Progress from the War YearsVideos Testimonies of War Survivors During and After World War II

Two Faces of America: Land Requisition and Agricultural Advancement in Hawaii

Mr. Zenyu Shimabukuro

Birth year:1936

Birth place:Okinawa City

My father’s resistance to land requisition

Immediately after the end of the war, the US military forbade entrance to this area, Chibana. To oppose this policy, my father began living in a cow shed that remained in Chibana, to rebuild our home that had been destroyed. “This is our home,” he said. He just walked right in as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Back then, there were MPs and CPs (military and civil police) and the CPs patrolled around Chibana. The CPs began protecting my father, and the people in the vicinity who saw this started gradually coming into Chibana, thinking that it was safe. Chibana was off-limits, and was surrounded by barbed wire. Those watching my father were surprised by his actions, but he said, “It’s got nothing to do with us.” and trampled the barbed wire and entered the restricted area.

Life in Chibana Village

At the time, the US military would dump various things in hollows in the ground. They would dump garbage out of trucks or dump cars. There was an empty oxygen cylinder in a dump site. Normally, people would take food, but my father said he wouldn’t eat American soldiers’ leftovers, and we brought back the oxygen cylinder, which was quite heavy. We hauled the cylinder to the village community center. There was no broadcasting equipment then so we used the cylinder to gather people. We had general assemblies, as well as student gatherings and youth association gatherings. When holding a general assembly, the cylinder would be banged slowly seven times. It was three bangs for the youth association gatherings. For the student gatherings, it was one loud bang followed by three normal bangs. A series of rapid bangs signified an emergency. This was done, for instance, if U.S. soldiers were setting fires. We would run outside in such cases. Some US soldiers were good, but many were bad. Everyone in the village would chase them away.
During the Battle of Okinawa, while many Japanese soldiers and Okinawan civilians were wounded, so were many American soldiers. In order to treat the wounded, there was a hospital in a place called B Kanpan (B Compound). It was located in present-day Gushikawa. My father was taken there by the US soldiers and had a large amount of blood taken from him. This blood was used for treating US soldiers. He grew weaker, and he died at the age of 36 when I was 11 years old.

Attending livestock course of Chubu Agriculture and Forestry High School

I enrolled at Chubu Agriculture and Forestry High School. The Prefectural Agriculture and Forestry school in Kadena was gone. There was a new agriculture and forestry school so, those around me suggested that I go there. There were other schools available, but I chose an agriculture and forestry high school and enrolled in the livestock course. The reason I chose the livestock course was because my father loved cows and was also a bullfighter. Before the war, he won the Okinawa bullfighting tournament. He had proudly displayed a photo of the occasion, but this too was lost in the war. All the students at school had lost weight due to the post-war food shortage so the school served us powdered milk sent by the U.S. military. The milk was skim milk and was in this type of box. In the Unites States, when making butter, milk was put in a centrifuge and the fat that stuck to the sides of the centrifuge was used to make butter and the dregs left over were used as feed for pigs. People in Okinawa did not know this, so they drank the skim milk powder that was sent to them. My teachers in the livestock course, after finding out about this, talked it over and decided that it would be best to raise a real cow.

Raising dairy cattle and delivering milk

The cost of cows back then was so high that we could only raise one. It was a type of cow called a Holstein. In those days cows were normally black, but Holsteins were a mixture of black and white. Everyone would say that it was rare. It was big overall, and so were its udders. We had to milk the cow by hand, putting the milk in bottles, then into boxes. We went to sell the milk in various places throughout the city of Koza. In those days, I would ride my bicycle all the way to Goya to sell milk. I would get up as early as around 4 o’clock. The cow we were raising was larger than a normal cow, so taking care of it was time consuming and difficult. I respect the Agriculture and Forestry School for teaching us about cows.

Applying for Hawaii’s dispatch internship

There was a recruitment for an internship called the International Young Famers Exchange 1959. I didn’t have any money to go overseas, but the Education Department of the US Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands would fund the internship and I took the exam. When I went to the test site, the Ryukyu government was on the first and second floors, and I had to go to the third and fourth floors to reach the US Civil Administration offices. There weren’t enough shoes to go around back then, and some people wore tabi (Japanese socks with a split toe). When I arrived wearing my clean wooden clogs, the guard there asked me where I was going. I said I was going to the Education Department, to which he warned me that I couldn’t go in wooden clogs and that I needed to wear shoes. When I showed my examination ticket, the guard took off his shoes and let me wear them so I could go upstairs to USCAR. That made me realize that there were a lot of good people in Okinawa.
About ten people took the exam, and six passed. I got the highest score for the exam. All sorts of people had taken the exam, and the others had more outstanding profiles like civil servants. Some of them were municipal employees and were older than me. The exam included an oral test, and I was asked about the “Price Report.” They asked me what I thought about the Price Report. We took the oral test in groups of three, and I said everything that came to mind about the Price Report. The civil servant examinees answered they didn’t know. I gave the following answer:

This is our land. In the Okinawan language, we call it our “uyafafuji,” ancestral land. Okinawan land doesn’t belong to outsiders like you from the other side of the world. The property belongs to the people of Okinawa. No matter who comes, Okinawans do not take the property of others. That’s what I’ve heard from a lot of people, and my father took action, based on that idea.

That was my answer because I thought it was the right one, and I passed. I was impressed with the power of academics because the right opinion prevails. I was also impressed with USCAR’s educators.
A USCAR staff member came to our home in a very big car. The neighbors were surprised and asked if I had done something bad. A USCAR staff, an American, got out of the car and that’s when my neighbors learned that I would be going to Hawaii. I was the first person from my village to go on a plane. Since it was my first time on a plane, I was amazed by how big it was. We were thin back then as food was still in short supply, so I remember that the food the flight attendants served was very delicious.

Agriculture internship in Hawaii

In Hawaii is an organization called the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. When I arrived in Hawaii, there was a big gathering celebrating the anniversary of Hawaii’s establishment as a state. Of the six interns from Okinawa, most went to Maui and Oahu, but only I went to Honolulu. During the internship, every morning, I cultivated ginger and vegetables and went to Honolulu to sell them. I would always get in the car and ate delicious food in Honolulu before returning. I remember thinking Hawaii was a pleasant place to live. Since my specialty was livestock, I wanted to focus on livestock training but I couldn’t do so. I received training in sugarcane cultivation and grew various vegetables. I also received training in pineapple cultivation. During the Ryukyu government era, I had gotten a license as a livestock inseminator. In Okinawa at the time, when breeding livestock to determine things like whether a cow is pregnant or the best timing for insemination, livestock inseminators would grab the cow’s uterus and decide on the best timing, saying things like “You need to wait two hours.” I would do this when I was in Hawaii, but unlike in Okinawa where cow droppings would stick to my arm, I was provided gloves that covered up to my shoulders. I knew at a glance that they were good gloves, and asked if I could have some. I still have a pair which I brought back with me to Okinawa.
I think that farmers, regardless of country, need to be sociable, science-oriented, and capable of leadership. I learned that farmers must have these three traits. Farmers must be able to make contributions to society as humans, and do so backed by scientific knowledge. In Hawaii, everyone was glad to hear us talk about what we had learned at the Agriculture and Forestry School. They were all happy when I spoke about what I had learned and knew, as well as my experiences at the Agricultural and Forestry School, so I taught them about the “333 movement.” If you add up three months, three weeks, and three days, you get 114 days. It takes 114 days for a pig to give birth.

Becoming a farming instructor in Okinawa

After returning to Okinawa, I was contacted by the Agricultural Cooperative and found employment there. I worked as a farming instructor, going around livestock farmers and teaching how to raise livestock. Just like the “333 movement,” while humans normally give birth to one baby at a time, pigs give birth to eight to ten piglets at once. The firstborn pig let chooses the nipple that produces the most milk. After about three days, each piglet’s nipple will be determined, in order of birth. The firstborn will grow large and strong, while the lastborn won’t grow much. Within those three days, you reverse the nipple order, and give the lastborn the nipple that produces the most milk. By choosing which nipple each piglet sucks milk from, you’ll get a litter of pigs that grow up to be similar sizes. When I taught the livestock farmers about this, they thanked me with joy, saying that there was no doubt it was true.

A message for young people

I want you to live a life that you can be proud of. It’s okay to help people, but don’t help or lend knowledge to the US military bases that kill people. And I want people to fight hard for their children and grandchildren in order to return the world to one where good prevails. I hope to see more and more people all over Japan to stop cooperating with the killing of others. I want the United States to stop ruining other people’s lives or killing them. I want them to stop expanding their military bases and flying jets out of Kadena Air Base to kill others. You only get one life, so I encourage you to do your best for everyone’s sake.

Mr. Zenyu Shimabukuro is a hansen jinushi (antiwar landowner) who continues fighting for the return of military land. His post-war experiences reflect the journey Okinawa has taken since the war such as in the “Island-Wide Land Struggle” and “Reversion Movement.”