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88-year-old Okinawan activist brings her base relocation protests to Tokyo

Activist Fumiko Shimabukuro speaks about the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, at the House of Councillors Member' Office Building in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Aug. 17, 2017. (Mainichi)

Fumiko Shimabukuro, a longtime opponent of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture from Ginowan to the Henoko district in Nago, brought her fight to the capital with a speech on Aug. 17.

The 88-year-old Shimabukuro, a resident of Henoko, gave a speech in the lecture hall of the House of Councillors Member' Office Building protesting the base relocation. The council composed of civic associations that organized her lecture reported that roughly 500 people were in attendance. Shimabukuro even delivered a speech in front of the office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe protesting the base relocation.

The activist hails from Itoman in the southern part of Okinawa's main island. When U.S. forces reached the island in April 1945 and a full-scale ground battle began, Shimabukuro fled with her mother, who had a visual impairment, and her younger brother. Wandering the island to escape the fighting, she suffered burns to the left side of her body from a U.S. soldier's flamethrower. The three managed to survive, but along the way she witnessed ghastly scenes of bodies of Okinawans killed by bombs.

When plans emerged to move the Futenma base to Henoko, where Shimabukuro had settled with her husband after the war, she immediately joined in the protests. Even though her legs have weakened with age, in order to protest the land reclamation at the planned site of the new base, she has continued to sit in front of the gate of the U.S Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago's Henoko district.

During her speech, Shimabukuro occasionally choked up with tears as she recounted her experiences during the war, such as drinking water from a pond with dead bodies floating in it.

"Having a military installation will lead to war. If you want to start a war, I want you to first drink water blooded by the bodies of the victims," she said, criticizing the Abe administration.

"When I was cleared out by riot police (during a protest) and I saw the construction vehicles enter the gates, I was so frustrated that I wanted to cry," she said. "But I refuse to give up. Citizens of the mainland, please lend us your strength."

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