Photo/IllutrationOkinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, far right, meets with U.S. government officials in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15. (Provided by Okinawa prefectural government)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Denny Tamaki, the feisty new governor of Okinawa Prefecture, termed his recent talks in Washington on U.S. bases as cloudy, but said sunny skies prevailed in New York when he raised the issue.

The weather analogy was used by Tamaki to describe his first U.S. visit as governor of a prefecture where fierce opposition rages over the massive U.S. military presence compared with mainland Japan.

The main objective of Tamaki's visit was to get U.S. lawmakers to understand the gravity of opposition in Okinawa to moves to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the heavily populated city of Ginowan to the coastal Henoko district of Nago, also in Okinawa.

Tamaki said he felt he fulfilled his objective of raising awareness about the base issue as it relates to his prefecture, but the inclement weather he experienced in the U.S. capital reflected the fact that U.S. officials did not budge an inch from their past positions.

Visits to the United States are always an important function for any Okinawa governor considering the inordinate presence of U.S. military bases in the southernmost prefecture.

In the past, Okinawa governors have focused their attention on Washington, D.C., in an attempt to convince U.S. officials to be more flexible about the Futenma relocation.

However, in his bid to reach out to the U.S. public, Tamaki made New York his first stop and the interest he generated led him to feel he had met his objective.

Upon his return to Japan on Nov. 16, Tamaki told reporters, "It was a productive visit to the United States."

In New York, Tamaki gave a speech at New York University. He was also interviewed by a number of U.S. news organizations. That prompted him to describe the "great weather" that prevailed in the Big Apple.

But in Washington, Tamaki only managed to meet with lower ranking officials of the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon. Echoing a line used by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, they told him that moving Futenma to Henoko was the only solution to the issue. Tamaki had wanted to meet with political appointees higher up in the bureaucratic hierarchy, but he received the same treatment as that given his predecessor, the late Takeshi Onaga, who was also a vehement opponent of the move to Henoko.

Tamaki also visited Congress to try to generate interest among U.S. lawmakers, but he only managed to meet with one U.S. senator and one U.S. representative, both Democrats.

Before leaving Washington, Tamaki told reporters: "I believe I made a half step in progress in passing on my views to the U.S. government. I will not change my stance of stressing dialogue because I believe that is the only way to come up with a solution."

But aides to Tamaki admitted that they feel they need to revise their strategy with regard to the United States as there is no hope for a solution to the issue unless the powers that be come on board.