Prominent Okinawan and American officials gathered in Naha City last month to formally launch the “Obuchi Okinawa Education and Research Program” — a U.S.-Japan joint effort to be carried out at the East-West Center in Honolulu. The late afternoon program at the Loisir Hotel was attended by, among others, Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Mazie Hirono, East-West Center President Charles Morrison and Yuko Obuchi, daughter of the Japan’s late prime minister, Keizo Obuchi, and a member of Japan’s House of Representatives. Prime Minister Obuchi was instrumental in Okinawa’s selection as the site for last July’s G-8 (Group of Eight) Summit.

During the Summit, President Clinton announced that the program would be named in memory of Obuchi, who suffered a massive stroke and died shortly after inspecting the Summit site in Nago City earlier in the year. President Clinton said he hoped the beneficiaries of the program would “. . . add to the friendship and understanding between our nations that he (Obuchi) worked so hard to advance.”

The multifaceted Obuchi Education and Research Program will be administered by the East-West Center. One component, the Obuchi East-West Center scholarships, will provide opportunities for young Okinawan graduate students to study international business and Asia-Pacific studies at the University of Hawaii through the EWC. Another component, the Obuchi Japan Foundation Fellowships, will enable established Okinawan scholars to engage in cooperative research on Asia-Pacific topics and global issues at the center. The first awards — three graduate scholarships and three fellowships — will be awarded in 2001.

As part of the Obuchi Program, the East-West Center will facilitate conference and intellectual activities in Okinawa designed to enhance its educational and research ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

While visiting the “Cornerstone of Peace” in Itoman last July, President Clinton noted the tradition of young Okinawans studying in the U.S. He announced then his decision to dedicate the program in memory of Prime Minister Obuchi. The Obuchi Program seeks to re-establish the academic opportunities made available to Okinawans prior to the Ryukyus’ reversion to Japan in 1972. Several speakers, including U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, noted that more than 2,500 Okinawans had studied at the East-West Center between 1960 — when the EWC was established — and 1972, when Okinawa was returned to Japan after more than 25 years of U.S. military control. Today, some 26,000 American military troops remain in Okinawa.

Governor Inamine said he hopes to develop Okinawa into an “international convention island” and to promote the island prefecture as the “international and academic crossroads” of the Asia-Pacific region.

The idea for an education and research initiative was proposed last year by East-West Center President Charles Morrison. Seed money for the program is being provided by the governments of Japan and the U.S., with additional support from the East-West Center and the Okinawa East-West Center Associates Chapter. Private contributions, particularly endowments for scholarship and research activities, will also be sought.

Morrison acknowledged Choko Takayama, president of the Okinawa’s EWC alumni chapter (and vice mayor of Naha City) and the center’s many alumni in Okinawa. “Were it not for their dedication, commitment and energy, there would have been no Obuchi Okinawa Program. This program builds on a foundation of strong historical and educational ties between the East-West Center and Okinawa.”

Morrison said the Obuchi Program hopes to work with the Worldwide Uchinanchu Business network on practical internships with businesses and other organizations. WUB co-founder and former president Robert Nakasone is the East-West Center’s coordinator for Okinawa special projects.

For more information on the Obuchi Okinawa Education and Research Program contact Robert Nakasone at the EWC at 944-7474, or by e-mail at nakasonr@EastWestCenter.org.



U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley and U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye present a framed photograph of President Clinton and the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to his daughter Yuko.