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Papers Presented
(Figures and Tables have been omitted)

Preserving Okinawa's History
Cultural Resource Management on MCB Camp S.D. Butler

"In Okinawa, archaeology and history are receiving a great deal of public attention as the Okinawans attempt to define their cultural and political identity in the closing decade of the 20th century.  With the rebuilding of Shuri Castle, the ancient royal palace, Okinawans are looking back to the golden age of their cultural independence, when they lived in a state loosely bound to M'ing and Ch'ing China in a tributary relationship."

Dr. Richard Pearson, 1995


    In 1993, the U.S. military on Okinawa began efforts to identify cultural resources and incorporate management procedures into the planning and project development process.  Task 5 of the revised Statement of Architect-Engineer Services for MCB Camp Smedley D. Butler and MCAS Futenma Master Plans, Okinawa, Japan was awarded through the Department of the Navy, Pacific Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command.  The purpose of Task 5 of this contract was to "assemble in one document information concerning significant cultural, historical, and archaeological resources within the boundaries of, or in the vicinity of several Marine Corps camps" (Goldstein and Haun 1993:1).  The information gathered would provide Marine Corps planners with a list of cultural resources that may have an impact on, or may be affected by future operations and development on the camps.

    The opening paragraph from a 1996 Okinawa Prefectural Government publication entitled The Destruction of Cultural Properties Inside the U.S. Military Bases states, "Invaluable properties must be protected!  If the Washington Monument were being desecrated how would you feel?  What would you think if the Washington Monument and many other priceless national historical treasures were being wantonly destroyed, one by one?  This type of destruction continues to take place on the island of Okinawa, with no end in sight" (Okinawa Prefectural Government, 1996). The destruction of a 2500 year old cultural site within a U.S. military installation served as the catalyst for the writing and distribution of this booklet.  The site, a significant cultural resource dating to the Early Okinawa Shellmound Period, was equivalent to a National Register of Historic Places property in the United States.

    Following the release of the Okinawa Prefectural Government publication, the Marine Corps recognized the importance of preserving and protecting the many significant cultural resources of Okinawa that may be found on Marine Corps installations.  There was also an immediate need to rethink the existing planning and project development procedures and incorporate a comprehensive cultural resources management program into the process.  In 1998, the Marine Corps hired the first full time archaeologist working for a Department of Defense agency west of Hawaii and began to redevelop the existing cultural resource management program.  This paper will discuss the requirements and objectives for the MCB Butler cultural resource management program, and briefly describe two of the significant cultural resources located within Marine Corps installations on Okinawa.


    Military training and development projects on U.S. military installations in Okinawa have the potential to adversely affect cultural resources that may exist in the immediate areas of these activities.  In order to avoid any adverse impacts to cultural resources, agencies conducting such activities must comply with requirements as outlined by Section 402 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Chapter 12 of the U.S. Department of Defense's Japan Environmental Governing Standards, and the Government of Japan Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.

    Chapter 12, Historic and Cultural Resources, of the U.S. Department of Defense's Japan Environmental Governing Standards takes into account United States and Japan statutes and concerns with regards to cultural resources.  In general, Chapter 12 provides guidance and commits US Forces Japan land managers to consider potential impacts to Japanese cultural properties during the early phases of project planning.  It also provides for the inventory, protection, and preservation of known cultural properties, inventory and reporting of newly discovered cultural resources to Japanese authorities, procedures for protecting and reporting the inadvertent discovery of human remains and other cultural resources, and prevention of the unauthorized excavation and removal of Japanese cultural artifacts.

    The Government of Japan (GOJ) Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties was passed by the Japanese Diet in 1950 to revise and reorganize earlier laws concerning cultural resources.  The law provides guidance for the Agency of Cultural Affairs as its executive organ, with the Monuments Division in charge of archaeological sites.  The primary purpose is to preserve and use cultural resources to advance the culture of the Japanese people and contribute to the knowledge of the evolution of world culture.  In many ways the GOJ law is similar and equivalent to US laws concerning cultural resources.  The cultural resource laws of Japan provide for the designation of significant cultural resources, and for review and mitigation procedures to assess potential impacts to known and newly discovered cultural resources.     

    Under GOJ law, Prefectural and local municipal governments have the authority to designate culturally and historically significant properties in areas under their control to independently maintained lists.  If designated, the Prefectural and local municipality have full authority over designated cultural properties to protect and utilize them.  Within Okinawa Prefecture, the Okinawa Prefectural Government and local municipality Boards of Education have also enacted cultural properties protection regulations.  In 1972, the Okinawa Prefectural Government instituted Ordinance 25, Okinawa Prefectural Ordinance of Cultural Properties Protection, as amended in 1976.

    The Marine Corps cultural resource management program in Okinawa is currently focused on identifying cultural resources on lands under MCB Camp S. D. Butler control.  These consist of eight camps and two large training areas on Okinawa main island, Ie Jima Auxiliary Airfield, and Camp Fuji in mainland Japan.  To date surveys and inventories have been completed on approximately 60% of the lands, and partial data concerning cultural resources on the remaining 40% is available from local sources.  An Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan has been developed and was signed and implemented on June 17, 2000.

    Cultural properties, or bunkazai, as defined by the GOJ Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties includes a broad range of both cultural and natural resources, that are broken down into five basic categories of resources that posses a high historical, scientific, and/or artistic value, or a high value for visual appreciation.  These five categories are defined as tangible cultural properties, intangible cultural properties, folk-cultural properties, monuments, and groups of historic buildings, any of which can be found on Marine Corps installations in Okinawa and mainland Japan (Allen and Nees, 1998).

    As of April 1996, the Okinawa Prefectural Government had identified 320 known cultural properties within U.S. military installations on Okinawa and had evaluated the properties current condition (Table 1).  The breakdown for these cultural properties include 135 archaeological sites containing remains such as ancient village sites, shell mound, and castle (gusuku) sites; 169 sites of ethnological importance such as shrines, ancient wells, springs, and religious areas or shrines (utaki); 15 ancient stone masonry structures; and 1 protected species (Okinawa Prefectural Government, 1996).  The paragraphs that follow will discuss two such sites that currently exist on Marine Corps installations in Okinawa.

Kiyuna Gaa Springs

    Kiyuna Gaa Springs supplied water to the people of Kiyuna Village for daily use.  There are two wells located on the site.  The well to the right was for the men of the village to use and is called ufugaa (Figure 1), and the well to the left was for the women to use and is called kaagwaa.  The spring probably first became associated with the Kiyuna Village during the Late Gusuku (Castle) Period of Okinawa History in the 15th century. The limestone structures associated with Kiyuna Gaa Springs include components built in a style referred to as midarezumi (Allen and Nees, 1998). The site that Kiyuna Gaa Springs is located on is part of Camp Foster, but has been set aside and designated a joint use area. The Marine Corps and the Ginowan City Board of Education have access to the site through locked gates, and both agencies exercise management responsibilities for the protection and preservation of the site.  The Ginowan City Board of Education is currently conducting excavations at the site and restoring the stone structures to their original state.  The site is still used by local citizens as a source of water and a sacred prayer site. The structure and design of the two wells demonstrate a superior technology in stone masonry for the period and the Okinawa Prefectural Government considers the site a construction asset.  Kiyuna Gaa Springs is listed as a Government of Japan Nationally Protected Historic Structure.

Ireibaru C Site

    The Ireibaru C Site (Figure 2) is located in the Northeast area of Camp (Kuwae) Lester.  The site has a cultural sequence ranging from modern use to the Early Jomon Period (ca. 6000 yrs. BP). Artifacts recovered from Ireibaru C include Jomon pottery of the sobata and tsumegata types, various stone tools including a Final Jomon Period projectile point, and a wooden hair comb that has been carbon dated at 2,580 years. The sobata pottery type has been discovered on two other sites in Okinawa, but has been identified as a locally produced copy.  The pottery from this site is clearly and distinctly the sobata type from western Kyushu in mainland Japan, and was apparently traded or carried as a personal item to Okinawa main Island.  The site is important in its ability to show an early connection between the people of mainland Japan and Okinawa, and to provide insight into early trade routes and migration patterns.  Other artifacts that have been recovered from the site include animal bone and other foodstuffs, stone tools, and a hair comb made from wood that is typical of the Middle Jomon Period in mainland Japan.  The site is being nominated for recognition as a Government of Japan National Historic Site.


    In recent years the people of Okinawa have become increasingly aware of their unique culture with its blend of influence from China and Japan, and the significance of the tiny island kingdom throughout history.  The people of Okinawa once enjoyed cultural independence and autonomy as the Ryukyu Kingdom, freely participating in trade and commerce throughout Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific.

    With the changing political climate in Asia, the people of Okinawa are once again looking to their historic past with hopes of a more culturally and politically independent future as we enter the new millennium.  Archaeological research and the preservation of significant cultural resources are drawing a great deal of attention from the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the people of Okinawa.  The rebuilding of Shuri Castle in 1994 marks the beginning of a new era for Okinawa, and indicates their desire to share the history and culture of the once prosperous island kingdom with the rest of the world.  In 1999, the Okinawa Prefectural Government voted to nominate several historic sites to the World Heritage List, including Shuri Castle in the list of nominees.

    Archaeological test digs and excavations have become a normal part of daily operations on Marine Corps installations in Okinawa.  Community relations and public education programs are regularly conducted in order to inform the local communities and Marine Corps community of the importance of preserving Okinawa's valuable cultural resources.  Since the 1996 Okinawa Prefectural Government publication, the Marine Corps is taking an active role in working with the people of Okinawa to identify significant cultural resources and preserve the sites for future generations.  Through the continuing efforts of the MCB Camp S. D. Butler Cultural Resource Management Program many significant cultural resources that may otherwise be destroyed, are being preserved and are contributing important information to the knowledge of Okinawa's rich cultural heritage.


Allen, J.,  and R. C. Nees
    1998    Final Report, Documentary Archival Research, Field Verification,  
                        and Inventory Survey at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.  Volume I.
        Prepared for Department of the Navy, Pacific Division, Naval Facilities Engineering         Command, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Cleveland, H., and Mark Cleveland
    2000    Draft Integrated Natural and Cultural Resources Management Plan,
        Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan.
        Prepared for the Facilities Engineer Division, Environmental
        Branch, Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan.

Goldstein, B. A., and Alan E. Haun
    1993    Final Report: Task 5 Cultural, Historical and Archaeological Documentation, MCB         Camp Smedley D. Butler and MCAS Futenma,
        Okinawa, Japan.  Prepared for Department of the Navy, Pacific Division,
        Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Haun, A. E., and Jack D. Henry
    1998    Inventory Survey at Camps Courtney, Hansen, and Schwab and Background         Research and Reconnaissance Survey of the Central Training Area.  Prepared for         Department of the Navy, Pacific Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command,         Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education
    1995    Okinawa no Bunkazai (Cultural Properties of Okinawa) Part III
        Yuukeibunkazai (Tangible Cultural Properties).  Published by the
        Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education, Okinawa, Japan.

Okinawa Prefectural Government
    1992    Keys to Okinawan Culture.  Published by the Okinawa Prefectural Government,         Okinawa, Japan.

    1996    The Destruction of Cultural Properties Inside the U.S. Military Bases.
        Published by the Okinawa Prefectural Government, Okinawa, Japan.

Pearson, Richard
    1995    State Evolution in the Ryukyus, A.D. 1200 to 1600.  Proceedings of the
        International Conference on Anthropology and the Museum, edited by
        Tsong-yuan Lin, pp. 165-183.  Taiwan Museum, Taipei.

Japan, Government of
    1989    Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.  Agency of Cultural Affairs, Cultural         Properties Protection Department.