ONNA, Okinawa Prefecture--A year has passed since a Japanese woman was allegedly abducted and killed by a former U.S. service member in Okinawa Prefecture on April 28, 2016, stoking local anger and grief.
People still lay flowers and fruit on a stand at the site in Onna in the prefecture where her body was found.
Also on April 28, in 1952, the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect, restoring Japan's sovereignty apart from the island chains of Okinawa, Amami and Ogasawara.
Because of the separation, people in the prefecture call the day “Kutsujoku no hi” (Day of humiliation).
The body of the 20-year-old female company employee of Uruma, also in the prefecture, was abandoned near a road in a mountainous area. The sounds of explosions of bombs are sometimes heard from the U.S. forces’ Camp Hansen nearby.
“We are surrounded by (U.S. military) bases like this. Many people are probably thinking, ‘What if the victim was my family member?' " said Yoshio Toyama, 72, a local farmer.
About 65,000 people attended a rally condemning the murder in June 2016 in the prefectural capital of Naha, according to the organizer.
Ai Tamaki, 22, of Uruma, who is now a graduate school student of a university, made a speech at that rally.
“Who is the second perpetrator of the incident? It’s you,” she shouted toward the people of mainland Japan.
After this, there was a wave of abuse directed at her on social media and the Internet.
“People in Okinawa have also caused incidents,” read one.
Another read, “We will implement ‘Ryukyu shobun’ again.” Ryukyu shobun is a series of measures taken by the Japanese government in the 1870s to abolish the Ryukyu Kingdom and turn it into Okinawa Prefecture.
Who has forced Okinawa to accept U.S. military bases for so many years? Why did the 20-year-old woman end up getting murdered?
“I wanted people of mainland Japan to think about the pain Okinawa suffers,” Tamaki said.
She now feels more and more that a bigger gap exists between the mainland and Okinawa than the actual distance between them.
“What should we do to narrow the gap?” she asked.
On April 27, the father of the slain woman released a comment on the killing, which read, “(These kind of incidents) occur because U.S. military bases exist in Okinawa. Please eliminate those bases as soon as possible.”
The indicted former U.S. Marine, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, who was a civilian worker at one of the bases at the time of the incident, is denying killing the woman. His trial is expected to start in the summer at the earliest.