is familiar with the U.S. base issue and said the recently unveiled documents reveal a "simplistic view" of Okinawans.

“The U.S. forces stationed before explained to newcomers that local residents had no choice but to ‘accept’ U.S. bases against their wishes,” he said. “But the recently disclosed material discusses Okinawans' position on the base issue only in the context of approval or disapproval. Under such a simplistic view, U.S. servicemen will not be able to understand why even conservatives switch to opposition and, as a result, they consider locals as having ‘double standards.’"




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