Photo/IllutrationOkinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga tells reporters at a news conference on July 27 that he was revoking the approval given by his predecessor for land reclamation work in the Henoko district of Nago in northern Okinawa Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

NAHA--Before he died, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga flashed a rare smile after telling his wife that he fought the building of a new U.S. base in the prefecture with everything he had.

Onaga died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 8 at age 67.

His widow, Mikiko, 62, told an Asahi Shimbun reporter that her husband mentioned the heartaches brought about by the long fight against the central government over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago in the northern part of the prefecture.

Mikiko said she could not recall her husband smiling for almost the four years he served as Okinawa governor.

“He was a bright person and often smiled (before becoming governor),” she said.

One time, Onaga said to Mikiko, “I worked to the full extent that I could.”

Mikiko told him, “ 'Uchinanchu' (Okinawans) know that.”

That was one of the few times he smiled as governor, according to Mikiko.

Onaga was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April this year.

“I might not be able to continue living until the end of December this year, (when his term in office expires),” Mikiko quoted Onaga as saying afterward.

After leaving the hospital on May 15, he received anticancer drug treatment.

Around that time, Onaga started to throw out hundreds of his books and other materials, according to Mikiko.

“I said, ‘Stop it,’ but he did not follow my advice. It seems that he thought he didn't have much time to live,” she recalled.

On July 27, Onaga said that he would revoke the approval given by his predecessor for land reclamation work in Henoko for the base.

At the table while having breakfast that day, Onaga said to Mikiko, “My condition is terrible. Will I be able to answer the questions of reporters in this condition?”

Looking back on his health at the time, “Even drinking water caused him to suffer,” Mikiko said.

During the 30-minute news conference, however, a frail Onaga continued to speak definitely while gesturing.

“This construction is an act of arrogance,” and “We are indignant that the Japanese public takes it for granted for building (a U.S. military base) in Okinawa Prefecture without any question,” he said.

After returning home, Onaga sat in a chair at the front door for several minutes. Then, he somehow climbed to his feet, took another break along the corridor, rested in the living room and sat in the corridor again.

It took him about 20 minutes to reach the bedroom that is 15 meters from the front door.

“I thought that he pushed himself with all his focus centered on it (the news conference), and he said what he wanted to say through using all his remaining energy. I felt pain (watching him) though,” Mikiko said, looking back on that day.

The news conference was Onaga's final appearance in public.

Onaga had been saying to Mikiko, “I will revoke (the approval for land reclamation work at the Henoko district) on my own doing.”

“There were rumors that the central government would demand reparations even from employees of the prefectural government (if the approval was revoked)," she said. "Probably, he could not stand a situation where prefectural staff would encounter such tough circumstances."

Onaga was readmitted to the hospital on July 31 and died eight days later. About 4,500 people in political and business circles as well as citizens across all ideologies attended his funeral.

"(Due to my illness) I might have not been able to control myself, and I might have taken out my frustrations on our children. Please convey my message to them that the person with such an attitude is not the true personality of your father,” Mikiko said, citing his final words to her.

She also recalled her husband saying frequently to his family, “Do not hate someone for the reason that their opinions are different from yours. They are all like-minded Uchinanchu. We understand each other.”

“I hope that each of the prefectural citizens will reflect on (what he meant),” Mikiko said.