Okinawa, a string of tropical islands off far southwest Japan much closer to Taiwan than Tokyo, suffered massive devastation in World War II. Two months of bloody battles between US and Japanese forces left as many as a third of its people dead. Nearly 30 years of US rule followed.
On May 15, 1972, the islands were finally returned to Japan in what was seen as a hopeful step forward from the war’s painful legacy. But today they still host the majority of US military bases in Japan, a devil’s bargain that has provided jobs but also fed worries about crime and military accidents.