Photo/IllutrationA petition on the “We the People” site asks U.S. President Donald Trump to halt land reclamation work off the Henoko area of Okinawa Prefecture. (Kazuyuki Ito)

It appears that agriculture came into practice in Okinawa much later than in the rest of Japan.

According to "Honne de Kataru Okinawa-shi" (An honest recounting of Okinawa's history) by Kiyoshi Nakamura, ancient shell mounds excavated in Okinawa indicate that Okinawans remained pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers until around the 10th century, which corresponds to the Heian Period (794-1185) in mainland Japan.

To explain the reason, Nakamura, whose parents were born in Okinawa, turns his thoughts to the bounty of the sea with which Okinawans were blessed.

"Fertile fishing grounds lay in front of their eyes," he points out. "The hauls were probably more than ample to feed the entire population."

Nakamura goes on to surmise that there was no need to bother with farming, which was labor-intensive and at the mercy of Mother Nature.

The seas of Okinawa enchant many people.

Rola, a Japanese fashion model and TV personality, recently posted the following on social media: "We may be able to save Okinawa's beautiful sea from reclamation if we all raise our voices in protest."

She is a supporter of an online petition to Washington to suspend reclamation work for the construction of a U.S. air base in the Henoko district of Nago until a prefectural referendum is held in February.

The petition has so far collected upwards of 140,000 signatures.

It has been a week since landfill work began on the relocation site of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan.

Images of brown soil and sand being poured into the blue sea are grotesque. But what is truly grotesque is the central government's determination to force a military base on Okinawa in total disregard of the repeatedly expressed wishes of the people of Okinawa.

Earlier this month, the municipal assembly of Tokyo's Koganei adopted a proposal calling for a national debate on the necessity of a new military facility to replace the Futenma base.

Each voice of protest may be small, but some voices have begun to resound loud and clear, calling for a broad movement that may change society.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 21

* * *

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.