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Imperial visit causes stir among Naha City workers

Date Posted: 2004-01-22

A visit to Okinawa by the Emperor is stirring unrest in Naha after the mayor asked employees to support the visit. The Imperial couple is scheduled to visit Okinawa Prefecture starting Friday, but Naha City Mayor Takeshi Onaga’s letter to his section chiefs about the upcoming visit is causing opposition with some city workers.

In his letter, the mayor urges every city worker who does not have to be at his or her work station on Friday to go out, with full pay, and wave Japanese flags along the route of the motorcade to welcome the imperial couple.

The City Workers’ Union has trouble with the idea. “We don’t think it is necessary to welcome the emperor and empress with waving the Japanese flag. Of course we don’t have anything against the imperial visit, but we have a real problem with the flag,” the union Chairman, Masashi Taira, said. “Okinawa is the only place in Japan that experienced land battles during the World War, and many people still remember the ravages of the war and what the Imperial Army soldiers did to local people. These memories make it difficult for many to accept the Japanese flag,” Taira explained.

He added that the union has no problem with its members welcoming the emperor with or without flag, but said that there should not be an official letter from the mayor urging them to do so.

Onaga later clarified his stance on the matter and declared that participation and flag carrying was voluntary and that the city had no official position in the matter. He also said that the initiative was not his personal idea but was presented through Okinawa Mayors’ Association. Mayors of Itoman, Heabaru and other municipalities had circulated similar letters but no other workers’ union than Naha objected.

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