2019 Okinawan referendum

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2019 Okinawan referendum
On the central government's plan to conduct landfill work at Henoko, Nago for the planned relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma[1]
LocationOkinawa, Japan
Date24 February 2019; 21 days ago (2019-02-24)
No opinion either way
Website: kenmin.okinawa

A referendum was held in Okinawa Prefecture on 24 February 2019. The referendum asked whether voters approved or opposed the landfill work at Henoko Bay for the construction of a new United States Marine Corps base. This is the second prefecture-wide referendum in Okinawa, the first being the 1996 referendum on the reduction of US military presence. Governor Denny Tamaki announced the referendum in November 2018, fulfilling his manifesto promise from his successful campaign for governor.[2]

The Okinawan electorate voted to overwhelmingly reject the central government's Henoko move plan. 72% of Okinawan voters opposed the plan, with 19% supporting the plan. The Oppose vote also passed the 25% electorate threshold, which means the governor is obliged to respect the result and to convey it to the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of the United States. However, the central government is not legally obliged to respect the result.[3][4]

Referendum question and options[edit]

The ballot asked voters to decide:

On the central government's plan to conduct landfill work at Henoko, Nago for the planned relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma[1]

Voters had three options: Support, Oppose and "No opinion either way". It was initially proposed that the referendum had two straight options: Support or Oppose. 5 conservative-aligned mayors of Okinawa City, Uruma, Ginowan, Miyakojima and Ishigaki protested at this plan and threatened to exclude their cities from the referendum. A compromise was reached in January to include the third "No opinion either way" option. The dispute caused a delay on the preparations for the vote in the 5 municipalities.[5] Although a separate voting date for those municipalities was expected initially, the referendum preparations there were finished on time and they will hold the referendum on the same day as the rest of the prefecture.[6]

Early voting was available from 15 to 23 February.[7]


On 8 December 2018, Japanese-American activist Robert Kajiwara created a petition titled, "Stop the landfill of Henoko/Oura Bay until a referendum can be held in Okinawa" on the White House's We the People petitioning portal. On 18 December, the petition got 100,343 signatures[8], reaching the necessary amount of signatures for it to be reviewed and receive a response by the White House. The petition was drawn to attention by multiple individuals who signed it. People such as Brian May, Rola, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Daisuke Muramoto, Ryucheru, and others have openly expressed their support.[9] The petition received over 200,000 signatures by the end of January.[10] As of February 24 (date of referendum), the White House has not given a response.

Kajiwara was detained and interrogated by Japanese immigration officers when he came to Japan in February 2019 to campaign in the referendum.[11]








No opinion either way[edit]

Opinion polling[edit]

Polling organisation Sample size Support Oppose No opinion
either way
Undecided Lead
24 Feb 2019 Results 605,385 19.10% 72.15% 8.75% 53.05%
16–17 Feb 2019 Asahi Shimbun 1,125 16% 59% 21% 4% 38%
16–17 Feb 2019 Kyodo News 15.8% 67.6% 13.1% 0.5% 51.8%


Choice Votes %
Support 114,933 19.10%
Green tickY Oppose 434,273 72.15%
No opinion either way 52,682 8.75%
Valid votes 601,888 99.42%
Invalid or blank votes 3,497 0.58%
Total votes 605,385 100%
Registered voters and turnout 1,153,591 52.48%
Source: Okinawa Prefectural Government Asahi Shimbun



The day following the referendum, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that while the central government respected the result, construction works at Henoko would continue. This statement was reaffirmed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya.[19] Construction works at Henoko also restarted straight away, causing indignation among the local populace who voted heavily to oppose it.[20]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "投票用紙" (in Japanese). Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b Ito, Kazuyuki (27 November 2018). "Okinawa decides to hold Feb. 24 referendum on U.S. base issue". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  3. ^ "辺野古埋め立て「反対」が7割超え 知事の得票上回る43万票 沖縄県民投票、投票率は52.48%" (in Japanese). Okinawa Times. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  4. ^ "72% of Okinawa voters oppose work off Henoko for U.S. base". Asahi Shimbun. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b Yamashita, Ryuichi; Ito, Kazuyuki (25 January 2019). "3-answer ballot approved in Okinawa, all cities will vote". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  6. ^ "辺野古移設 沖縄県民投票、24日全県で 宜野湾など3市、参加表明". Mainichi Shimbun. 2 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Early voting under way in Okinawa on key U.S. base issue". Asahi Shimbun. 15 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  8. ^ "White House petition to halt Henoko construction reaches 100,000 signature goal in 10 days". Ryukyu Shimpo - Okinawa, Japanese newspaper, local news. Retrieved 2019-02-24.
  9. ^ "「米国政府動かす男」R・カジワラさん、大阪入管に屈辱の拘束―辺野古基地問題で来日、超党派議員と面談(志葉玲) - Yahoo!ニュース". Yahoo!ニュース 個人 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-02-24.
  10. ^ "Marianas Variety - Okinawa petition to save Henoko Bay reaches over 200,000 signatures". www.mvariety.com. Retrieved 2019-02-24.
  11. ^ Ida, Jun (21 February 2019). "US man who petitioned to halt Henoko landfill questioned 2 hrs by Japan immigration". Mainichi Shimbun. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  12. ^ Narisawa, Kaigo; Ito, Sei; Ito, Kazuyuki (18 February 2019). "Anti-U.S. base moves heat up as referendum in Okinawa looms". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  13. ^ "立憲民主党が辺野古新基地反対を表明 沖縄県連の発足で枝野氏が会見 県知事選は玉城デニー氏を支援へ" (in Japanese). Okinawa Times. 30 August 2018. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  14. ^ Kawai, Tatsurou (30 January 2019). "県民投票、対抗手段は「リコールと訴訟」 立憲・枝野氏" (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  15. ^ Ito, Hiroki (9 January 2019). "Fearless Ryuichi Sakamoto won't stay silent on Okinawa base". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  16. ^ Nakajima, Maki (7 January 2019). "Queen guitarist May seeks signatures for petition against Okinawa base transfer work". Mainichi Shimbun. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  17. ^ Miyagi, Hiroya; Abe, Shihoko (9 January 2019). "203,800 signatures collected for White House petition to halt US base work in Okinawa". Mainichi Shimbun. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  18. ^ 県民投票投票確定 (PDF) (in Japanese). 沖縄県. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  19. ^ "Abe moves ahead with base work in Okinawa after 'no' referendum". Asahi Shimbun. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  20. ^ "埋め立て「反対」の民意が示されたのに… 県民投票から一夜明け、辺野古の工事進む" (in Japanese). Okinawa Times. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.