June 23 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, a bloody, 82-day battle which left thousands of people dead. In commemoration of this gruesome chapter of Japanese history, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared in Okinawa at the Cornerstone of Peace, a memorial to those who died in the battle, to deliver a speech.
However, it turned out that not everyone was happy to see the leader, who faced heckling by some attendees.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened earlier today, when cries of “Kaere!” (“Go home!”) and the like were heard from the audience during Abe’s appearance at Okinawa Memorial Day event.
In the video, the prime minister appears not to be flustered as he walks up and bows to the monument before giving his speech. Shouts can be heard throughout the speech, though the PM did receive light applause upon finishing.
▼ A short video shot from the crowd.[tweet https://twitter.com/sweep_bjj/status/613190580848308224 align=center]
▼ “Okinawa. Abe was be showered with jeers by the audience. LOL”[tweet https://twitter.com/I_hate_camp/status/613190593670287361 align=center]
▼ A tweet by an AFP reporter on site[tweet https://twitter.com/alastairhimmer/status/613190716479553536 align=center]
▼ A tweet from the Asia Editor of the Times[tweet https://twitter.com/dicklp/status/613191315744894976 align=center]
The people of Okinawa have long been at odds with the national government and the reigning administration in particular, largely due to issues revolving around the continued presence of the US military and a base located in a populated area. Though there are plans to move the bases, many in Okinawa want them gone entirely.
Strong opposition towards the Abe administration has been inflamed by its reinterpretation of Article Nine of the Japanese constitution, which essentially barred Japan for engaging in war. The new interpretation would allow Japanese Self-Defense Forces to defend allies from attacks, which some feel is unconstitutional. Many Okinawans, who accounted for many of the Japanese casualties of World War II, fear that they will bear an even greater burden should Japan go to war again. As such, animosity towards the prime minister is likely to continue for some time to come.
No doubt there are many who disagree with the public heckling of Prime Minister Abe at the event, though there also seem to be many who approve of it. As one commenter said, “Abe should listen directly to what the citizens have to say.”