Okinawa residents observe archeological find on Camp Foster
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- In a lightly wooded area, a small group of people gather, looking up at the side of a hill. Although the area is covered in dirt and leaves, clearly made cuts in the earth can be made out, as though someone had made platforms at different levels on the slope. What looks like a path can also be seen in the ground as the group lines up on it, standing where perhaps their ancestors once stood, hundreds of years ago.
Members of the Aragusuku Hometown Association visited Camp Foster Oct. 23 to observe cultural assets found in the West Futenma Housing Area.
Aragusuku is a district that existed where Marine Corps Air Station Futenma now stands, and the association is made up of individuals who once lived, or who are descendants of those who lived, in Aragusuku.
“We were contacted by the Ginowan City Board of Education who said they’d discovered, what appear to be, remnants of a village belonging to the people who eventually settled in Aragusuku,” said Yasushi Higa, the president of the Aragusuku Hometown Association.
Archeologists with the Ginowan City Board of Education led the members of the association through the area, talking briefly about what was found.
As of now, it is too early to tell what time period the cultural assets are from, according to Naoya Morita, an archeologist with the Ginowan City Board of Education, but they could very well be from the Edo period, which took place from 1603 to 1868.
“We found evidence that rocks were cut,” said Morita. “We’re not sure if it’s a farming area, but we found paths and an area where people mined limestone.”
According to Morita, the site was found in August during a survey of the land, which is the process of being returned to the Government of Japan.
The returning of land is part of a larger plan to give back areas used by the U.S. military to the Government of Japan as part of a collaborative effort to continue strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Japan.
Facilitating these types of visits onto bases helps with the returning of land back to the Government of Japan, according to Robert T. Marsh Jr., the camp director for Camps Foster and Lester, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler Japan. While the governments handle the high-level politics of the return, the visits provide a more face-to-face quality.
“This particular (visit) is unique because in the past we’ve had folks coming out from mainland, members of the Japanese parliament and other political or government folks,” said Marsh. “This is one of the few visits that we’ve done with people that have a personal interest in the land.”
Isamu Ueza, a member of the Aragusuku Hometown Association, recalled when he used to live in the Aragusuku area, pointing out areas surrounding the site that used to be rice paddies where he once caught small shrimp as a child.
Higa was very moved to see the site.
“It was very educational, and great to come here and see that these assets that are from hundreds of years ago are still here,” said Higa. “We hope that they stay preserved the way they are.”