Commemorating 50 Years since Okinawa’s Reversion to Japan : Media, Memory, Identity

Hasan TOPACOGLU(Visiting Research Scholar)
April 16, 2024

Okinawa Prefecture marked the 50th anniversary of its return to Japan on 15 May, 2022. To celebrate this historically important moment, major media events were held on the Japanese mainland and in Okinawa. There were various projects and celebrations at the government level, and there were many initiatives, too, in the media. For example, NHK listed programs and events related to the 50th anniversary on its website. There was multiple media content, including the NHK morning serial “Chimudondon,” and the special program “Tsunagu Mirai e,” hosted by the NHK’s “Okinawa HOTeye.”

Research conducted elsewhere which analyzes these kinds of media events from the perspective of memory suggests that, in terms of social and collective memory, the entire sequence of events—from their preparation through to the hosting of memorial ceremonies, and the response of society to them—is of deep significance. What then was the significance for Japanese society of this 50th anniversary?

I am analyzing the 50th anniversary as a media event from a multi-layered perspective, one which examines media and memories on the Japanese mainland and on Okinawa. What significance did the projects and events prepared by the Japanese Government and the Prefecture for the event have? Were the memories which the government sought to construct through the event ones which resonated with the public? What messages did the commemorative ceremonies convey for those on the Japanese mainland and on Okinawa? What content did the media produce, and with what effects on memory and national identity?

If there are differences between the Japanese mainland and Okinawa, they help explain the contemporary interest in and perceptions regarding the 'reversion of Okinawa,' and have important implications for the future of Japanese society. It is therefore vital to analyze the form and content of these events, to compare them, and through them study the intentions of the government towards the Japanese mainland and Okinawa.

My On-site Class in November 2023