NAHA--Early voting for a referendum here on the relocation of a U.S. military base within Okinawa Prefecture got under way Feb. 15, with Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki casting his ballot nine days early.

“The referendum has great significance, as Okinawa people can show their will on a single issue,” Tamaki told reporters after voting. “I want to call on people to vote, even in the early period.”

Tamaki cast his ballot early, as he will attend a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s enthronement in Tokyo on Feb. 24, the referendum day.

Tamaki did not say which of the three choices he voted for on relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko district of Nago, in the same prefecture: “Support,” “Oppose” or “No opinion either way.”

According to the prefectural office, early voting will continue through Feb. 23 at 53 voting stations in 41 municipalities in the prefecture. Some sites will be open for a limited period.