- Social Series
Okinawa 50 years since return / The clock strikes midnight, and a prefecture is born
The Yomiuri Shimbun
11:59 JST, January 4, 2022
In this series, we mark the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s return to Japan by looking at its past and present through photographs.
At the stroke of midnight, as the hands overlapped on the illuminated face of a public clock surrounded by darkness, sirens in the city and whistles of ships anchored in the harbor blasted in unison to mark the historic occasion. One second into the start of the day of May 15, 1972, Okinawa had reverted to Japanese sovereignty after 27 years of U.S. rule following World War II.
A new prefecture was born.
The black and white photo, capturing the exact moment, was carried on the front page of The Yomiuri Shimbun’s morning edition that day. It was taken at an intersection in Naha where Kokusai-dori street starts, near the north side of the Okinawa prefectural government office.
The clock tower was located on a median strip in front of The Bank of Okinawa’s head office. Also seen on the median is a signboard with a slogan for the prefecture’s reversion to Japan.
“It was a stylish clock tower, so I remember it well,” said 67-year-old Kayoko Nakasone, whose parents ran a sporting goods store across the street from the bank at the time. “But to make such a historic front page, that’s something.”
After the return to Japan, a commercial complex with a department store was built in front of the prefectural government office and the area became a hub of activity. In 2003, the city monorail began operation, and many passengers now get off at the nearby station.
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