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The Legislature of Ryukyu Government in the USCAR building
This photo belongs to the Okinawa Prefectural Archives

The legislative branch of the Ryukyu Islands government was called the Rippōin until the day before the 1972 Reversion to Japan. 

During the long pre-reversion period, the Rippōin Chief Executive was appointed by the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR), but the legislative branch was granted independent legislative authority, although it could only exercise that right subject to the decrees of USCAR. 

A clear example of these limitations came with the dove and eagle incident. When the legislature building was first planned, a basrelief of a dove carved in Tokyo was slated for installation over the main entrance. At the last minute, USCAR objected: “The dove is a motif of Picasso, a communist. An eagle, the symbol of USCAR, would be much more suitable.” Though it had already been carved and shipped to Okinawa, the dove never saw the light of day. These kinds of USCAR interventions were a regular occurrence. 

In 1960, President Eisenhower visited Okinawa, right in the midst of disputes over the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Because of the rising tide of the Anpo protests, Eisenhower was unable to visit Japan (Tokyo), but he did make a hasty trip through Okinawa. S.M., a Boy Scout at the time, recalls: “I saw Eisenhower’s bald head as he paraded in an open car near Kadena Air Base. But there was just an awful lot of soldiers there up on the high ground and around, all armed with rifles to protect him.” 

Eisenhower’s trip to Okinawa was armed to the teeth, with 15,000 armed American soldiers and 700 Okinawan policemen acting as protection detail. While some welcomed him, there were also fierce demonstrations held by the Okinawan Reversion Association as well as high school and college students. K.M., a witness who was a high school student, describes the situation: “We organized an anti-Ike demonstration, all high schoolers, and before I knew it, my picture was in the newspapers at the head of the pack. I was worried it might ruin my chances for government-sponsored study in Japan.” 

Eisenhower also visited the Rippōin, the seat of the Ryukyu Islands government, where the Speaker of the House, Asato Tsumichiyo, introduced him to the legislators. H.M., the only female legislator at the time, described the event: “I took off the white gloves I’d bought for the occasion and shook his hand. There were so many demonstrators that the president had to sneak out the back and dash for Naha Air Base (now, Naha Airport).” 

The Rippōin was also surrounded on other occasions: demonstrations demanding “Block the Appointment of the Chief Executive,” “Stop the Public Workers’ and Teachers’ Bills.” In the latter incident, teachers and protestors outnumbered the police ten to one; they surrounded the building and bodily lifted the police out of the crowd. It was quite an incident. There were many policemen-teacher couples back then, and they carried their political conflicts even into their households.

The story of the Ryukyu Rippōin is a valuable testimony to postwar Okinawan history. I may sound as if I have nothing good to say about the legislative branch, but that’s not entirely true. The existing building1 was designed so that if you were standing at the entrance, your eye level would be more or less equal to that of the Speaker in his chair at the other end of the room. I think this demonstrates another side of the American attitude toward justice. It’s very different from the present Assembly Building where legislators cannot be seen from the public gallery. 

Editor’s Note:

  1. Article written in 1998. The Rippooin building was to be demolished when the Okinawa Prefectural Government building was constructed, where a movement developed to preserve it. It was demolished in 1999, with a memorial built on its site.

【Photo】Lt. Gen. James E. Moore, CG, Ryukyus Comd/IX US Corps, addresses the legislature of the Ryukyu Islands, in the building of the Government Ryukyu Islands, USCAR.(April 30th 1956)