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The planning implications of the politics of cultural difference : the case of Okinawa, 1995-2000 Enokido, Keisuke

Abstract

Okinawa Prefecture is a Japanese periphery and historically became a marginalized region after it was assimilated into Japan. In recent history, there has been an unbalanced concentration of U.S. military bases on Okinawa, built during the 1945-1972 U.S. occupation period, when compared with those on the Japanese mainland. This imbalance has seriously affected the island's development, even after Okinawa's reversion to Japan in 1972. Consequently, the Okinawan people have remained in a distinctly disadvantaged status within Japanese society. The case of a local schoolgirl's rape by U.S. soldiers in 1995 triggered an Okinawan campaign against inequities between its own situation and that of the Japanese mainland. Frustration increased among Okinawans over the national government's commitment to reduce the number of military bases, leading to greater core-periphery tensions. These tensions were associated with the reconstruction of Okinawans' distinctive cultural identity, which caused changes in the relationship between the national government and Okinawa Prefecture. This changing relationship, in turn, affected the strength of the power of the identity. This dynamic involvement of cultural identity in the relationship between the national government and the peripheral region may be seen as indicative of the presence of 'substate nation,' a concept that has become widely prominent in the 1990s in the world. This thesis applies the notion of 'substate nation' to Okinawa in order to understand the power of 'cultural politics,' or the 'politics of recognition,' practiced by Okinawa Prefecture in seeking the national government's acknowledgement of its disadvantaged status and greater political and administrative autonomy. The thesis poses three questions: 1) did the various 'actors' in the Okinawa study display a cultural identity and engage in cultural politics? 2) were the various negotiations and 'policy forums' held after 1995 successful? and 3) did issues of 'scale' complicate negotiations between Tokyo and Okinawa? To address these questions, a series of dynamic and complex core-periphery negotiations between Okinawa and Tokyo from 1995-2000 were examined as a case study, focusing on the interplay between 'cultural polities' and the more traditional 'economic politics,' or 'politics of redistribution,' as mechanisms for countering regional disparity. This case study explores six 'policy forums' in which these differing types of politics unfolded between Okinawa and Tokyo concerning two major issues, the presence of U.S. military bases and regional development. The process of restructuring the state-substate (Japan-Okinawa) relationship through the policy forums is best understood by considering the various roles of 'actors.' The thesis finds that Okinawa's cultural politics in the period following 1995 succeeded in increasing the status of Okinawa as a substate nation in that the national government gave more recognition to the region's special economic development needs, but sidestepped the larger issue of U.S. military bases. At a national and prefectural level, at least, tensions were defused just after 1995. However, at the end ofthe study period, local antagonism towards the bases remained strong, particularly among the civic body, and the relaxation of intergovernmental relations was unable to achieve long-term stability. Economic politics remained a major issue at the local level, and became a source of competition for cultural politics at the prefectural level. While cultural difference remained unaddressed in both of the administrative systems overseeing the return of the military bases and regional development, thus engendering no institutional change, the fact that it had even been considered at political levels is significant. This study of Okinawa demonstrates that the recognition of regional cultural inequalities, which was ignored by traditional 'redistribution-oriented' regional planning, is necessary to address the institutionalized inequity of core-periphery relationships. Despite the importance of recognizing disparity, this thesis also reveals that the notion of cultural equality is not necessarily entrenched or shared as a public policy objective within the periphery. It argues that further policy discussions would be required in the Okinawa region, and between core and periphery, to define a new planning approach.

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