高江在住、石原理絵＆ピコ親子による高江フラ「沖縄県東村高江の歌」music by 七尾旅人
Voice of Takae
Where is Yanbaru?
The wide forest area in the northern part of Okinawa island is called Yanbaru. Its subtropical
natural forest and mountain streams provide habitats for over 5,000 species of wild life and
more than a thousand species of plants. Out of these, some 11 animals and 12 plants are
native to Yanbaru alone. Many of them are listed in the endangered species Red List, such as
the Yanbaru Kuina (Okinawan Rail) or Noguchi Gera (Okinawan Woodpecker). It’s such a
valuable storage of wildlife that even the International Union for Conservation of Nature
(IUCN) requests its preservation. This same area is now also a World Natural Heritage Site
and National Park nominee, and in the middle of all this, is the village of Takae.
Takae in Higashi village and the U.S. military bases
Higashi is one of the villages in Yanbaru, and the small district located in the northern part of
it is called Takae. Its population is approximately 150 people, 20% being teenagers and
younger. The kids are happily growing up in Peacefulness of the surrounding beautiful
mountains and rivers. However, adjacent to this natural area is the U.S. marines' Northern
Training Area (Jungle Warfare Training Center), which totals up to 7,800 hectares. America
started using this training area in 1957, a few years before U.S. went down in
to the quagmire of the Vietnam War, mainly for the purpose of guerrilla warfare training.
Originally there were 22 helipads scattered around the training area. Takae residents have
been forced to suffer from the ear-breaking sound of the propellers, as well as facing the
possibility that helicopters might fall out of the sky. Even so, six of the existing 22 helipads
are being relocated and have been scheduled for construction in a pattern that completely
surrounds Takae, the closest being only 400 meters away from the nearest residence.
Currently, one of the six helipads has been completed. The new helipads will have a
diameter of 75m cutting into this pristine forest. Although these may appear as individual
spots on a map, when military helicopters fly around between these spots, the spots quickly
become lines cutting across the canopy.