Opponents of a relocation plan for a U.S. military base within Okinawa Prefecture called on the Japanese government on Sunday to listen to their voices, as a nonbinding referendum showed a majority of voters rejected the plan.
"I want this declaration of the will to be known," 23-year-old Reona Nishinaga said after hearing that a majority voted against the plan at a gathering of a civic group, which initiated the idea of holding a prefectural referendum.
Over 70 percent of voters in Okinawa rejected the decades-old plan in the referendum which asked whether they agree with the work being undertaken for the replacement facility, with three options to choose from -- "yes," "no" or "neither."
The government plans to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated coastal zone of Henoko in Nago.
A 40-year-old woman from Nago, who used to live in Ginowan, which hosts the Futenma base, voted in favor of the transfer plan as "settling the issue as soon as possible would be better for us than continuing to have trouble over new relocation sites."
As a former resident in Ginowan, she said she knows firsthand the fear of hosting a military base in a residential area.
Those who voted "neither" expressed mixed feelings.
Erina Takeda, who works at a nursery school near the Futenma base, said children at the facility sometimes cry out due to loud noise from U.S. jet fighters, but one of her relatives works at the base and will lose the job after the base transfer.
"I took a lot of time thinking about it but couldn't reach an answer," the 46-year-old said.