The Japan Times has reported that children at a school in Okinawa, Japan have taken shelter in their school gymnasium 693 times over the last year. In America, school children may take emergency actions due to school shooters, fire drills, or extreme weather in some parts of the country but in Okinawa school children apparently have something else to fear: parts falling off of American military helicopters.

Last December, the window fell out of a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter onto the grounds of Futenma No. 2 Elementary School, where one boy was injured, prompting fears that someone else could be hurt or killed. Over the years there have been a number of US military helicopter accidents and crashes in Okinawa.

At Futenma elementary school, they have built shelters, installed security cameras, and have security guards who usher children indoors to safe areas whenever military helicopters are around.  Principal Osamu Tobaru went as far as to say that there was no point in holding classes if children have to be evacuated twice during one class period, as they have been.

Meanwhile, the local Okinawan government appears to be playing up the situation for maximum impact. The recent tension between the US military and the people of Okinawa does not happen in a vacuum, but is part of a long running dispute that the Okinawans have with the military as well as with their own government. The Ryukyu Independence movement sees the island of Okinawa as independent of Japan and strongly opposes the US military presence on the island, including the scheduled construction of more bases in the future.

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