Japanese government finalizes reversion of Northern Training Area land on Okinawa
By STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 27, 2017
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Japanese government has finalized the reversion of the largest swath of land from U.S. to Japanese control since 1972.
Officials celebrated handing back the land to private and municipal landowners during a ceremony Monday in the village of Kunigami, an Okinawa Defense Bureau spokesman said.
“I believe that the formal handover of around [9,900 acres] of land to the landowners today set a direction toward mitigating the impact on the local communities,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters after the ceremony.
The land, which was once part of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area, was included in the approximately 18,640 acres given back to Japan in December 2016. Since then, Japanese defense officials have been busy testing the area’s soil and water for pollution while also checking for unexploded ordnance. None have been found so far.
Roughly 8,410 acres of that land are nationally owned; 1,426 acres are owned by the prefecture and about 42 acres are owned by Kunigami. The final 32 acres belong to 88 private landowners.
The Northern Training Area is the largest U.S. military site in Okinawa. Nearly 10,000 acres — roughly the size of two Kadena Air Bases — was given back last year after the Marine Corps built six helicopter landing zones in a consolidated area to facilitate the land’s return, which was first agreed upon in 1996. The land is mostly undeveloped jungle.