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10 Top Events that Marked Okinawa and Japan in 1999

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 2000-01-08

Huge Scandal at the Kanagawa Police Department:
A big scandal concerning the abuse of stimulants by a police officer at the Kanagawa Prefecture Police Department, and the desperate attempts to prevent it from leaking to the public, was finally discovered. Nine police officers sent documents pertaining to the case to the Public Prosecutor's Office, and five officers - including the chief officer - were prosecuted on December 10th. Other scandals involving the Kanagawa police officers, including reports of group assault, suddenly surfaced, and the chief officer was forced to resign.

Relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Base:
On November 22nd, Governor Keiichi Inamine announced his selection of a seacoast area in Henoko, Nago City as the site for the relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, which is presently located in the center of Ginowan City. After having been torn between people for and against plans to build new Marine Corps airbase, Mayor Tateo Kishimoto made his own announcement accepting the plan on December 2nd.

Tokaimura Nuclear Accident:
A nuclear accident at one uranium-processing plant in Tokai Village, Ibaragi Prefecture, on September 30th. The accident occurred when workers were mixing a uranium compound with a nitric acid solution to produce nuclear plant fuel. They exceeded the limits by over-pouring uranium into the tank by some 16kg, far above the prescribed limit of 2.3kg. That is believed to have been the cause of the accident. Sixty-nine workers were exposed to radiation and nearby residents were forced to evacuate the area. A worker, who was seriously exposed to radiation at the site of the accident, died 83 days after the nuclear accident, considered as the worst ever in Japan.

Yamagataya Department Store Closes at 77:
One of the most established department stores of Okinawa, the "Yamagataya" brought its 77-year history to a close on August 31st. Yamagataya" opened in 1922, starting business as a Kimono shop in Naha City. Since then, the department store had served as one of the major department stores in Okinawa. However, the store had to shut its doors for good after having incurred serious deficits without end in sight.

Shureimon Gate, Face of New 2000 Bill:
The Finance Ministry announced that a ・2,000 bill would go into circulation in July 2000. On the face of the new ・2,000 bill, an illustration of Shureimon Gate, which is a historical symbol of Okinawa Prefecture located in Naha City, will be printed. A scene from the old tale, 敵enji Monogatari,・written by Shikibu Murasaki, will be featured on its back. The ministry will issue the new bill to celebrate the G-8 Summit in next July. However, the notes will circulate permanently after the Summit.

Rate of Unemployment Reaches Worst Level:
The nation痴 unemployment rate rose to its highest levels in recent history, touching the 4.9% mark in June and July, with over million people losing their jobs nationawide. Along with the worst rate of unemployment, the suicide rate, especially among the middle-aged people, also rose as 31,755 people committed suicide.

Shuri Castle Recognized by World Heritage Foundation:
In the month of June, The Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs recommended the famous Shuri Castle for registration with the World Heritage Foundation. It presented the nine historical sites in Okinawa to UNESCO as the group of castles or containing facilities of the Ryukyu Kingdom.・

Approval of the Japanese Defense "Guidelines":
The famous "Guidelines" - a term referring to the law that set the stage for a new form of cooperation between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. Military, was approved on May 24th.

Okinawa Selected to Host 2000 G-8 Summit:
Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi announced that Okinawa Prefecture will host the G-8 Summit in July of the year 2000. The announcement was made on April 27th. For their 26th annual economic summit, leaders of the world痴 eight leading countries - the United States of America, Japan, France, Germany, England, Italy, Canada, Russia, - will gather in Okinawa. The Summit will be held from July 21st to 23rd.

New Peace Prayer Hall Controversy:
Apparently, the design for an air-raid shelter model in the new Peace Prayer Hall changed, without the permission of the supervisory committee. The original design was that of a Japanese soldier pointing a gun at an Okinawan mother and child. However, the design was withdrawn and a few alterations secretly made to it, including the removal of a gun from the original design. The local newspapers unveiled the scandal in August. The news increased the citizens・distrust of the government.

The First Heart, Liver and Kidney Transplant:
The very first heart, liver and kidney operation, which involved a brain-dead donor, took place on February 28th. A patient who was hospitalized at the Kochi Red Cross Hospital donated the organs to a man in his 40s, who was suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The operation took place 16 months after a law permitting transplants from brain-dead donors, and everything went on successfully.

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