Miura City, Kanagawa – Yokosuka City, Kanagawa 5.6 miles
Last night I stayed at a traditional Japanese inn, called a minshuku, in the small Miura City. Pictured above is the peace monument of paper cranes in Miura City that shows that it was the first city in Japan to declare itself as a City of Peace. As we walked, we passed by an area (now residential) that was used to bury the radioactive tuna from the Bikini Atoll incident many years ago.
We then headed for Yokosuka City, which is home to the largest US military base in East Asia. I could tell by the amount of Americans in the city (much more than I’d seen in a week or two). I was reminded how difficult it is to protest among people who oppose your cause, as I looked into the eyes of US soldiers and their families, smiling, and saying “No more war!”
By now I’ve passed many military bases, so naturally I’ve been inquiring the past few days about their role, impact, and reputation in Japan. It seems that the bases are generally viewed negatively, because of the increased crime that the US military soldiers bring. So naturally, I asked, why are they still here?
Though the US occupation of Japan ended in the 1950’s, the Japanese government decided to keep the US military around to help protect them during the Cold War era from their dangerous neighbors (since their constitution heavily limited their own army).
However, now that the Cold War is over, there is some debate about keeping the US military in Japan. Some say because North Korea is still a threat, the extra protection is needed. However, the people I talked to today made a good point: any nuclear warhead launched from North Korea to Japan would arrive in mere minutes, which would not even allow the US military in Japan any time to act. On the other hand, some say the intimidation of having the US “back up” Japan under its so called nuclear umbrella is enough to “deter” a nuclear attack. But this does not deter Japan’s neighbors from increasing and upgrading their nuclear arsenal, as someone today pointed out, so it isn’t really very effective in the long run. On top of all of this, the Japanese government is currently trying to revise its Constitution so that it may beef up its army, but this is sure to increase tensions among its neighbors, possibly increasing their urgency to develop nuclear weapons as well.
Obviously, it’s a complicated issue. I’ve been wondering these past few days what I can do back home to really help, when I’m not even sure of the best solution myself. One person today said something really great about the upcoming UN Peace Conference that also answers my question: this may not have any concrete steps, but it is establishing the attitude that nuclear weapons are inhumane and evil, and making this idea the norm. Even if we don’t have all the practical answers, changing the attitude of the world towards this issue will open the door to more consideration for how best to achieve a nuclear free world.