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The Sacrifice Of A Schoolgirl: The 1995 Rape Case, Discourses of Power, and Women's Lives in Okinawa
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Critical Asian Studies
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The Sacrifice Of A Schoolgirl: The 1995 Rape
Case, Discourses of Power, and Women's Lives in
Okinawa
Linda Isako Angst
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Discourses of Power, and Women's Lives in Okinawa, Critical Asian Studies, 33:2, XXXXXXXXXX, DOI:
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OKI N AWA FEATURE
TH E SACRI FICE OF A SCH OOLGIRL
The 1995 Rape Case, Discourses of Power,
and Women’s Lives in Okinawa
Linda I sako Angst
In September 1995 relations between the United States, Japan, and Okinawa were
transformed when three U.S. servicemen
utally gang-raped a twelve-year-old
schoolgirl. Okinawan feminists called public attention to the rape, but it wasn’t long
efore the media and political leaders shifted their focus to concerns about Oki-
nawa’s colonial history and its postwar occupation by the United States. A crisis of
sovereignty replaced the crisis for women and a particular girl, which gradually
faded from view, as did the agenda of feminist activists. Through an examination of
Okinawa’s contentious identity politics, the author traces the political trajectories of
Okinawa’s component groups and asks why this particular crime, in a long list of
crimes against Okinawans by U.S. personnel since 1945, resonates so strongly both
in Okinawa and in mainland Japan. The author argues that the rape has been enlisted
for its powerful symbolic capacity: Okinawa as sacrificed schoolgirl/daughter. As
such it is emblematic of past, prior na
atives of Okinawan victimhood, most nota-
ly the Himeyuri students in the Battle of Okinawa. Feminists’ cooperation in a pa-
triarchal language that posits Okinawa as daughter within a national Japanese family
is problematic but necessary as a strategy in the fight for women’s human rights.
The 1995 Rape of a Schoolgir l
On the night of 4 September 1995, as she walked home after purchasing a note-
ook for her lessons from a neighborhood store, a twelve-year-old Okinawan
school girl was abducted at knife-point by three U.S. servicemen in a rented ca
in the town of Kin and gang-raped. This was the Labor Day holiday for U.S.
Critical Asian Studies
33:2 (2001), XXXXXXXXXX
ISSN XXXXXXXXXXprint / XXXXXXXXXXonline / 02 / XXXXXXXXXX ©2001 BCAS, Inc.
forces in Okinawa, and the three men — two Marines and one sailor — had
een partying all day in the capital city of Naha, an hour south of Kin. According
to a fourth Marine who was with them earlier in the day, the three plotted to “get
a girl” after failed attempts to meet women in Naha. Unwilling to join them
should they follow through with their plan, he left the others, but did not report
the plan to authorities or do anything to stop the impending crime.
The three then drove back to Kin, the location of their home base, Camp
Hansen. The old bar and
othel area outside the main gates of Camp Hansen
thrived during the Vietnam War era. Today this area, which relies on the patron-
age of dwindling numbers of U.S. Marines from the camp across the road, is
filled with time-worn, seedy sex and entertainment establishments that appea
to be on the verge of collapse. The remote town is a far cry from the lively, so-
phisticated entertainment district of Kokusai-dori (International Boulevard)
where the men had been, the hub of tourist commerce in downtown Naha. But
on weekends and on that particular American holiday in 1995, the Kin area was
full of the usual crowd of bar hostesses, prostitutes, service workers, and lonely
young Marines too
oke or too uninterested to spend time and money in hip
Naha.
Lacking the means to venture far beyond the gates of the base, the Marines at
Camp Hansen gain a perspective on the world “outside the base” (Okinawa it-
self) through the circumscribed lens of base authorities. Tours of the island by
(military) bus are called “off-base” excursions, clearly indicating the perspective
soldiers adopt as their legitimate source of knowledge regarding Okinawa.
Both the land around them and its occupants are peripheral to their primary
(American) presence, despite (or perhaps because) they themselves are (unwel-
come) “guests” on the island. The tour guides are military personnel or affiliates
working for the USO.1
Most Camp Hansen Marines are new recruits, sent from the United States
ight after basic training. From the 1950s through the 1990s, troops who trained
at Camp Hansen and other bases in Okinawa were deployed to conflicts in the
immediate Pacific region and around the world, serving in the Korean, Vietnam,
and Gulf wars. Camp Hansen comprises the bulk of Kin, leaving most local resi-
dents along the na
ow strip of town land that hugs Okinawa’s northeast coast.
Its primary purpose is to train recruits for artillery and other kinds of combat.
For most, the tour of duty on Okinawa is their first time a
oad — and, indeed,
the first time many of them have ever been away from their American home-
towns. As part of the military services’ recruiting strategies, such tours of duty
are billed as cross-cultural experiences, opportunities to “see the world.” In
fact, recruits often find that, for a variety of reasons, including deficiency in lan-
guage skills, high costs of the local economy, and sometimes local resentment of
their presence, their lives are confined to the na
ow world (and world view) of
the base.
The Marines in Kin are physically isolated from the general population, living
and working within the ba
ed-wire fences of the camp and far removed from
the u
an centers of life on the island. Since the salaries of recruits are notori-
ously low (and the value of the dollar in 1995 was also low compared to the
244 Critical Asian Studies 33:2 (2001)
yen), regular excursions off base are difficult if not impossible, except to the ar-
eas right outside the base that were established to cater to their needs.
Marines at Camp Hansen are also separated from others through the nature
of their work as combat soldiers, labor that is physically focused, much as was
their basic training. Through the nature of their work as well as their segrega-
tion in the base, their attentions are unavoidably, intensely, and intentionally
fixated on the manifestations of their own physicality. As well as being geo-
graphically, socially, and economically outside the bounds of ordinary Okina-
wan life, they most profoundly experience their difference from local people in
terms of their physical (including racial) difference. All of these factors suggest
that an occupation army of young, foreign men is a clear and present danger to
the local community, as Okinawans have long argued.
On the night in question, the three U.S. soldiers returned from Naha to the fa-
miliar te
ain of Kin. Early September is still summer in Okinawa, and nightfall
offers some respite from the day’s subtropical heat and humidity. They cruised
the neon-
ight area outside the gates of Camp Hansen before finally heading
for the darker local neighborhood streets of Kin. At 8 P.M., the world of a twelve-
year-old schoolgirl was forever changed by her
utal encounter with the three
servicemen. After pulling the girl from the street into the car, the soldiers si-
lenced and immobilized her by taping her mouth and binding her arms and
legs. They then took her to the remote beach military officials label the Kin Blue
Amphibious Training Area, a place that by day is hauntingly beautiful: a penin-
sula of jagged rocks jutting into the deep waters of a wild-looking, dark-blue
sea. At night the area is pitch black, and locals steer clear. Discarded beer bottles
eveal that Marines frequent the spot late at night, sneaking past the military’s
“off-limits” sign once the lights from local houses and streets are out. At this
lonely site, the three men repeatedly raped the girl, who was still bound, then
discarded their bloodied undershorts in a trash bin before abandoning her limp
form on the beach.
The girl managed to drag herself up to one of the string of houses beyond the
stretch of mangrove trees on cliffs overlooking the beach. She gave a description
of the car and the men (she even remembered the rental number of the vehicle,
according to one source), and the three rapists were apprehended within hours
of the crime. Although initially taken into U.S. military custody, as a result of
public outrage over the rape, the men were eventually handed over to the local
authorities, then tried and convicted in Japanese courts of law in Okinawa and
sentenced to time in a Japanese prison — both unprecedented actions.
Sovereignty, G ender, and Postwar I dentity Pol i tics
The abduction and gang-rape of the schoolgirl prompted powerful responses.
Locally these included the demand by women’s groups in Okinawa to publicize
the crime immediately and increase protection for women, particularly around
U.S. bases; renewed protests by landowners forced for decades to lease lands to
the U.S. military; and promises by then-governor Ota Masahide to heighten his
ongoing efforts to pressure Tokyo to rid the island of U.S. bases. Internationally,
its most profound effect was the sparking of a debate over the nature and role of
Angst/The Sacrifice of a Schoolgirl 245
the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, particularly as it affected the Status of Forces
Agreement (SOFA) regarding the treatment of U.S. military personnel accused
of crimes a
oad.2 Protest of the rape also caused the postponement of Presi-
dent Clinton’s November 1995 Tokyo visit and triggered a premature end to
Prime Minister Murayama’s tenure as the first non-LDP (Liberal Democratic
Party) postwar Japanese leader in decades.
Soon after the rape, media coverage began to concentrate on the “larger” po-
litical issues of lands leased for U.S. bases, base returns, and troop reduction,
pointing out the long-standing victimization of Okinawa by both the U.S. and Ja-
pan. Initial coverage of the rape ca
ied by CNN, the New York Times, and the
Asahi Shimbun showed images of women demonstrating in downtown Naha,
notably Naha City councilwoman Takazato Suzuyo,3 and of 80,000 people pro-
testing the rape at Okinawa’s Ginowan City Convention Center.4 These reports
were soon replaced by editorials debating the base issue,5 photos of Chibana
Shoichi6 sitting in protest
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ARTICLE REVIEW- THE SACRIFICE OF A SCHOOLGIRL: THE 1995 RAPE CASE, DISCOURSES OF POWER, AND WOMEN'S LIVES IN OKINAWA
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Article Review    3
Reference    5
Article Review
In this particular article, the author argues that rape is used as a tool or a symbol of powerful capacity instilled by the US serviceman on a schoolgirl of Okinawa. A particular incident in September 1995 transforms the entire political relations between the United States, Japan, and Okinawa. According to the article, it was 3 US servicemen who
utally gang-raped a 12-year-old girl which stimulated the Okinawa feminist and called for public attention towards rape. It was this incident that start the political crisis of sovereignty (Angst, 2001). Rather it was evident from consequential sets of events that political leaders shifted their standpoint towards the concern about Okinawa's colonial history and post-war occupation by the United States from the crisis faced by the women.
The article focused on the circumstances of abduction and the incident of gang rape of the 12-year-old girl in Okinawa was promoted with stern and fierce responses that enhanced...
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