Okinawa was one of the last battlegrounds of the Second World War. The three–month long warfare, which started on April 1, 1945 – a beautiful Easter Sunday according to American war correspondent Ernie Pyle – ended with hundreds of thousands of deaths on both sides – including that of Pyle himself. When the winners and the losers left the scene to reappear in later acts, telling endless stories of their own, Okinawans – the residents of the islands – who lost more lives than either of the American or Japanese troops, were left behind on the dark stage to be little noticed by the world audience.
When the lights soon came back on Okinawa, it was dubbed "the Keystone of the Pacific,” a term first used of the islands by Commodore Perry about a hundred years earlier. The main attraction for the United States was the projection of military power with the presence of all four branches of the US forces on the island. The island residents performed the necessary understudy roles with few lines to say their say. This characterization of the islands persists even today, some forty years after America returned Okinawa to Japan. The peace-aspiring and art-loving people are seldom spoken of or heard from on the international scene despite their invaluable contribution.
“Kadena Story” brings Okinawans to the center stage detailing the lives of the people through the storm of war and in its aftermath. The title consists of two separate stories – one under the same title as on the book cover and the other with the title “The Son.” The first story depicts a woman who had been disowned by her parents because of her marriage to an American marine. The severance caused her financial, social and personal trauma. But what haunted her most was her memory of the mysterious expression she discovered on her mothers face that day as they talked about her wish to marry. Her mother de facto endorsed her father’s action by not uttering a single word for or against the marriage: her face was void of any sign of emotion except for a hint of vulnerableness. The inscrutability of her mother’s mind had agonized her ever since; she had been suspecting that her marriage was not the true reason for her mother’s continued refusal to see her again. Wondering in a dusk-clad riverside park in her old village of Kadena on the day of mother’s funeral, she came across the woman from her childhood who she once believed to have put on her a curse to affect her entire life.
“The Son” is a story of a man who came back to Okinawa from America to replenish meaning to his old memories after thirty years of absence. He had fled his home and his native land feeling he had had enough of both: on one hand, his father had been said to be having an affair, and on the other, Okinawa’s chronic dispute over autonomy seemed to be dragging on forever with no practical solution. Travelling through the towns and villages that now made him feel like a stranger to them with a young woman as his tour guide he started regaining his youth, and, at the same time, his feelings toward her grew irresistible. As a critical moment in his emotion was closing in on him, he ran into a minor accident with his car, leading him to an unexpected thing that click-opened his memory of his father and the name of a mysterious woman – the epicenter of his family’s disintegration some thirty years earlier. Stories of three generations of Okinawans intertwine with one another among themselves and with the happenings in the turbulent relations between US, Japan and Okinawa. This presents the reader a portrait of robust Okinawan society and families.