Okinawa’s ‘Reversion’ 50 Years On

Linda Isako Angst

Anthropologist, Independent Scholar

Memory and Politics of Okinawa’s Reversion Era

This presentation will explore the memory and politics surrounding the period of Okinawa’s reversion from official U.S. military occupation to Japanese sovereignty through the personal experiences of a teenager living through those volatile years. This personal experience will be informed by the overlay of my subsequent fieldwork in Okinawa from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s as a cultural anthropologist of Japan. From the time of my arrival on island as a US military dependent until my departure to the US mainland for college in 1973, this was a dynamic period in the occupation history of Okinawa. One of the first clear representations of the hope Reversion presented was the 1975 Okinawa Ocean Exposition, or “Expo ’75,” the major public introduction “to the world” of the new, emerging post-Reversion Okinawa as a hub of tourism in the Pacific region with a focus on the beauty and wealth of the seas around Okinawa. The very term “Reversion Okinawa” conjures up various overlapping political economies that defined Okinawa’s complex and promising position historically, geographically, politically, and culturally. As such, it is an ethnographic exploration of that particular moment in Okinawa, inextricably intertwined with my own personal experience as a Japanese American Army brat.

Linda Isako Angst received her B.A. from Kenyon College (Political Science), M.A. from UC Berkeley (Asian Studies), and Ph.D. from Yale University (Anthropology). Her research has been on (1) women and ethnicity at the margins of the modern Japanese state, with a focus on the lives of women survivors of the Battle of Okinawa and the 27-year occupation by the US military, and (2) aging and wellness tourism in Okinawa.