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Villagers enlist help of spirits in court fight

Date Posted: 2002-07-13

A dispute between Kunigami Village and residents of the village’s Hedo district led to scuffles and a standoff in September when construction crews contracted by the village tried to start clearing an area for a new waste disposal site.

The local residents claimed that the forest was a sacred site, and although nominally on Kunigami Village owned land, belonged to local area residents who had used the site for religious and other purposes for generations.

The residents sued and gained an emergency court order to halt the construction.

On Monday, residents conducted a religious ceremony at the site in order to enlist the help of local gods and spirits to help in their struggle. The residents conducted the ceremony with the lead of a priest, and brought fruit, rice cakes, sake and other delicacies as an offering to the spirits. They also burned incense and offered prayers.

When ordering the halt to the construction, the court stated that the village had failed to try to negotiate sufficiently and earnestly with the local residents to gain their understanding of the project.

Although the court has yet to announce its verdict, officials at Kunigami Village say they will not relent. “We feel that we have done everything right, and People in Hedo should understand the problem from the perspective of all Kunigami,” a village official said. He went on to say that the village was ready to go all the way to the highest court to press their case.

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