YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The rockets’ red glare will be absent from Independence Day celebrations at U.S. military bases in Japan this year.
The decision to go low key for the most patriotic American holiday — live bands were banned, too — is an extension of the monthlong “period of unity and mourning” that was declared on Okinawa in sympathy over the slaying of a 20-year-old Okinawa woman that has been linked to a U.S. civilian base worker.
The impact of Rina Shimabukuru’s brutal death, in combination with other recent crimes by U.S. servicemembers, has spread to the Japanese mainland and become a political hot potato that tainted President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan late month and sparked apologies by top U.S. military leaders and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.
It also has led to liberty and alcohol restrictions for U.S. troops and a series of anti-base protests. An estimated 65,000 people attended a demonstration Sunday in Okinawa to demand all Marines leave the island. Another 7,000 protested outside the Japanese parliament building in Tokyo, focusing on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his moves to expand the Japanese military’s role beyond self-defense.
U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman said Wednesday that Independence Day events were being scaled back Japan-wide “to demonstrate unwavering respect for the loss our friends on Okinawa experienced,” so fireworks displays and concerts have been canceled.
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