Previous studies of development policy for Okinawa under the U.S. Occupation have focused more on central Okinawa and less on peripheral areas. This paper presents details from a project called the “Iriomote Overall Development Project,” which was undertaken as a joint U.S.-Japan policy, but afterward was derailed in early 1960s. Through an analysis of historical sources, this paper reveals the prehistory and the grounds for the abortion of the project, which is largely unknown publically.
Resettlement programs administrated by USCAR (United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands) and the GRI (Government of the Ryukyu Islands) are a main issue in the reviews of the history of Yaeyama district, where Iriomote island is located, under the Occupation. It is generally believed that the programs were executed as compensation for condemning of the military land on Okinawa’s main island, which triggered a resident-led struggle against the condemnation, and were finished when the struggle neared an end. A different story emerges in this paper, as the continuity between the programs and the overall development project is better substantiated.
The project was much-ballyhooed when it first began, situated as a symbol of budding U.S.-Japan cooperation for Okinawa development. This has been well established among researchers on Okinawa, but the grounds of its collapse have never been deeply considered. The commonly-held reason of the project’s discontinuation was U.S. military’ fiscal difficulty, which, while true, is just circumstantial evidence. Using USCAR’s internal documents, a more detailed account of the situation is presented in this paper. Initially, after U.S.Japan joint research on the island, there was a discrepancy of opinions between the two governments concerning harbor construction, which ended with the Japanese government’s suspension of funding in fiscal year 1962. The source of the discrepancy was general miscommunication and mistrust between the parties. Meanwhile, the High Commissioner of USCAR suspended some new resettlement programs for Iriomote island, budgeted at about a million dollars by the U.S. Department of the Army. Internal documents show that it was finally decided to return the entirety of the money in March of 1963, which must have been crucial to the implementation of the whole project.
Beyond detailing the circumstances surrounding the virtual abortion of the development project, this paper also reveals adverse effects on regional agricultural policy resultant from the fact that USCAR had never formally declared the abortion. In particular, planned sites for the project remained after the project’s discontinuance, causing difficult land-use adjustments for local farmers.
This paper adds to historical study on Yaeyama development policy, uncovers new ground on the insufficient development policies for settlers, and highlights the relationship between the governments during U.S. Occupation on Okinawa from the viewpoint of Okinawa’s periphery.