The island of Okinawa has a new governor. This new official has two main dislikes: gambling and the U.S. military. And, he wants them both off the island.
Denny Tamaki is the son of a U.S. Marine and a native Okinawan. He has stated he does not want gambling on the island. He also wants to see the U.S. military bases on the island closed. Although Japan recently legalized gambling, Tamaki said he will not allow it on the island. There is already too much American influence on the island, he said.
The island of Okinawa sits almost exactly between Japan and Taiwan in the China Sea. The culture of Okinawa is more than 3,000 years old. Many countries in the area wanted to possess Okinawa. It stubbornly resisted outsiders until the end of the 19th century when it became part of Japan. Okinawa was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting and highest casualties during World War II. One-quarter of the people on the island died during the fighting. The U.S. military has kept bases on the island since the country occupied it in 1945. However, the U.S. military and Okinawa have had an uneasy peace. There have been as many as 40 military bases on the island at one time. The United States has agreed to gradually reduce the number of bases.
Tamaki won the gubernatorial election in September after the August death of his predecessor. The previous governor died of pancreatic cancer in August. Like his predecessor, residents of the island elected Tamaki on a platform of anti-American sentiment. That means that he is against businesses that are American-owned. This echoes the sentiments of many people on the island who want Americans to leave the island in peace. The new governor has said that the island needs to return to its roots. While it’s not exactly Japanese, it’s most definitely not American. Instead, Tamaki wants to build up the island’s tourism industry. He wants to provide a place for luxury cruises to dock. He also wants to focus a lot on the historical features of the island, such as its distinctive culture.
Okinawa’s Economic Realities
However, researchers say the island cannot ignore the economic realities. The U.S. military pumps millions of dollars into the Okinawan economy. Japan pays the U.S. billions of dollars each year. The U.S. returns the bulk of that money to the island to pay employees and finance the facilities. The military presence gives thousands of Okinawan’s jobs as well, which further props up the economy.
Japan has agreed to allow three initial licenses for integrated resorts in the country. The front-runners appear to be Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama, but there are other locations that are also in the running. One of these places is Okinawa. While not in the lead for one of the integrated casino resorts, Okinawa is a contender because of its location. The plans for the integrated resorts will feature hotels, restaurants, gambling, nighttime activities, and spa services. The hope is these casinos will rival those in Macau. Okinawa is close to China, the Philippines, and South Korea and each of these countries has limited gaming. Therefore, the potential for a large money-making resort is tempting, especially when it can boost jobs.
While it appears that Okinawans have elected an anti gambling governor, there may be room for compromise. The U.S. has agreed to close some of the bases, and that leaves room for redevelopment in some locations. However, with Okinawans, the lure of additional money may win out because of the need for economic investment.
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