Governor of Okinawa Celebrates New Collection at Gelman Library

MOU funds Okinawa Collection and Japanese language librarian at Global Resources Center.

June 8, 2015


George Washington University Vice Provost for Libraries Geneva Henry, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga and Provost Steven Lerman cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the Okinawa Collection at the Estelle and Gelman Library.

By Brittney Dunkins

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga expressed warm congratulations and gratitude to the George Washington University on the opening of the Okinawa Collection at the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library Global Resources Center (GRC) Tuesday evening.

The collection of primary and secondary research materials was conceived through a memorandum of understanding between the government of Okinawa and GW and will be housed in the Japan Resource Center. Its focus is Okinawan politics, policy, international relations, economics, culture, literature, linguistics and history.

The government of Okinawa has agreed to fund the ongoing development of the collection and a part-time Japanese language research librarian, according to the MOU.

“I am privileged to create the Okinawa Collection at the George Washington University,” Gov. Onaga said. “I hope that the collection will serve as a trigger for more people to become interested in Okinawa, and that students and researchers will deepen their understanding of Okinawa.”

Both Provost Steven Lerman and Vice Provost for Libraries Geneva Henry said that the collection will be an invaluable resource to student and faculty researchers as well as the general public.

Dr. Lerman pointed to an exhibit of Okinawan textiles at the George Washington Museum and The Textile Museum planned for the upcoming academic year as an example of the “crucial” support that a partnership with Okinawa provides for GW’s commitment to globally focused learning and research.

“It is the first time this cultural treasure will be featured in the United States,” Dr. Lerman said.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place amid a flurry of Japanese media and constituents just days before Gov. Onaga met with U.S. government officials to discuss U.S. military plans to build a U.S. Marine air base on the island. Gov. Onaga opposes the plan.

The issue is a nod to the complicated history of Okinawa, which was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

Before its formal incorporation into Japan as a prefecture in 1879, Okinawa was an independent kingdom that prospered through trade, according to Mike Mochizuki, associate professor of political science and international affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs.

Following the war, Okinawa was occupied and administered by the United States until 1972.  The prefecture continues to host about 74 percent of the military bases on Japan that are used exclusively by U.S. forces, Dr. Mochizuki said.

“Okinawa is more than a prefecture of Japan. It is a prism for looking at Japan and America’s relations with all of the other countries in the region,” Dr. Mochizuki said. “Despite its small size, it is really significant.”

Dr. Mochizuki has been studying Okinawa for more than 20 years and was instrumental in laying the groundwork for GW’s partnership with the Okinawan government.

He co-directed a research project titled,  “The Okinawa Question,” with Akikazu Hashimoto, project professor at J.F. Oberlin University Graduate School in Tokyo, and Kurayoshi Takara, former professor at the University of Ryukyus.

Dr. Takara was appointed vice governor of Okinawa in 2013 and proposed the partnership last fall, Dr. Mochizuki said. Dr. Takara then worked with Ms. Henry and GRC Director Cathy Zeljak to establish the collection.

GW has a long history in Asian studies from the ESIA Sigur Center for Asian Studies to the now defunct Sino-Soviet Collection, which became the GRC, according to Ms. Zeljak. The GRC features six area resource centers including the Japan Resource Center, Taiwan Resource Center, China Documentation Center and Korea Resources.

“Outside analysts and researcher are frequent visitors to the GRC,” Ms. Zeljak said.

Dr. Mochizuki said that the Okinawa Collection’s books, digital databases and video materials will contribute enormously to teaching and research.  He added that the collection also will strengthen the Japanese-language holdings in the JRC.

“With this grant, GW’s Okinawa Collection could become the second largest library on Okinawa located outside of Japan after the one in the University of Hawaii,” Dr. Mochizuki said.  “To have this collection in the nation’s capital at GW gives unparalleled access to researchers and decision-makers in the think tank and policy community. We are delighted to have these materials.”