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Losing the Plot in Okinawa

SNA (Tokyo) — The virtues of Shokichi Kina as an Okinawan folk musician are impossible to deny. Long after the man is dead and buried, his song “Hana” will be an immortal classic. As a politician, however, the sooner his career is forgotten the better.

He served a single term in the House of Councillors for Democratic Party of Japan from 2004 to 2010. It’s not clear how much he actually accomplished in that position, but it was surely much less than he had already achieved as a musician and as a peace activist in civil society.

When then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama betrayed his supporters in Okinawa in May 2010 by confirming the earlier plan to relocate the US Marine airbase at Futenma to Henoko beach in Nago, Kina complained about the decision, but he stayed with the DPJ. After his electoral defeat in July 2010, he became the head of the DPJ’s Okinawa Chapter, even though the party soon lost all of its other lawmakers in the prefecture through defections and failures at the ballot box.

Kokusai Shisa Cover

Shisa on Naha’s International Street (SNA)

Shokichi Kina’s decision to run now for the office of Governor of Okinawa is little short of bizarre.

Yesterday, the DPJ executives in Tokyo decided that they would expel Kina from the party unless he quickly backed down and gave up his announced gubernatorial bid. Kina responded that he won’t resign from the DPJ, but fully intends to run for governor in November. His formal expulsion from the party that he has served for more than a decade won’t be long in coming.

And what is the advantage to Kina personally, or the Okinawa peace movement more generally, to his insistence on running in this election? Nothing that we can perceive.

Shokichi Kina’s chances of defeating the major candidates – incumbent Governor Hirokazu Nakaima and prime challenger Takeshi Onaga – are roughly zero. More likely than not, the final result will be rather humiliating for Kina. And when the election is over he will have burned too many bridges and no serious political party will want him.

Moreover, while Shokichi Kina carries aloft the banner of the anti-base movement, any votes that he may pick up are almost certainly going to be at the expense of the one viable anti-base candidate, former Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga. In other words, the only practical effect of Kina’s run is to split the anti-base vote and to give Nakaima a marginally better chance of returning to office.

We look forward to hearing Shokichi Kina’s next album of Okinawan folk songs, but his political ambitions are certainly never going to be among his greatest hits.

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