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Kadena wanted to close popular hill near base

Date Posted: 2002-06-28

Kadena Town officials acknowledged Saturday that, following Sep. 11 attacks in New York, Kadena Air Base officials requested to seal off a hill on the northern side of Kadena Air Base. The hill is a popular sightseeing spot for tourists and offers unobstructed view of the base. Several tour buses stop by the hill daily, and there’s even a local entrepreneur who rents binoculars to the tourists.

The town officials refused the request on the grounds that many people visit the hill, including students from mainland on peace study excursions on Okinawa.

Local peace activists were quick to comment. Shiko Sakiyama, chairman of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center, criticized the U.S. move, saying the request shows the base has something to hide. "We cannot allow the closure of the site as local residents need to monitor the base," said Takashi Kishimoto, deputy secretary general of the center.

Kadena Town Mayor Tokujitsu Miyagi says that if the base is determined to close the hill, there’s not much the town can do. “The U.S. Air Force has the right to block access to the hill because it is located on land that Japan has provided for the military's exclusive use.” However, he added that the Air Force has not contacted the town over the matter since then.

Blocking the hill may soon become moot. The town is planning to construct a new three-story tourist spot, “Road Station,” just across the street from the hill. The plan includes an observatory on the roof that offers an even better view of the base. The construction work is scheduled to begin before fall and the facility will be complete and open before the end of the year. “We believe that this facility will bring more tours from mainland to study peace,” town officials say.

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