February 07, 2008

Viva Ihara!

Iwakuni is a city of some 150,000 people near Hiroshima in Japan. It's just 800 km from Pyongyang, the capitol of North Korea. It's also the home of a 300-hectare US military base, which is due to be expanded to nearly double its present size, despite a referendum showing opposition from 87 percent of locals.

Now the local mayor, Katsusuke Ihara, has quit his job and cut his hair in protest at the expansion. And if the central government still refuses to heed his concerns, he says he will emulate Gandhi by walking nearly 1,000 km to make his voice heard in Tokyo.

These massive US bases tend to generate a mini-economy, on which the local community soon becomes reliant, and (like all good Japanese citizens) Ihara is very careful about expressing his opinions:
"I am not opposed to the US-Japan security treaty. I must cooperate with the national security policy,” he said. “But this time it is too much.”

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