It is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, in which one in four Okinawans were killed in the bloodiest battle of the Pacific theatre at the end of WWII.
American ambassador Caroline Kennedy attended the ceremony after a year in which anger at American bases on the island has grown to reach 80% opposition.
“Seventy years since the war has ended, we still feel that it hasn’t truly ended. Remains are still found from underground and from various public construction sites. We continue to find unexploded US bombs. So we continue to find the scars of war in Okinawa today,” said Teruya Naeko, representing bereaved families.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was greeted with cries of “Go home” and “What are you doing here” when he prepared to speak. His plans to relocate US bases are rejected almost en masse by islanders who want them gone entirely, and who fear he is re-militarising Japan.