Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Okinawa’s controversial administration hand-over to Japan in May 1972. Contrary to the hopes among the local population for the end of the US military occupation around that period, the international politics that has defines the course of Okinawa’s history has shown little change. Some might even argue that this political architecture, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘San Francisco System’, is becoming critical once again as the competition for regional hegemony increasingly intensifies.
This paper examines the history of Okinawa’s anti-base struggle to understand how the local protest has developed. While the local activism tends to be discussed within the scope of the San Francisco System, this paper argues that this framework does not reflect the entirety of the Okinawan movement by reducing its diversity and complexity into one of the minority struggles in Japan. What I present instead is a translocal perspective that allows us to examine the development of local activism in terms of ‘flows’ and ‘vortex’ (Morris-Suzuki 2011, 2019; Kawabata 2019). Those metaphors indicate the trans-border circulation of people and ideas and the sites they converge. The efficacy of the translocal perspective is that it shows the involvement of social struggles in other places by highlighting actors and activism outside of Okinawa in the making of ‘local’ struggle. This perspective enables us to re-contextualise Okinawa’s activism as one of the anti-colonial struggles against military colonization in Asia and the Pacific.