The Ultimate Irony: Banning a Book that Criticizes Banning Books


 As some readers may know, I published a book called “On Okinawa” last month. The Sekai Nippō kindly did a review of it in the February 14 edition of the newspaper. In fact it was the first review to formally appear. Prior to that, many people wrote about it on social media sites, Internet websites, and blogs, all of which I am grateful for.

 

 The book officially came out on January 20, but began to be displayed in bookstores in Tokyo on the evening of January 15. Expectations had been high for it prior to its sale, and so online bookstores were also taking orders. Indeed, the evening of the 15th, I saw on the social networking site, Facebook, that someone had already purchased it: she was holding a copy of the book in a bookstore.

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 The book sold quickly, so quickly in fact, that within a week, the publisher, Shinchōsha, decided to print more copies. As of today, it is in its fourth printing, thanks to the strong interest in the topic and the support of readers like you have followed my story and experiences.

 Days and weeks went by in Okinawa, however, before one could even find a copy of the book. This was true not only of the smaller bookstores, but even of the larger ones, including the national chain stores.

 It was about ten days before the largest bookstore in Okinawa, located in Naha, began to carry the book. One reason probably has to do with distribution and physical distances involved. But it was also learned that many other stores, at the local level, made internal decisions not to display the book, even if it had arrived.

 Namely, several bookstores were asked by customers if they intended to carry the book. Some store employees said “no.” Asked if they knew the book was selling well? They said “no” or “it did not matter.” Other employees at other stores said “it was being ordered” but when asked when it would come in, they said they “did not know.”

 Of course, a store owner has the right to display or not display the items he or she would like to (within the confines of the law or social standards), but in this case, not displaying or selling the book goes against two very important principles.

 First, a bookstore, like other types of stores and commercial enterprises, is a money-making business. Not displaying a well-selling book goes against this profit motive.

 Second, by displaying a wide choice of books and magazines, a bookstore gives the customer the chance to discover reading materials he or she may not be familiar with, and which might even be outside his or her normal choice of books or outside his or her “comfort zone.” By not displaying the book, the book store is denying the reader who came to see the book, or a customer who is browsing to discover the book, the opportunity to purchase it.

 This tendency is particularly strong in Okinawa. If one goes into a bookstore and looks at the section concerning local books or topics, it is dominated by treatises on the “base problem,” “discrimination,” “the Battle of Okinawa”, and the MV-22B Osprey. Recently, too, Governor Onaga Takeshi’s book takes up several shelves and rows, even though a single book appears not to have been sold. These types of displays appear to be a political show of solidarity, rather than a wise business decision.

 I found the actions of the bookstores to not display or sell the book the ultimate irony, in that I criticized this closed intellectual environment in the book, and they repeated the same mistake by demonstrating themselves to be closed-minded.

 Despite these challenges, my book is officially No. 1 in several stores in Okinawa, and “unofficially” in several more. I write “unofficially” because while the bookstore employees admit it is the most sold, they use different numbers and categories to obfuscate the facts.

 Hiding the truth, and not displaying the book in the first place, are forms of censorship that cannot be tolerated in a modern democratic society. The Okinawa media—especially the Ryukyu Shimpo and the Okinawa Times—go out of their way to hide the truth. They either refuse to cover a story, or if they cover it, refuse to print it, or if they print it, do it so small in comparison to other stories, it is hard to find.

 As a result, the local media has misled the readership, and created a closed intellectual environment in Okinawa. This is inherently dangerous for a democracy. Alternative opinions need to be able to thrive. In Okinawa, they are ignored or killed off. That is what totalitarian societies do.

 Therefore, Toutes les MercurialX Proximo Street TF sont pour les supporteurs de foot. the local media, working hand-in-hand with like-minded scholars, activists, and politicians, can only be described the enemy of the people. The bookstores should not be a party to this—they must allow alternative views to flourish, or else democracy dies.
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