Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota Dies on His Birthday

OBITUARIES, 19 Jun 2017

Japan Broadcasting Corporation – TRANSCEND Media Service

Governor Ota was a politician with great foresight and vision for the Ryu Kyu Islands invaded and occupied by Japan. I’ll never forget our very crowded press conference in Naha where he and I stood for a very high level of autonomy while at the same time keeping good relations to Japan.  The Ryo Kyu are basic for a Northeast Asian Community as capital, some kind of “confederal district” where the indigenous, the Japanese and the Chinese meet. This is where the future could be located, and Governor Ota moved us closer. Long will he live among us in spirit if not in body.

— Prof. Johan Galtung

12 Jun 2017 – Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota, who tackled the issue of reducing the number of US military bases on the island prefecture, died today. He was 92.

Ota, who was from Kumejima island in the prefecture, served in the post for 8 years starting in 1990.

He had been a professor at the University of the Ryukyus, where he researched the Battle of Okinawa, a fierce World War Two land war with the United States, which he himself experienced.

In 1995, the rape of an elementary school girl by 3 US servicemen enraged the citizens of Okinawa. Ota called on the governments of Japan and the United States to downsize the US bases in the prefecture. Okinawa still hosts about 70 percent of the exclusively used US military facilities in Japan.

The 2 governments agreed to consolidate or reduce 11 bases and facilities, including the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

Among Ota’s other achievements is a monument called “The Cornerstone of Peace,” built in a peace park in Itoman City. The group of stone monuments are inscribed with the names of the more than 240,000 people who died in the Battle of Okinawa and other conflicts, both military and civilian, regardless of nationality.

After resigning the governorship, Ota set up a private research institute and became involved in peace activities.

Sources say Ota has been hospitalized frequently since his health began to fail at the end of last year. He reportedly died of pneumonia and respiratory failure at a hospital in Naha. June 12th marked his 92nd birthday.

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