Will the U.S. Marines charge ashore at Kansai airport?

On Nov 30, Osaka’s progressive Gov Toru Hashimoto—known in local circles as “Naniwa no Kenka-ya” (the bullyboy of Osaka)—remarked, “To relieve the burden of bases on Okinawa, the burden should be spread more evenly throughout Japan.”

Hashimoto’s proposal to transfer the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Facility at Futenma, Okinawa, to the unpopular, money-losing Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay stirred off a storm of controversy, not all of it negative.

Indeed, Shukan Taishu (Dec 28) sees the 40-year-old Hashimoto as exhibiting the kind of dynamic leadership Japan desperately needs. Its headline reads: “Hashimoto, if you can transfer Futenma to Kansai International, you’re good as being prime minister!”

Clearly something has to be done, and soon. The Hatoyama cabinet’s dithering on the Okinawa base issue has already begun to erode its high public support—by as much as 20%, according to some surveys.

“The problem of American military bases has been a difficult impediment to Japan-U.S. relations since the end of the war,” a political journalist tells Shukan Taishu. “Okinawa Prefecture, which remained under military occupation (until 1972), bears three-fourths of the burden of American bases.”

“The fact is, other localities don’t want to accept U.S. bases,” he adds. “Even Diet members and heads of local governments who accept the necessity of U.S. bases in Japan echo the local sentiments that, ‘We don’t want them in our town.’”

A day after Hashimoto’s audacious remarks, cries of opposition resounded from neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, whose governor, Toshizo Ido, remarked, “It would be outrageous for the national government to give serious consideration to such a harebrained scheme.”

But actually, the magazine writes, mails and phone calls to Hashimoto’s office are said to be running 60% in favor of the proposal.

“The governor’s idea is typical of his way of doing things,” says a journalist who covers the Osaka prefectural headquarters. “Not leaving everything to be dealt with by the central government, but getting the whole country involved in coming up with fresh ideas to deal with the problem like the bases—that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

During his two years as governor, notes Shukan Taishu, Hashimoto has earned a reputation for getting things done. After declaring “a state of emergency” upon taking office 2008 he began downsizing the government and balanced Osaka’s budget for the first time in 11 years.

“Transferring a base to Osaka is a complex matter that would also involve foreign diplomacy,” the aforementioned journalist remarks. “But the fact that his proposal has stirred up the bureaucracy means it can’t be entirely brushed aside.”

“Until something can be done with Kansai airport, the fiscal foundations of Osaka and the entire Kansai region cannot avoid sinking,” political commentator Jiro Honzawa points out. “I suppose his proposal is tied to getting this burden off Kansai’s back.”

In other words, it’s just one cog in Hashimoto’s master plan to revitalize Osaka.

The chances of actually pulling off such a miraculous solution are probably slim to none; but as one political reporter puts it, were Hashimoto able to pull it off, in the eyes of his countrymen such a coup would almost certainly boost his status above that of the prime minister.

  • 0

    JapanHusker

    That would suck.

  • 0

    zurcronium

    Wow,can see the merit in this. However the locals around Kansai Airport would have to put up with the bottom of the barrel folks that have joined the US military in the Bush years. Lots of mental stability issues there.

    Kansai airport is under untilized, money losing and sinking. Its perfect for the US military.

  • 0

    nandakandamanda

    Sounds like a pretty good temporary solution to me. Certainly economically and environmentally. And if the worst comes to the worst, you can always blow the bridge.

  • 0

    Altria

    It would be win-win - Osaka needs someone to bail out its airport and the Yanks need a change of scenery.

    Kansai has plenty to keep Uncle Sam's finest entertained - they can rumble with the yankis in Kishiwada, troll for skanks at Sam and Dave, or yell drunken insults at the opposition with the Hanshin fans at Koshien.

  • 0

    SebastianFlyte

    Sounds like a plan.

  • 0

    sf2k

    I like it. Kansai airport has been sinking for years, so transfering them there would reduce the cost of filling it up. If the troops want to stay they just have to add another layer every year. Sounds fair

  • 0

    Weasel

    Simply reiterated the prevalent NIMBY attitude across the countryside.

  • 0

    shufu

    God i hope not, hundreds of mindless, irritating, noisy, drunken, american marines is the last thing osaka people want.

  • 0

    tkoind2

    Osaka people are tough, so no problem keeping the military guys in line. Sounds very much like a win-win. And it would be nice to see someone withe the guts to explore options win enough national appeal to replace these useless drones in government.

  • 0

    biglittleman

    @shufu

    God i hope not, hundreds of mindless, irritating, noisy, drunken, american >marines is the last thing osaka people want.

    Have you ever been to Osaka? It is like a match made in heaven. I say let's get it crackin'.

  • 0

    minello7

    Gov Toru Hashimoto,when I see his name linked to something ,I know its a positive move.Lets look at his credentials ,Young,successful lawyer,a true family man,with a young family,a TV personality.He has treds on toes ,but he get things done,and he's 100% for the people of Osaka. He won't have made the decision lightly to have Kansai host a US base,but it must have been a good decision for Kansai and Osaka. If I was the Governor Of Okinawa I would be thanking Gov Hashimoto for his understanding of the present situation and for offering a solution. Regarding a couple of comments "hundreds of mindless, irritating, noisy, drunken, american marines" and "bottom of the barrel folks that have joined the US military" I gather the people who made these comments are niether parents or Americans.I am not american, but I find these comments derogatory. They want to try loking at themselves.

  • 0

    minello7

    "They want to try looking" it should have read

  • 0

    nandakandamanda

    Many a tough American has been dragged outside and beaten senseless by the Yakuza. They play by different rules. I think Osaka will be able to handle a few rowdy Marines on paynight.

  • 0

    sharky1

    The Kansai airport has been losing money because of how much they have to put into it to keep it from sinking...I don't think that would make such a good military base, let alone a good public airport...

  • 0

    johnnyreb

    Regarding a couple of comments "hundreds of mindless, irritating, noisy, drunken, american marines" and "bottom of the barrel folks that have joined the US military" I gather the people who made these comments are niether parents or Americans.I am not american, but I find these comments derogatory. They want to try loking at themselves.

    i am american, and i find these comments completely accurate. the last thing i want in osaka is a bunch of stupid americans that make other americans look bad. and seriously, that's what the american military does in other countries.

  • 0

    tmarie

    If any folk can deal with the idiotic behaviour from some American military it would be the Kishida boys and the Osakans. I think it is a good idea.

    The comment about Hashimoto always being right is not correct - this is the guy who pulled money from libraries and schools... Though I agreed with getting rid of the ALT program.

  • 0

    minello7

    johnnyreb does that mean in Afghanistan and Iraq,I don't think that comment will go to well with your fellow americans. But we are all entitiled to our own opinions,thats what this comment box is for.I personally have seen service personel in many countries and from many countries enjoying R&R and they behave no differently than what you see on a weekend in downtown Osaka.I am sure the bars down there would welcome any extra money that service personel spend,and in case we all forget,we are all guests in Japan.

  • 0

    GW

    minello7,

    NO WE AINT ALL GUESTS OF Japan! Speak for yrself. Many of us live here, work her & pay a ton of taxes etc, I know I am no guest.

  • 0

    aizoyurei

    If you ain't Japanese you're still a guest to the Japanese and their government. Don't matter what you do.

    I think that giant island should be put to some kind of use and I'm glad that Hashimoto has the talls to do something. Instead of trying to do stupid stuff like the DPJ wanting to give rich families niman a month for kids. Stu-peed!

  • 0

    saborichan

    Of course you're a guest. If push really came to shove, Japan could remove the US bases at this point. If they really, really had a reason. So yes, so long as they maintain the relationship, you're a guest and you should act like it.

  • 0

    Okinawamike

    "you're a guest and you should act like it".

    So you’re saying if you went to the UK or the US for three years, you would never go, have a few drinks and say the wrong thing or do something stupid at the age of 20?

    We all have are faults and after being here for 20+ years, I've had my short falls.

    To say all Marines are this or that and they should all behave like they are guest is, well, your option.

    Bottom line each individual is responsible for their own actions and should pay for bad actions accordingly.

    Out of the 1000 military members that went out and had few this weekend, how many have you read about assaulting, driving drunk, robbing or any other crime?

    To say all Marines are this or that and they should all behave like they are guest is, well your option.

    Bottom line each indivuadual is responsible for their own actions and should pay for bad actions accordingly.

    Moving them to Kansai would be no different then keeping them here.

  • 0

    mindovermatter

    Many a tough American has been dragged outside and beaten senseless by the Yakuza. They play by different rules. I think Osaka will be able to handle a few rowdy Marines on paynight.

    Not in my neck of the woods...

    Many a Touch-Guy Yakuza 2-bit punk, have coward down, turned tail and ran away, like a little scared boy...

    But maybe I'm just funny that way....!

    I always seek out the Tough-Guy Yakuza's.... It's fun, when they have some getting in their face, they don't know what to do, shxx or go blind...But usually they just walk away, scared... ha ha ha ha... been there, done that... many times.... Still keeping my eyes peeled for someone up to the task, that doesn't sound like a Chihuahua, all bark, but no bite... ha ha ha...

  • 0

    Yelnats

    When I worked at Zama and Atsugi bases, I never once saw military dudes messing things up. Did though see a drunken civilian screw things up. The windshield of my car. He thought it was some dude he hated. Got him kicked off the base and out of Japan.

  • 0

    IchyaWarFare

    As Mike has stated, we are all responsible for ourselves. A few screw it up for the many and we all pay for it.

    I do not see this working out any better. If they have to pay that much to keep the airport afloat, who do you think is going to be footing that bill? Or is that what he wants, so he can keep money circulating within Osaka? Might be a nice change of scenery and help alleviate Okinawa, but I do not see the full benefit of this, if any. Anyone with constructive criticism here?

  • 0

    IchyaWarFare

    I am an American and I find these comments inaccurate. I believe the last thing Osaka or the U.S.M.C. needs is a quick fix. Most US service members serve their country with honor and pride and are great representatives of their country. The military does not go out to make itself or the rest of USA look stupid. What you stated is sad and wrong, but you are entitled to that freedom that many have died to give you. Your Welcome.

  • 0

    johnnyreb

    johnnyreb does that mean in Afghanistan and Iraq,I don't think that comment will go to well with your fellow americans. But we are all entitiled to our own opinions,thats what this comment box is for.I personally have seen service personel in many countries and from many countries enjoying R&R and they behave no differently than what you see on a weekend in downtown Osaka.I am sure the bars down there would welcome any extra money that service personel spend,and in case we all forget,we are all guests in Japan.

    well, americans in afghanistan and iraq failed pretty hardcore at 'winning hearts and minds,' so yes, i'd say that applies to them to.

    regardless of what my 'fellow americans' think, a marine base in or near osaka is bad news. 'service personnel' only spend money on booze and women, so most of the local businesses would not be helped very much. it would only serve to further strain the relationship between japan and the US because quite frankly, american military whackjobs suck at being a 'visitor' in any country.

  • 0

    lostrune2

    The Japanese folks are just practicing NIMBY (Not In My BackYard). Americans know the term (though apparently JT Mods do not).

  • 0

    NuckinFutz

    "service personnel' only spend money on booze and women" Really? So we have something in common with all the Japanese salarymen, politicians, and fine upstanding police officers?

    Your comments are insulting and we should be thankful you no longer reside in the USA!

  • 0

    Ultradude

    The most important point is that rotary aircraft must be close to the troops they will transport and train with. Given this basic point, the helicopter units from Futenma must be in Okinawa and can not be relocated to Iwakuni, Osaka or Guam. All these wonderful suggestions from mayors and governors are pretty retarded considering the geography involved.

  • 0

    kp123

    The other option is to tranfer Futenma to Itami Osaka airport; however, housing U.S. forces will be a problem there. So Kansai International will likely be a cloistered island of U.S. military like the old days during the Korean War. I understand Kobe built their own airport island and it can take in domestic and international flights if need be. It's deja-vu all over again, as ole Yogi Berra used to say.

  • 0

    IchyaWarFare

    Your comments are insulting and we should be thankful you no longer reside in the USA!

    I second this. He is the American of Americans.

    "service personnel' only spend money on booze and women" Really? So we have something in common with all the Japanese salarymen, politicians, and fine upstanding police officers?

    lol. Good stuff.

  • 0

    Makkun70

    The sooner these guys are back on their own soil the better, how many non-stories have we had this year about US troops, does anyone who is not a US service-person really that bothered? They've had it too good for too long, time to put them to bed..

  • 0

    johnnyreb

    i say put the american troops in warzones where they belong. not japan.

  • 0

    bokudayo

    johnnyreb at 05:18 PM JST - 18th December i say put the american troops in warzones where they belong. not japan.

    If U.S. forces leave Japan, Japan will be a warzone.

  • 0

    hamiltontruther

    "If U.S. forces leave Japan, Japan will be a warzone."

    I believe that is what it will take for the nasayers of American bases to understand the situation.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    On another note. It is rare indeed that we hear the British complain about giving the Yanks the boot or the Germans or Italians. Yet, the Germans and Italians are a bit more vocal than the Brits with the Germans being more-so, yet no-one is as vocal as the Japanese.
    Japanese dissent is racially driven?

  • 0

    nandakandamanda

    hamiltontruther, some astonishing flaws in your logic there.

    Apart from that, though, the Japanese opposition is really only a small but vocal minority. The majority of the population hardly thinks about it.

  • 0

    Byakko78

    No, we italian take care of our own business, when a servicemen makes trouble, we handle it before he run back to his base.

  • 0

    NationalistRE

    "If U.S. forces leave Japan, Japan will be a warzone."

    A country that cannot make the best commitment to defending itself despite having the second largest economy in the world with a natural moat around it should perish for its cowardice and irresponsibility.

    Since most of Japanese who wants the USFJ in their country only care about their own security and no regional stability, it should duly leave unless they pay full rent fo their stay in their host country like British Forces Germany.

  • 0

    illsayit

    Wll I think Hashimoto has the balls! Osaka is perfect. Between Tokyo and the Inland Sea-where shipping and it's history there can be eyed-Osaka is the centralness of conflict-of the immorale- within the country. Having the US move there would make the underhandedness around there more visible, a good thing. It would also better inform the US army, as they have no idea about Japanese culture living the high life on those paradise islands. They seriously are way off track. Osaka, would be able to handle the troops, no problem. Better than Yokohama, where they just suck up to foreign policies, and pull the wool over their fellow Japanese. Hashimoto by suggesting that all of Japan take responsibility and the burden is most correct, but anywhere than Osaka would not be at all agreeable-it would be more like occupation. Let Osaka deal with them. So long as the rest of Asia doesnt see it as occupation, how important is that island that China and Japan claim territory to?

    Or otherwise, let Japan deal with itself, and Hashimoto, although you have the balls, I know you have some strings pulling you too, where does your deep interest lie? Which is bigger the strings pulling, or the deep interests?

  • 0

    mareo2

    From a civilian point of view, I think that is a fantastic idea. Imagine if a force hostil to the USA launch an attack against the base. The place is an artificial island, so if the attacker drop bombs, fire missiles or even use a tactical nuke, the chance of civilian casualties is minimun. Any shell that miss the target is very likely to fall in the water. I dont live in Osaka but in my opinion that can create a lot of jobs in the city, with out the risk of "live near a military target".

  • 0

    Cos

    They won't do it.

    Not for strategic and geographic reasons, as those are totally retarded : the US army has been useless in the area for quite a while but Obama will maintain all the bases as that takes so many American guys off the US streets. Isn't it better that they are on a bogus base, occupied doing sports and playing with military gadgets, maybe feeling "important for their holy country" than to inflate the % of despressive unemployed, uninsured, uneducated, homeless and criminals ? No kidding, they are now recruting in all those categories. But the bases have to be as far away as possible of big cities, not in case of attack (that would be Japan attacking), but in case of accident. A bad explosion and there could be heavy nuclear pollution at least 50 km around. So they won't move that risk to one of the most populated urban zone of Japan.

    For economy, yesss ! For a while. That could give a few years of work to the concrete and yakuza industry, which could help funding further campaigns of local politicians. After that, the economic impact that is spectacular on a small island would be like a drop of water in Kansai. I wouldn't say US military "buy only booze and women" as probably they import most of their needs for that too. I guess each family of service man will have a meal in town once a month, that's it. Call it tourism, that would represent 1 little day of tourism business per year. Oh, the base will buy utilities (water, electricity, gaz), for the rest they are more likely to ship loads of stuff from home than to shop at Daiei, to "homeschool" kids or have schools on the bases than to patronize local jukus, to see videos from home, etc.

    "Imagine if a force hostil to the USA launch an attack against the base."

    Like who ? Osaka is North-Korea's second city (for population of North-Korean citizens and ethnic orgine people), it's the actual economic capital. Just for that, neither NK nor China would try to hit here in the next 200 years. So Al Qaida ? Come on, they can strike New-York, surely L.A. too if they want. Why bothering with a military camp ? Do you think we'd still talk about Hiroshima and Nagasaki if the guys had droped the bombs on the nearby military bases ?
    Whatever they say, warriors are not trying to spare the civilians. That's even the contrary, the more they kill, the bigger the impact of their action.

  • 0

    Cos

    ***On another note. It is rare indeed that we hear the British complain about giving the Yanks the boot or the Germans or Italians. Yet, the Germans and Italians are a bit more vocal than the Brits with the Germans being more-so, yet no-one is as vocal as the Japanese. Japanese dissent is racially driven? ***

    Yes, the conditions of US occupation of Japan was/is racially driven. No doubt about it. Or at least, there was/is an ethnic bias. Little historic point : when the Japanese bases were build, the US had still had, or had recently changed, tons of racists laws that would segregate people on the color of skin, even forbid "inter-racial" marriages, select imigrants on color, etc. The servicemen had totally different relations with the locals from the start. I wish I could say that's the pas. That changed a little, but not so much. I still see the average US military in Japan being "in a colony", while in Europe, they are more part of the society, like foreign residents, migrants, exchange students, expats... really, you'd spend 2 months hanging out with them without guessing they are military (you could think they are in Germany for another business). Not in Japan, you know after 10 minutes they are from a different world. But well, personal inter-relation can evoluate when both sides make the effort, and I think that's not at all the cause of the problem at the level of people.

    The issue is the same differenciation and bias exist about diplomacy. The conditions of the European bases have always been different. In Europe, the local populations have not been administered like cattle by the US until the mid 70's (which is the case of Okinawa). And Europeans are regularly given their opinion on the military matters by elections. The Japanese are not, as officially Japan has no military. Since 1945, the US did and does follow the European demands of relocation or transformation of their bases. There were heated discussions but they negociated, always. They closed all the bases in France as early as the late 40's, just when population asked for it. Also European governments participate to NATO and Blue Helmet with their troups along to the US ones, theorically at the same level (it's discutable, but nothing like US deciding strategy for Asia and Japan shutting up and just sticking to self-defence). Then European militaries are losing their skins in Afghanistan with the Americans. That counts too. That's more a collaboration than an occupation.

    So far, the US has imposed to Okinawa and Japan all the conditions and details of the bases, they never actually negociated. Japanese governement does approve and signs agreements, but the only choice ever given is "sign imediatly" or "delay, be threatened in the shadow, then sign anyway". Oh yeah, there were "collaborations" of logistic between Japan and the US, but that was 100% dictated by US army needs, like requisition. Japanese industrials were often glad to get the business opportunities, OK, but that stops here. Now the "refueling", Japan has no particular interest to do that, especially as they never get any of their demand with US army satisfied. It's a little time the relation stop being unilateral. I held Japanese politicians responsible open their mouth about it in the last 20 years. It's hard to understand for Japanese, particularly Okinawans, whose parents were not even born in the 40's, that the US decides for their land and they are never part of the decisions. I think if the US had had another style of diplomacy in Asia, the Okinawan population would accept the bases just like the European do.

  • 0

    Blue_Tiger

    While, yes, Okinawa "bears the 'burden'" of three-fourths of US Bases, the fact remains that those US Bases pay rent for the land they occupy, giving Okinawa a substantial economic income (I've heard from people who live there that revenue from the US Bases make up about 70% to 80% of the Okinawa Eceonomy). On top of that, these basee give Japanese people the oportunity not only for international experience and travel to the USA, but they also help in relations with American People and with English Language Learning. As such, I'm not surprised that 60% iof Hashimoto's letters and other messages are positive. Havign a Base would give Osaka a great economic boost...and surely the US Military Personnel would have a far more enjoyable time in the Kansai area than on Okinawa....

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