The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the impact of US military bases on the economy of Okinawa Prefecture.
Question: Are there many tourist spots and new towns in Okinawa Prefecture that were once US military bases?
Answer: Yes, there are. The area around the American Village commercial district in the city of Chatan in the central part of the main island and the district known as Shintoshin in the prefectural capital Naha are examples.
American Village was modeled after the west coast of the United States. It consists of hotels, a cinema, shopping malls, restaurants and other facilities, and there is also a beach nearby. The place is popular among young people and tourists. In the past, this area housed US military installations, including Hamby Airfield and a firing range. After the 1980s, the land was returned to Japan, and this and other reclaimed land was developed into the commercial district we see today.
Shintoshin District is located in the northern part of Naha and includes commercial facilities, a duty-free department store, and the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum. This part of town was once a residential area for the US military, but was returned to Japan in 1987 and has been developed.
Additionally, the prefecture’s largest shopping mall, Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom, opened in 2015 on reclaimed land previously used for a golf course for US military personnel in the village of Kitanakagusuku in the central part of the island. main. There are also places where old bases have been replaced by golf courses and resort hotels.
Q: I see. What economic benefits have there been?
A: According to the results of a survey released by the Okinawa Prefectural Government in 2015, the economic benefits to the area including American Village amounted to 300 million yen (about US$2 million in current rate) per year when it was a US Army. basis, increased 108 times to 33.6 billion yen (about $233 million) a year after his return. The number of people employed in the region also increased from zero to 3,368.
In Shintoshin District, economic benefits increased 32 times and employment increased 93 times. The prefectural government noted, “If US military bases are reorganized and reduced, and the use of returned sites is advanced, it will have a positive impact on the economy of the prefecture.”
Q: Does the presence of US military bases generate revenue?
A: There is an indicator called “base income ratio” as a proportion of the total income of residents of the prefecture. Base-related income includes rent paid to owners of land used as bases and income from those who work for the US military.
When Okinawa returned to Japan in 1972, gross prefectural revenue was 501.3 billion yen (about $3.48 billion), of which base-related revenue accounted for 15.5 percent. However, this percentage has declined with the growth of Okinawa’s economy and has hovered around 5% since 1990. By 2017, gross prefectural income had increased to 4.67 trillion yen (about $32 billion), and the share of revenue tied to the base was 6%.
Some have pointed out that Okinawa’s economy won’t be able to keep up without the bases, but the prefecture said the impact of base-related revenue on its economy has become limited.