During the U.S. occupation of Okinawa from 1945 to 1972, no one annoyed the occupation authorities more than Kamejiro Senaga (1907-2001), who was mayor of Naha during the 1950s.

They threw him in jail, froze funding for his city and suspended its water service, but nothing could bring him to his knees. Even after the U.S. military revised ordinances and ousted him from office, he remained as anti-American as ever.

"Beigun ga Mottomo Osoreta Otoko: Sono Na wa Kamejiro" (Kamejiro, the man most feared by the U.S. military), a documentary now showing at theaters, chronicles Senaga's eventful life.

"He was a past master at winning the hearts and minds of the masses," said Tadahiko Sako, 53, of Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc., who directed the film. "Whenever he was scheduled to speak at a public meeting, people were said to finish their supper early to get there in time."

A fiery orator, Senaga pulled no punches in denouncing the oppressive U.S. rule in the local dialect.

Former Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine, 83, who did not share Senaga's political stance, comments in the film: "When I was in high school, he was my hero. I sat in the front row to listen to him. He gave us, the occupied populace, an outlet for our thoughts and feelings."

Sako showed me a U.S. government document concerning Senaga. He is described as a folksy and charismatic man who does not give boring talks like a typical communist. The document also admits that the U.S. oppression only served to raise his popularity, and that the Americans have only themselves to blame for turning him into an anti-U.S. martyr.

Those were the days when vicious crimes were being committed by U.S. troops in Okinawa. Many young girls were attacked, and landlords kept losing their land.

But the structure of oppression that infuriated Senaga remains in place today. There is no end to crimes by U.S. troops, and a U.S. military transport helicopter crash-landed in flames near a private residence on Oct. 11.

"There is zero value to U.S. military bases surrounded by the hatred of the populace," Senaga once stated.

He died 16 years ago. His thoughts can hardly be understood by someone on the Japanese mainland conditioned to see politics in "right or left" terms.

Senaga teaches us about what lies beneath Okinawa's pent-up rage.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 13

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.