Multiculturalism in a Base Town: The Case of Okinawa City in Japan

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Johanna ZULUETA, Soka University, Tokyo, Japan
Okinawa City, in Okinawa Prefecture in Southern Japan, currently hosts six U.S. military installations – Kadena Airbase, Kadena Ammunition Storage Area, Camp Shields, Awase Communication Site, Camp Zukeran, and the Army Oil Storage Facility. From a typical base town, the city formerly known as Koza, began to take on a multicultural character with the influx of other foreign nationalities in recent years. The American presence notwithstanding, Okinawa City, with a population of 141,677, is currently host to 1,448 foreign residents (as of September 2017) from 45 countries. While most of the residents in this base town are Americans, there are significant numbers of Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Indians, and Peruvians, among others.

This study looks at community-level multicultural policies by focusing on the case of Okinawa City, a major city in Okinawa Prefecture that is host to several U.S. military facilities. For this study, I conducted key informant interviews with members and the vice-president of the Okinawa City International Association (OCIA), an association that is supported by the city government. I also interviewed and spoke to other foreign residents. Based on analyses of data gathered, I explore issues as to why multicultural policies seem to have fallen short to create a more inclusive community by arguing that the foreign residents themselves are not taking part or could not take part in these efforts, reasons for which may be connected to visa and residence status, Japanese language proficiency, and group empowerment. Moreover, I look into efforts made by both local (Japanese/Okinawan) and foreign residents in addressing this gap, and with this, I also examine how multiculturalism can contribute to the rejuvenation of cities, including militarized ones.