- vol.49, no.2, pp.199-220, 0000
This paper is based on two field research projects done during December, 1997, and September, 1998, in Naha and Nago, focused on women who led associations formed against the construction of a new helicopter base in Henoko, Nago City and a referendum on the issue. It is worth mentioning that the civil movement against the creation of the new base had a significant impact on the referendum, which was held on the 21st of December 1997. Especially, many grassroots associations led by women played an important part. One of the main purposes of this paper is to look at this civil movement from the perspective of gender. Furthermore, it is meaningful to look into the movements of women in Okinawa, since these women's movements have engaged in the distinctive activities and have had a distinctive spirit because of the fact that such women live with military bases all around them. The study of Okinawan women will show a different side of the women's movement since the situation of women in Okinawa is different from that of women in the rest of Japan. The approach to issues involving women has moved gradually from the "equal rights for women" movement to "gender analysis" ever since de-jure, or legal, equality between women and men was secured by local, national, and international women's movements. The issue moved from "equality" to "integration", "empowerment" and "gender analysis in the mainstream". The movements connected with the Nago referendum, however, looked somehow different from this general trend of women's issues. Women's associations in Nago were based on the coalition of "individual" women. Those who had never been involved in civil movements started to associate and created a network all over Okinawa. They identified themselves as "mothers" or "housewives" to evoke the sympathy and compassion of the rest of the community. That approach created both risks and opportunities for future civil movements as well as for women's associations in Okinawa. One of the risks is that the use of the notion of "mother"as the basic characteristic of women could create a spirit inside the woman which separated them from other non-mother women and from men. The opportunities arise the new perspectives that women brought to the US military base issue in Okinawa. The human rights perspective given by the associations of women is that the military bases constitute a structural violence against humanity which constantly threatens the people in Okinawa. That deepens and widens the struggle against the military bases, which has traditionally been fought against illegal land use. These women's movements also opens new connections with other issues related to the military bases, such as environmental problems, economic development, eco-tourism, and violence against women. Women who have not joined in the coalition of the traditional network can easily advocate "alternatives" to presentday society. This is not a sudden movement of Okinawan women. Rather, this is part of a continuous appeal of women, it has simply just begun to be seen and heard in society. Women have been doing active work for many decades, but the results have become more and more visible in the recent years of "change". The situation is still changing, and so this study should be continued.