Who Is Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki?

Governor Denny Tamaki

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki will be meeting with Hawaii residents on March 21 at the Pagoda Hotel’s International Ballroom from 6:30-8:30 PM and on March 23 at Windward Community College from 6:30-7:45 PM. The events are free and open to the public. Governor Tamaki will be aided by an English translator. For a better idea of who he is, here are twenty facts about him:

1. He is the current Governor of Okinawa Prefecture.

2. He has long been opposed to the U.S. military presence in Okinawa. He is against the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to another location in Okinawa, a position consistent with his late predecessor Onaga.

3. He was born in Uruma, Okinawa, on 13 October 1959, to an Okinawan waitress and a U.S. Marine father who left Okinawa before Tamaki was born.

4. He was born Dennis Tamaki (玉城 デニス Tamaki Denisu) but later changed his legal name to Yasuhiro Tamaki (玉城 康裕 Tamaki Yasuhiro) when he was 10 years old.

5. He never met his father. He attempted to search for him, but was unsuccessful.

6. “Denny” has been his nickname since childhood.

7. He worked as a radio disk jockey in Okinawa for several years.

8. He entered the Diet (Japan House of Representatives) by winning the Okinawa 3rd district seat in 2009. He was the first Amerasian member of the Diet.

9. He was ousted from the Democratic Party of Japan in 2012 when he opposed the consumption tax hike proposed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

10. He lost his 3rd District seat in 2012 but regained it in 2014.

11. He won the 2018 Okinawa gubernatorial election with 55% of the vote.

12. He graduated from the Sophia School of Social Welfare.

13. He is married with two sons and two daughters.

14. He is a singer and guitarist, and has written lyrics for Rinken Band.

15. At a rally during the gubernatorial campaign, he joked, “It’s not possible that the democracy of the country of my father will reject me. Only Denny can say that.”

16. In the gubernatorial race, he beat the former mayor of Ginowan, Atsushi Sakima, who was backed by the governing party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

17. To boost Sakima’s campaign against Tamaki, Prime Minister Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party enlisted the help of prominent supporters Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo. The Komeito party, the Liberal Democrats’ coalition partner in Parliament, also endorsed Sakima.

18. As a hapa (mixed-race) child in Okinawa, he was a victim of discrimination. This discrimination has apparently carried over into his adult life. In a recent tweet, a detractor wrote, “Denny Tamaki, you can’t be a true Japanese no matter how hard you try but you are an incomplete ‘half.’”

19. After the 24 Feb. 2019 prefecture-wide nonbinding referendum showed that 71.7% of voters rejected the 20-year-old plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to a less populated coastal zone in Henoko, Gov. Tamaki, on 1 Mar. 2019, called for Prime Minister Abe to launch trilateral talks involving Washington aimed at reviewing the relocation plan for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

20. He said he is not asking for all U.S. military personnel to leave Okinawa, just for the island to take a fairer share of the burden for national defense. Okinawa prefecture makes up just 0.6 percent of Japan’s total land area but hosts about half of the 54,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country.

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