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SENAGA Kamejiro


Senaga Kamejiro is second from the right in the front row.
Photo: KANO Tatsuhiko

(1907~2001) Senaga Kamejiro, who was nicknamed “Kame-san (Mr. Turtle)” by local residents, left his post as the Vice Chairperson of Japan Communist Party in 1990, at the age of 83. He was one of the most well-known politicians from Okinawa and the Amami Islands, along with Tokuda Kyuichi, the lawyer and former General Secretary of Japan Communist Party, also known as “Tokkyu”.

Senaga was expelled from the Seventh Higher School in Kagoshima for his involvement in the Marxist study group and was later imprisoned for three years, having been accused of violating the Peace Preservation Law. After his release, he returned to Okinawa and became a reporter for the Mainichi Shinbun newspaper. He went on to become the president of the Uruma Shimpo newspaper (now known as Ryukyu Shimpo), but due to pressure from the American military government, he was deprived of his post after forming Okinawa People’s Party in July 1947.
 In March 1952, he won the first Okinawan Legislature Election. Several years later, in October 1954, he helped the People’s Party members go into hiding after they were ordered to leave Okinawa by the American military government. Senaga was given two-year penal servitude for his role in sheltering them. 

In December 1956, he was elected Mayor of Naha City and his name began to be widely known in mainland Japan as a symbol of resistance against the American military occupation. As mayor he emphasized his position in protecting citizens’ land, standing against military bases, as well as opposing the use and storage of atomic and hydrogen bombs. He was also a strong advocate for the reversion of Okinawa. The military government responded quite mercilessly, suspending the governmental subsidy and bank loans, and freezing the city’s account.
 Most of the Naha City Council belonged to the conservative party, so they approved the mayor’s no-confidence vote. Senaga dissolved the council in response, and was re-elected through a mayoral election in July 1957. His supporting party also won more seats than ever before. However, the military government revised the local government law and passed the no-confidence bill. In the end, they succeeded in ousting Senaga.
 However, his popularity never faded and after his first win in November 1970, he kept his seat at the House of Representatives for seven consecutive terms (Okinawa People’s Party merged with Japan Communist Party in 1973).1

Editor’s Note:

  1. Fukutsu-kan—hall of determination—opened in 2013, to display materials on the people of the days after the war, which were preserved by Senaga. The director is Uchimura Chihiro (the second daughter of Senaga.)