Amami Islands Mark 70 Years since Return to Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Amami Islands

AMAMI, Kagoshima (Jiji Press) — The Amami Islands in southwestern Japan on Monday marked 70 years since their return to Japan from postwar U.S. occupation.

“It is the responsibility of those of us living today to convey the preciousness of peaceful life,” Amami Mayor Sohei Yasuda told a gathering held in the evening at an elementary school in the city of Amami, Kagoshima Prefecture.

The event brought together about 1,600 people. Speaking on behalf of local students, Hiroki Sugimoto, a 14-year-old junior high school student, said, “Our mission is to pass on the culture protected by our predecessors.”

After the rally, a lantern procession was held to mimic the one that took place on the day of the return.

More than 800 people, including elementary and junior high school students, paraded through the Amami city center with lanterns, waving and finger-whistling to celebrate the reversion.

In a different event held by civic groups earlier Monday, flowers were laid in front of a bronze statue of poet Horo Izumi, who led the reversion movement.

The history until the reversion “must be passed on forever,” Tetsuko Yasuhara, the 70-year-old vice head of one of the civic groups, said.

The Amami Islands were occupied by the U.S. military after the end of the Pacific War, part of World War II, in 1945, along with the Okinawa and Ogasawara islands.

The reversion movement began heating up around 1951, with almost all residents aged 14 or over signing by April that year a petition seeking the islands’ return to Japan and people fasting to pray for the reversion.

In August 1953, then U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declared the reversion of the Amami Islands to Japan.

A pact on the reversion took effect on Dec. 25 the same year, a day after it was signed by the Japanese and U.S. governments.