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Island's first golf course turned back to Japan

Date Posted: 2010-08-05

Awase Meadows Golf Course, built in 1948 to provide recreation for U.S. forces in Okinawa, is no longer in the hands of the American military.

The 47 hectares [116.1 acres] golf course initially operated by the U.S. Army and more recently by the Marine Corps Community Services, was turned over to Japanese authorities Sunday, the first step in a process that will see the landscape transformed to a sprawling shopping center complex starting in 2013. The Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Bureau took down the U.S. installation signs Monday, replacing them with new signs advising passers-by the land is “Under Control of the Japanese state”. The government will maintain responsibility until the land is ultimately returned to the individual landowners after golf-related facilities are removed.

The transfer is part of a 1996 agreement between Japan and the United States. In exchange, the Japanese government covered costs of constructing the new Taiyo Golf Club, an 18-hole course located in the U.S. Kadena Ammunition Storage Area of Okinawa.

Awase was popular both with the military and Okinawan communities, who played often. Japanese citizens were permitted to play Awase Meadows Golf Course when accompanied by U.S. personnel, or when the course wasn’t fully booked. The course was important to local golfers who wanted to play in the days before courses began sprouting up all across the island.

Kitanakagusuku Village says the new commercial facility will house one of the largest shopping malls in Okinawa, with construction to start beginning in 2013. Mayor Kunio Arakaki says “there might be important cultural assets left somewhere in here, so we’d like to inspect it. It will take a while, perhaps five years, but I’ll support landowners and developers to promote this as a model site for a former military installation.”

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