We feel strong indignation at harassing phone calls received by a nursery school and an elementary school in Okinawa Prefecture after parts from U.S. military aircraft dropped onto their premises.

The outrageous acts signify a total lack of understanding about the prefecture’s long history of suffering and the harsh reality it still faces.

After a 7.7-kilogram window fell from a CH-53E helicopter onto the playground at Futenma No. 2 Elementary School in the city of Ginowan on Dec. 13, the school received more than 30 phone calls making such slanderous and ridiculing comments as “It’s fakery” or “It can’t be helped.”

Some of the callers railed against the school with words indicating their ignorance of relevant facts. One caller reportedly said, “The school was built later (than the base), don’t complain now.” Another said, “People in Okinawa make their living from the U.S. bases.”

A nursery school in the same city, where U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is located, also became a victim of similar harassment after an object from a U.S military helicopter was found on its roof on Dec. 7.

One phone call accused the nursery school of “faking” the incident.

Such calls started coming after the U.S. military, while acknowledging that the object was a part of its helicopter, said it was unlikely that it had fallen during a flight.

Let us get the facts straight.

The U.S. military built the Futenma air base in 1945 in the middle of the Battle of Okinawa on land it had seized from local residents by felling schools and houses that had been there.

After the end of World War II, local residents returned from concentration camps and places to which they had been evacuated found themselves having no choice but to live in areas around the base.

Futenma No. 2 Elementary School opened in 1969 in response to a sharp increase in the number of students at Futenma Elementary School, which had been rebuilt after the war.

Around the same time, U.S. helicopter squadrons based in mainland Japan were transferred to the Futenma base, worsening the problems of noise and danger for local residents.

A plan to relocate the school was considered temporarily, but eventually abandoned because of a lack of appropriate land within the city, where U.S. military facilities occupy a quarter of the total area, as well as soaring land prices.

Income related to U.S. bases accounts for only 5 percent of the prefecture’s total income. There are various data showing that the heavy presence of the U.S. military in the prefecture hampers, rather than supports, the development of the local economy.

It is clear that the harassing phone calls received by the schools are based on ignorance and prejudice.

In addition to suffering daily from noises and fears of accidents caused by U.S. bases, people in Okinawa also sustain “secondary damage” inflicted by such heartless acts of unfeeling Japanese citizens.

This is too much of merciless treatment for people in Okinawa.

This is not the first time that Okinawan people have been subjected to such outrageous verbal attacks from their compatriots.

When the chiefs of all municipal governments in the prefecture staged a protest march in Tokyo’s Ginza district demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. military’s plan to deploy Osprey aircraft to the Futenma base, they were decried as “traitors” by passers-by.

An Osaka Prefecture riot police officer derided local protesters against the construction of U.S. military helipads by calling them "dojin" during a confrontation in Higashi, in the northern part of the prefecture.

These are just some in a long series of episodes suggesting discrimination against Okinawa.

The related perceptions and responses shown by many mainland politicians and officials have been deplorable.

In 2013, a parliamentary vice defense minister provided false numerical data downplaying the burden of U.S. bases borne by Okinawa.

In 2015, mistaken remarks about the process of the construction of the Futenma base went uncontested in a meeting of young lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

In 2016, the minister in charge of Okinawa affairs took an equivocal stance toward the dojin slur, failing to criticize the derogatory term.

Politicians, particularly those in the government and the ruling party, are heavily responsible for ensuring that such malicious comments against people in Okinawa are not tolerated and for eliminating all related prejudices by disseminating accurate information.

They need to have renewed awareness of their responsibility.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 22