Documenting Okinawa’s changing identity over the past half century

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The smell of burning rubber and oil filled the air when Hiroaki Yamashiro walked through the streets of Koza, Okinawa, on the morning of Dec. 20, 1970. Dashing up the stairs of a pedestrian crossing over Highway 24, he could see through the smoke around 70 charred vehicles, many overturned. He began recording the destruction with his camera.

This was the aftermath of what would be known as the Koza riot, in which roughly 5,000 Okinawans clashed with around 700 American military police in a violent display of anger toward 25 years of U.S. military occupation in Japan’s southernmost archipelago.

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