Others later do. For about an hour she dances and drinks with a black American former serviceman and Okinawa resident. She tells him she moved to Okinawa a month before and is working at a hospital. Her American boyfriend is in the U.S., she continues. When they decide to leave together, the American says something to a friend about money—13, to be exact. "I do not look 13," the girl fumes, misunderstanding him, and abruptly returns to the bar.
|STRENGTH IN NUMBERS|
|The American global military presence far surpasses that of any other nation with more than 250,000 troops on foreign soil and about 50,000 personnel at sea in foreign waters. Here's a rundown of the largest U.S. overseas troop deployments:|
*Number of personnel
|At Sea in East Asian and Pacific waters||23,352|
|At Sea in North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian waters||14,772|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||5,708|
|* figures include Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force active duty military personnel by country as of Sept. 2000|
|(Source: Department of Defense Almanac. Japan figures: United States Forces Japan)|
Police reports are sketchy about what happened next, but one Japanese weekly, the Shukan Bunshun, reports the woman's climbing out of the car when her seatmate becomes too aggressive. She gets 20 m away from the car but the American catches up with her. A few moments later, a Marine friend who was planning to drive the woman home comes looking for her. He finds her face down on the hood of a station wagon, a black man having intercourse with her from behind. When the Marine calls out, the man zips up and hops into a car driven by his friends. The vehicle's license plate, according to eyewitnesses, bears the letter Y—signifying a military vehicle.
At 2:32 a.m. local police receive a call from the woman's friend. Soon, blue-uniformed officers are pacing the parking lot. Short, the bar manager, has just closed up and is puzzled by the crowd gathering outside. "What's up?" he asks a serviceman.
A rape, he's told.
The incident instantly became a lead television news story, another point of contention in U.S.-Japan relations, and a disturbing metaphor for how the two countries coexist. With 25,203 U.S. servicemen stationed in Okinawa, there is a depressing predictability to the news cycle surrounding a serviceman's being accused of raping a native woman: outrage by the Okinawans, expressed concern by the American military, formal protest by the Japanese government, and finally, an indictment and trial of another flyboy or marine.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Timothy Woodland, 1.9 m tall and 24 years old, now resides in a jail cell behind the Okinawa district court. Denied bail, he will live here through his trial, which will begin in September and could last as long as a year. He's got English-language books, a Bible and American-style meals, but no cigarettes, TV or air-conditioning. He isn't allowed to speak or write to friends and family. His mother Arlene Jordan, who works in the engineering services department at the Army's Fort Eustis in Hampton, Virginia, says she used to chat with her son every week by phone, but hasn't communicated with him since his arrest. "Let's just say he is very far away from home," she tells TIME. Woodland can talk with his lawyers, two Japanese and one American. The American lawyer, Annette Eddie-Callagain, remains hopeful but admits the politically charged atmosphere and the Japanese judicial system stack the odds against her client. "Here, you're guilty until proven innocent," says Eddie-Callagain, who returned to Okinawa after leaving the Air Force to set up an independent practice. Japan boasts a near-perfect prosecution record thanks to a standard 23-day detention period during which a suspect is questioned without the presence of a lawyer, a practice Amnesty International has criticized for years. "In Japan, the criminal justice system is run by prosecutors," Eddie-Callagain says. "Defense lawyers are just bystanders."
And the truth is just as maddeningly irrelevant. No one but Woodland and the woman he was with knows what exactly went on that night. Both parties' allegations are firm, if irreconcilable: she says rape, he says consensual sex. Ideally, the case would come down to police work, lawyers' arguments, witness testimony and an impartial judiciary. But this is Okinawa in 2001, and a black American serviceman stands accused of raping a Japanese woman. Which means an already murky case has been churned into a raging whirl by nationalist politics, screaming media, a half-century of dammed-up local grief and—roiling unmentioned beneath it all—an undercurrent of racism.
To the rest of the world, the central question of the trial seems clear: did Timothy Woodland rape her, or didn't he? But in Okinawa, nothing is ever so simple.
Okinawa hates America, and Okinawa loves America. The islands bear plenty of scars, all rubbed raw by the American presence. Okinawa's sovereignty as a kingdom was snatched by Japan, then the U.S. after World War II, and then Japan again in 1972. Its main island, called Okinawa like the rest of the prefecture, is home to no less than 38 U.S. military facilities. And yet tourists and dream-seekers from the Japanese mainland flock to the archipelago's 60 tropical islands precisely for its slice of red, white and blue, an ethos Okinawa cultivates. Reminders of Uncle Sam abound—America Mart, America Hotel and Club America. Restaurants offer steak, ice cream and hybrid dishes like taco rice. Military surplus stores sell American flak jackets, dog tags, camouflage pants and old grenades.
But the biggest draws, especially for Japanese women, are the real, live Americans. Amejo is Okinawan slang for girls who love Americans, but they can be found anywhere in Japan where Americans hang out, sipping beers in the bars around the Naval base at Yokosuka, dancing in clubs in Tokyo's Roppongi district. Ground Zero for the amejo and their subcultural peers, the kokujo, though, is Okinawa.
Kokujo (girls who like black men) paint their skin cocoa, weave their hair in cornrows, dress like Destiny's Child—all the better to attract the prime catch, the black military man. The phenomenon has already become a pop-culture staple, propelling hip-hop acts like Dragon Ash to Japanese platinum success and launching the career of best-selling novelist Amy Yamada, whose memoirish Bedroom Eyes detailed a Japanese woman's sexual exploits with black servicemen.
In a country notorious for its disdain for people of color—even among Japanese, pale skin has traditionally been the highest mark of beauty—that a subculture has emerged fetishizing blacks raises numerous issues, from the proliferation and power of global image peddlers like MTV to very basic questions of racial and sexual identity. There is an objectifying component to the kokujo's particular infatuation, and by definition that is dehumanizing. If you are saying a black is better than a white, that's racism, albeit through a twisted, hip-hop hula hoop. And isn't part of the appeal of these black Americans that they represent some taboo, the stereotype of potency and virility, combined with the perception that Western men are more romantic than Japanese men?