Only a fence separates the Futenma No. 2 Elementary School and a U.S. Marine Corps air station.

Classes are routinely disrupted by the deafening roar of military aircraft, as described in this fifth-grader's composition: "Teacher's voice fades away. Everyone's voice fades away. I thought, 'Oh well, so what?' I tossed my pencil."

Tsuyoshi Watanabe's "Watashitachi no Kyoshitsu Karawa Beigun Kichi ga Miemasu" (We can see the U.S. military base from our classroom) contains essays written by the school's pupils in the 1970s and 1980s.

One child yelled at a U.S. aircraft, "Cut it out! Be quiet!"

Another could not understand why the schoolyard had to be so cramped and the base so spacious.

A sixth-grader worried, "What will happen if an airplane crashes on our school?"

This danger has been pointed out repeatedly.

A metal window frame of a U.S. military helicopter fell on the grounds of this very school on Dec. 13. One pupil was reportedly hit by a stone sent flying off the ground by the impact. It was a really close call.

Last year, an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crashed on a beach in Okinawa. This was followed by another helicopter that crash-landed and went up in flames near a private home.

For an Okinawan, every U.S. base represents a disaster waiting to happen right in their backyard.

The Futenma air base in particular is noted for its extreme proximity to densely populated areas in Ginowan. And yet, the Japanese government says the base has to stay, unless the Okinawans agree to its relocation within the prefecture.

For all the immediate dangers this base poses, it is as if Tokyo is using it as a bargaining chip.

Author Natsuki Ikezawa once made this brilliant suggestion: Why not get a truck, load it with a powerful audio system, drive it around schools throughout Japan and let everyone hear the noise the Futenma No. 2 Elementary School has to put up with?

I believe anyone who has never experienced living in constant danger and deafening noise should be able to relate to the feelings of Okinawans.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 14

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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.