Okinawa-gate: The unknown scandal





Freedom of the press is a constitutionally guaranteed right in Japan — as long as you stick to what the authorities want you to write. How does a developed democratic country manage to rank lower in last year's Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom index than Ghana or Bosnia? Just ask Takichi Nishiyama, whose promising career as a star political journalist at a national daily ended in 1971, when he came across what should have been a career-making scoop —- official documents revealing that the Japanese government had gone around a deal approved by Japan's legislature and secretly paid the U.S. $4 million to ends its occupation of Okinawa in 1972...

Okinawa Prefecture, the subtropical island chain at the southern tip of Japan, was the site of one of the bloodiest battles between the Japanese Imperial Army and the U.S. Even after U.S. forces left mainland Japan in 1952, Okinawa remained in U.S. hands as an important Cold War military hub. Under President Richard Nixon and Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, Washington agreed to return Okinawa to its rightful owner, in a secret deal that required Tokyo to pay millions of dollars in compensation and costs involved in the handover. Even though there was suspicion that the lump sum of $320 million demanded by the U.S. was inflated, Japan accepted the deal to ensure Okinawa's speedy return.

Nishiyama's story initially instigated publicity, but only for a few weeks. Soon after the story came out, Nishiyama's source, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs clerk, claimed that she and Nishiyama had been conducting an extramarital affair, and that he had forced her to deliver the classified documents. (Nishiyama claims that she volunteered them.) Suddenly the story about the Japanese government's deception transformed into a national sex scandal....


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