Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Nakayama,Macronesia & JapanJINFTalk

Terada Mari Japan Study Award


A Talk Given to the
Board of Directors and Distinguished Guests
The Japan Institute for National Fundamentals
6 July 2015

David Hanlon
Department of History
University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

David Hanlon

The area within the Micronesian geographical region that concerns me is the Federated States of Micronesia with its four constituent island states of Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap. The FSM is one of the four political entities to emerge from the former, American-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. I seek to contribute to the on-going development of the practice of history in the area through the life history of a man named Tosiwo Nakayama of Chuuk, the first president of the FSM and the individual most responsible for its emergence as a self-governing entity. His story, like that of Micronesia, remains largely blanketed under the term “Americanization,” for some, a one-word history of everything that has transpired in the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall Islands since 1944. The words “Micronesia” and “Micronesian” are in many ways equally problematic in approaching the histories of these islands in this time period, and for reasons I have argued elsewhere. The fact that Nakayama grew up during Japanese times in Micronesia and rose to political prominence during the American period makes him a particularly appropriate subject for anyone interested in comparative colonialism. The transoceanic character of his life also invites a reconsideration of Japan’s place in an expansive island world.
Nakayama's early rise to prominence in Chuuk constitutes a remarkable story given the physical, political and cultural distance that separates Namonuito, his home atoll in the northwest area of Chuuk State, from the main Lagoon group. Complex engagements with colonialism, decolonization and nation-making were central to Nakayama's career; these encounters place him squarely in the middle of some of the most complex and important issues in twentieth-century Pacific Islands history. A biography of Tosiwo Nakayama also invites a reconsideration of migration, transnational crossings, and the actual size of island worlds. His efforts at forging a politically unified Micronesia not withstanding, his story encourages a reconsideration of the Oceanic world in ways that challenge political boundaries, anthropological categories and historical assumptions. What I find particularly remarkable is the reach and range of his efforts, and the expansiveness of his vision. “Macronesia,” not “Micronesia,” seems a more appropriate term for the world he inhabited and tried to make accessible to others.
Though a seemingly trite, all-too-predictable metaphor, the term “navigator” certainly applies to the life of Tosiwo Nakayama. There are, I think, interesting parallels to be drawn between the lives of Tosiwo Nakayama and Mau Piailug, the acclaimed, recently deceased navigator from Satawal. Both men lived, labored, and traveled in a world much larger than the term “Micronesia” would indicate. Nakayama himself came from a family of navigators and at a critical juncture in his adult life seriously considered abandoning his public career to study traditional navigation techniques. His uncle Raatior and grand uncle Opich were highly regarded palu who belonged to the same school of navigation – weriyeng – as Mau and also Hipour of Polowat.
An examination of the life and times of Tosiwo Nakayama certainly involves much more than a narrative of political events. There is a complex history here that defies easy categorization. The prolonged negotiations and subsequent compromises that enabled the realization of the Federated States of Micronesia do not lend themselves to a simple, romanticized history of resistance and independence. There exist too the many layered cultural contexts that informed Nakayama’s life and career; these can not be quickly or summarily rendered. His clan membership through his mother Rosania linked him with islands in Yap, a fact that contributed significantly to his success as a legislator in the Congress of Micronesia and later as the first president of the Federated States of Micronesia. Members of his clan, Pike, can be found residing on islands and atolls that stretch from Yap in the west to the Mortlocks in what is today southeastern Chuuk state. His marriage to Miter Haruo allowed him to transcend the strong prejudices of the Chuuk lagoon people against outer islanders; Miter was a senior woman in the Lagoon area’s most prominent clan, the Sópwunupi. It is perhaps an obvious and too simple statement, but one still worth making; the blood of women made possible Nakayama’s political career.
Nakayama inhabited a world of islands. Piserach in Namonuito Atoll, the place of his birth, was but the first of many islands that figure prominently in the life history. Nakayama spent his earliest years on Onoun, another of Namonuito Atoll’s islands, where his father worked as the resident trader for the Japanese trading firm, Nan’yō Bōeki Kaisha or Nambō as it was commonly known. While still a very young boy, Tosiwo Nakayama moved with his family to Lukunor, one of the Mortlock Islands in the southeastern region of Chuuk State. Subsequently, he lived on Toloas, the Japanese administrative and later military center for Chuuk. War forced the civilian residents of Toloas to seek shelter elsewhere; the Nakayamas moved to Tol where they lived with the family of Shotaro Aizawa, another Nambō trader, and in close proximity to Mori Koben, an early arriving Japanese trader in the Chuuk region who had achieved considerable prominence for his commercial acumen, cultural knowledge, and his position as the head of a large local family. Following his father’s forced repatriation to Japan in the post-war period, young Tosiwo Nakayama spent his time between Onoun and Weno in the Chuuk Lagoon where he alternated school with work.
His enrollment at the Pacific Islands Central School on the Lagoon island of Weno from 1951-1953 brought him into direct contact with students from other islands within the Trust Territory. As he became more publicly and politically prominent, his island horizons expanded even further. His participation in the Interisland Advisory Council meetings on Guam in the 1950s, the Council of Micronesia sessions also on Guam, and later the Congress of Micronesia on Saipan furthered his contact with islands people from other areas of the Trust Territory. His membership on the Congress of Micronesia’s Future Political Status Commission took him to numerous Pacific Islands states, including Samoa, New Guinea, and the Cook Islands as he and other members sought to identify a working governmental structure for a one-day independent Micronesian nation. Nakayama also traveled to the island of Manhattan within New York City to testify before the United Nation Trusteeship Council as a Trust Territory citizen and governmental employee on matters involving the administration of the territory. His two terms as president of the Federated States of Micronesia between 1979 and 1987 saw him journey to numerous island states and foreign countries in his efforts to secure international recognition and assistance for the government that he headed.
In many ways, Nakayama’s travels reflected a long-standing historical pattern in the region called Micronesia, and foreshadowed the renewal or intensification of that pattern following the implementation of the Compact of Free Association between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia. Voyaging had enabled the settlement of the islands and allowed for communication and exchange thereafter. The sawei exchange system, with its center on Yap, had stretched to islands as far east as Namonuito. The Ralik and Ratak chains had served as the loci of exchange, travel, and political organization in what is now the Marshalls. There was too the ocean traffic that moved between the Central Carolines and the Mariana Islands, and that proved pivotal in the repopulation of the Northern Marianas in the nineteenth century. Later colonial regimes, including those established by Germany and Japan, prohibited unauthorized interisland travel traffic. Movement and migration have since resumed, however.
For Nakayama and his fellow citizens, then, the ocean has always presented not an obstacle but a necessary avenue of travel and opportunity that is intimately linked to their well-being and survival. The landmasses of islands and atolls may be physically limited, but when seen as a part of a larger integrated Oceanic environment, they become quite large. The total area of the Trust Territory, stretching from the Marshalls in the east to Palau in the West, approximates that of the continental United States. As part of a grander oceanic environment, islands and atolls should be understood as large not small; the view from their shores to the horizon should be regarded as potentially more inspiring than intimidating, more motivating than discouraging. Survival for island peoples necessitated at times exploratory voyaging, interisland travel, and migrations to new places; this movement carried risk but also offered an expanded range of contacts, linkages, possibilities, opportunities, material goods, effective technologies, and new ideas. We might better understand Namonuito Atoll, Nakayama’s birthplace, in this more enlarged way; as part of a vast, surprisingly connected, and even contiguous oceanic region.
What Nakayama himself actually understood as Micronesia remains in some doubt. I suspect it is more accurate to say that he believed deeply in the possibility of a Micronesia. Early on in his career, he freely acknowledged the diversity and differences that separated the islands and their people, and that kept them from speaking together on the question of a future government. Despite the differences, Nakayama spoke of a common lifestyle and the shared experiences of war and colonial rule as a basis for unity. In none of his writings, speeches or interviews did he ever use the adjectives “tiny” or ‘small” to refer to the islands. He dismissed belittling, politically self-serving criticisms from beyond that characterized the islands as such, and advocated unrelentingly for the right of Micronesian peoples to represent and govern themselves. I don’t think he and Epeli Hau’ofa ever met, but I suspect the two would have been quite comfortable with each other if they had. The physical distance from which the islands were administered in the first decades of the American administration, the slow and uncertain pace of postwar reconstruction, and the incompetency and indifference of some administrators led Nakayama to conclude early on that island people were best governed by themselves. For Nakayama, it was not liberation, freedom, and the promise of development that distinguished American from Japanese times in the islands.
Japan was one of the most important of the many islands in Tosiwo Nakayama’s world of islands. Indeed, Tosiwo Nakayama was a child of Japan. Part of his familial connection was through Mori Koben. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 and subsequent modernization of Japan had disenfranchised the warrior or bushi class whose members were now forced to seek new avenues of livelihood and distinction. Some turned to careers in overseas business ventures and commercial opportunities. Born in Kochi City on the island of Shikoku, Mori Koben was affected by the mix of social circumstance, commercial ambition, literary imaginings, and national ambition that led some in Japan to look to the islands of the South Seas.
Reaching Chuuk in 1891, Mori, over time, established himself as a commercial presence, political force, family patriarch, and de facto representative of Japan in Chuuk. Mori’s marriage to the daughter of Manuppis, the most prominent chief on Weno, was perhaps the single most important factor in explaining his rise to prominence on Weno and the larger Lagoon area. Mori may not have been the model for Bōken Dankichi, Shimada Keizō’s comic book hero of the South Seas who wore a grown and grass skirt as the king of the South Sea islands. He was, however, a source of inspiration for the expansionist minded. Japan’s multi-faceted desire for the islands of the Nan’yo found expression in Yoden Suruhiku’s “Daku Daku Odori” that described though choreography and accompanying song the alluring seductive, dance of the chieftain’s daughter. While set in the Marshalls, Yoden’s song drew upon the reported exploits of Mori Koben. Yoden, like Mori, was from Kochi City on Shikoku, and grew up hearing tales of Mori’s life and adventures. The dance and song, as silly as their performance might have appeared, expressed an imperial desire for the islands and for the merging of Japanese and Islander genealogies as a way to more effectively and totally possess the islands and their people. The father of Tosiwo Nakayama’s mother Rosania was the brother of Mori Kobe’s wife Isa or Isabella. In short, Mori Koben was by marriage Tosiwo Nakayama’s great uncle. Nakayama then was linked by the circumstances of his birth to Japan’s imperial dance in the islands. His most immediate blood connection to Japan, however, was through his father, Nakayama Masami. We don’t know a great deal about Nakayama Masami prior to his arrival in Chuuk. His obituary in an August 1979 edition of the Truk Chronicle gives his birth date as October 29, 1898. The oldest of ten siblings, he grew up in Tsurumi, one of the major divisions or wards of the city of Yokohama in Kanagawa prefecture. There is no record of any strong political interests, commercial ambitions or literary influences. We can assume, however, that growing up in Yokohama made its impression on the young Masami. With its shipping traffic and relatively large international population, Yokohama was one of the major ports through which Japanese commercial traffic with the Pacific passed.
Growing up in Yokohama introduced Nakayama Masami to the larger world. A Japanese commercial firm hired him to work in it operations on Guam, and provided him with English language training as part of his preparations for work in that American colony. His English language instructor was an unnamed American of Japanese ancestry from California then living in Japan. Tosiwo Nakayama remembered his father’s ability in English. According to Tosiwo, Masami stressed the importance of English to his children and later expressed reservations about Japan’s ability to combat a larger and wealthier United States. The story of Nakayama Masami’s reservations, while not an altogether uncommon one from this period, reflected his more relaxed posture in the islands. He was not the ardent nationalist that Mori Koben seemed to be.
Nakayama Masami reached Chuuk in 1915 at the age of seventeen on a ship bound for Guam and the job that awaited him there. For reasons that are not altogether clear, Nakayama decided to leave the ship. He disembarked at Fefan and eventually found his way to Toloas or Dublon as it was then known. There, he encountered Mori Koben, a small community of Japanese traders, and the opportunity to work as a local trader. He came to be employed by the Nan’yō Bōeki Kabushiki Kaisha or Nambō after it absorbed the smaller trading company for which Nakayama originally worked. Sometime after his arrival, Mori Koben arranged a marriage for Nakayama Masami with a woman of Namonuito descent who had been born on the small island of Falo off Weno and had grown up in the village of Iras on Weno. The young woman’s name was Rosania. The arranged marriage, more a reflection perhaps of Japanese rather than Chuukese cultural practices, facilitated Masami’s assignment as a resident trader there for Nambō. Using a sloop provided him by the company, Nakayama collected copra from the Namonuito islands in return for trade goods, and then transported the copra to Toloas for further processing and shipment to Japan. Tosiwo, his third son and one of six children, was born on the island of Piserach on August 31, 1931. Masami was later stationed on Lukunor in the Mortlocks and then on Toloas in the Chuuk Lagoon. As children of a foreign man, Tosiwo, his four brothers, and one sister had no paternal clan affiliations. Their Japanese ancestry, however, provided them with a very different and significant set of relationships, privileges, and advantages, on islands that were now a Japanese colony.
In 1940, Masami Nakayama took his family to Toloas where he assumed management of the Nambō store there. With preparations for war intensifying, the military came to dominate life on Toloas. Most Japanese civilians were relocated to Tol. Largely rural, much less populated and with only a circumferential dirt road, Tol differed dramatically from Toloas. The Nakayamas lived close to the family of Aizawa Shotaro on Tol as both men were Nambō traders who knew each other quite well. The residence of Mori Koben was close by. A very young Tosiwo Nakayama was largely oblivious to the international developments and negotiations that had placed the islands under Japanese control. The consequences of that colonization and the war that followed, however, affected his life in profound and lasting ways, both personally and politically.
Tosiwo Nakayama’s memories of the war were more reflective and conciliatory than partisan or even aggrieved. He did witness from a distant hilltop on Tol the first hours of Operation Hailstone’s bombing of the Chuuk Lagoon. He remembered vividly the sight of American planes filling the sky, the sounds of bombs exploding, and seeing the large plumes of smoke rising from stricken ships at anchor in the Lagoon. The varying conditions on the different islands went along way to determining the nature of the relationship between Japanese and Chuukese in the post-bombing, soon to be post-war period. On Tol, where a large number of Japanese and Chuukese civilians took refuge, relations were relatively good. Having a Japanese father shielded the family from the harshness that most Chuukese experienced elsewhere in the Lagoon area. Tosiwo remembered his family as always having enough to eat. Rosania often returned from Japanese functions with extra food, part of which were then sent to a nearby Catholic mission station where provisions were scarce.
As the end of the war neared, wild rumors spread that Japanese planned to exterminate and then cannibalize all Chuukese as a way to cope with the serious food shortage on the islands. Worries abounded too about brutal treatment at the hands of the approaching Americans. There was little empathy for those few American airmen whose planes were shot down during the air raids. On Tol, Tosiwo Nakayama remembered an American aviator sitting in a boat, head down, and reading what appeared to be a letter. The airman then began to converse with his Japanese captors. The conversation sounded relaxed, almost friendly. The soldiers had to intervene with a group of Chuukese men who wanted to stone the pilot. Later, the soldiers led the pilot away; Nakayama assumed he was being taken to his execution.
While Chuukese may have felt little loss at the departure of Japanese soldiers from Chuuk, the removal of husbands, relatives, friends, employers, and neighbors constituted an intensely personal, heavily emotional experience for many. The sometimes, sudden unexpected announcement of departures compounded the shock and sadness. Whatever ill feelings may have existed between the principal combatants of war did not show themselves in Nakayama Masami’s interaction with American troops. The elder Nakayama’s ability to speak English permitted him a more casual relationship with occupation forces. Tosiwo Nakayama remembered his father’s easy banter with American troops on several occasions. Masami had indicated his preference to remain in Chuuk with his family but American occupation policy would not permit Japanese nationals to stay in the islands. There was apparently no discussion of Rosania or any of the male children accompanying Masami back to Japan as he considered postwar Japan an unwelcoming and difficult a place for his island family.
On the day of his repatriation, Rosania and the two older Nakayama sons saw Masami off. Tosiwo Nakayama stayed behind on Tol, sick and heart heavy he said. It would be fifteen years before Tosiwo Nakayama would see his father again. That meeting would take place in Yokohama and be the result of Tosiwo Nakayama’s personal search for his father during a trip that followed his 1961 presentation before the UN in New York City. Rather than return home directly, Nakayama decided to defy the strict restrictions on travel in and out of the Trust Territory at the time and fly the rest of the way around the world, stopping in Japan to find his father. At his son’s request, Nakayama Masami returned to Chuuk in 1972 and lived out the rest of his life there.
Having a Japanese father had spared Tosiwo Nakayama the more immediate hardships of wartime Chuuk. There was much less of a buffer from the conditions of the post-war period. Anthropologists later working for the naval administration that replaced the occupation forces worried about the long-term effects of racial bias on American-Micronesian relations. Nakayama felt that racism, and quickly noticed the overall inability and indifference of both the American naval and later civilian administrations. The Americans’ arrival did not bring liberation and freedom, but simply, another more alien colonizing regime. Life was not better under the first years of American rule. It lacked the structure, order, focus, and relative material comfort of the pre-war years. When asked what is reaction would have been to Japan’s victory in World War II, Nakayama replied that he would have had no difficulty accepting that outcome. It’s an understandable but still curious statement that does not fit easily with the process of decolonization that he later helped lead.
The prejudice that Nakayama experienced during his lifetime did not recognize any racial ethnic, temporal or spatial limits. As a child living among Japanese and Chuukese communities on Toloas before the war, he was too dark for some of his playmates and not dark enough for others. There was racism too in the social hierarchy with which Japan administered and managed its colonial empire in the Nan’yo, in the slurs American occupying forces used when referring to Chuukese and other Micronesians, in Lagoon Chuukese attitudes toward outer islanders and atoll dwellers, and in the wariness and suspicion with which people of mixed-blood were regarded in the immediate post-war period by prominent Lagoon chiefs such as Petrus Mailo. In his later years, Nakayama told the story of Japanese visitors – dignitaries, government officials, businessmen and tourists, who came to his office looking for “President Tosiwo Nakayama” and with a very definite set of expectations as to what “President Nakayama” would look like. They were surprised, even startled, he said, to find a “Black Nakayama.”
It is not fashionable to speak of nation building in these times when the emphasis falls on the border crossings, the blurring of boundaries and the global migration of people, ideas, technologies, and goods that challenge the relevance and a viability of the nation state. Nonetheless, we might understand Tosiwo Nakayama as a disciple of modernity who was very much committed to nation building. There might be those who would cast critical or suspicious eyes on Nakayama’s early political career, seeing him as a tool, puppet, or self-serving careerist. Gramscian analysis might understand Nakayama and others like him as local elite or tools of a hegemonic order who wittingly or unwittingly collaborated in their own subjugation and in the victimization or subordination of their people. Nakayama’s early administrative employment in Chuuk and his work in the Congress of Micronesia could easily be construed as a mimetic effort to use the principles and procedures of democratic government to serve the American agenda of domination over the islands. But we are well advised to remember Guha’s still relevant cautions about the ways in which the ideological tools and constructs of domination can be used by subordinate or subaltern peoples to counter or at least mitigate subjugation and domination.
This is certainly the case with Nakayama’s involvement in the Congress of Micronesia. Nakayama served in the congress from its inception in 1965 to its dissolution in 1979; he was the president of its senate for half of that time. The congress, as initially constituted, was to serve as a body of advice and consent with only a small portion of the territory’s funding to allocate and little or no effective governing power. Any legislation passed by the Congress of Micronesia was subject to a once and final veto by the Trust Territory High Commissioner. These limits to congressional power were compounded by the requirements to work under the 745-page law code of the Trust Territory and to abide by legislative regulations governing quorums, conferences, resolutions, votes, committee reports, protocols of address, the introduction and readings of bills, the rules of debate, and budget authorizations and appropriation.
Although modeled after the United States Congress, the Congress of Micronesia could be deceptive, even subversive in its hybridity. The localized cultures and histories that informed its operation created critical distinctions and crucial differences that made it exasperating for those who expected an exact duplication, a mirror image, an eminently manageable mock legislative body that would serve the dominant interests of the larger political system that had created it. The efforts of Nakayama and his fellow congressmen need to be understood as affected by a host of personal relationships, kinship obligations, ethnic loyalties, clan affiliations, private ambitions, and localized politics and rivalries. Mimicry there certainly was, but mimicry that Homi Bhabha describes as unsettling to colonial authorities in its “almost the same but not quite” features. The willingness of different island representatives to engage each other as Micronesians and largely through the language of the colonizer evidenced what Pierre Bourdieu might call a practical encounter with the social and economic conditions of their predicament.
The Congress of Micronesia enabled Nakayama’s return to Japan in 1976 where, to the dismay of both the Japanese and American governments, he asserted himself successfully into stalled negotiations over an airline route between Tokyo and Saipan that he and others deemed vital to the economic development of a future, autonomous and self-governing Federated States of Micronesia. In a letter of protest to then Japanese Foreign Minister Hatoyama Iichiro and also Yamaji Susumu of Japan’s Civil Aeronautics Bureau, Nakayama and Speaker of the Congress of Micronesia’s Bethwel Henry wrote that a “delay of one year may be insignificant in terms of the long range interests of Japan and the United States, but it represents a serious economic step back to our islands, which are scheduled to become the newest self-governing area in the Western Pacific four years from now.
Nakayama was well aware of the access and advantage his paternal ancestry provided him, and he used it to political advantage during his Congress of Micronesia days and later during his two terms as president of the Federated States of Micronesia. Nakayama was practical, pragmatic, and a politician. He had plans for Japan. He and Henry visited Japan again in the following year in 1977 to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo, his top aides, cabinet ministers, and members of the Japanese Diet. The focus of the their meeting was the then current and future relationship between the two countries, and Japan’s contribution to the economic development of the islands. Nakayama underscored the importance of Japan to the islands’ future and looked forward to the day when formal diplomatic relations could be established between the two island countries. Nakayama called the meeting a “miracle,” the first of its kind, and said he would be returning to Japan later with a “long shopping list.” Japan would later figure prominently as a source of foreign aid and diplomatic recognition in the early years of the Federated States of Micronesia. The Compact of Free Association with the United States aside, the FSM received its first foreign assistance from the government of Japan in 1981 in the form of heavy equipment for secondary road construction. Japan was also the first country to negotiate fishing agreements with the FSM’s Micronesian Maritime Authority and under the terms of the Law of the Sea Treaty to which the FSM was a signatory.
Nakayama returned to Japan on numerous occasions for both diplomatic and personal reasons. In 1984, for example, he and his wife Miter attended a reception for then Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko hosted by the Japan-Micronesia Association at the Ginza Tokyu Hotel in Tokyo. Before the evening reception, Nakayama and his wife had a private afternoon tea with the Crown Prince who had actually met the Nakayama's eldest daughter Rosemary in 1979 when she was a member of a student exchange group from the islands visiting Japan. The Crown Prince had noticed her nametag and inquired about her parents. When informed by Rosemary that her father was the president of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Crown Prince expressed a desire to meet him. Advocates of a strong and continuing relationship between Japan and the Micronesian islands used the 1979 encounter to successfully lobby for that private afternoon between the Crown Prince and the Nakayamas in 1984. In so doing, they had to overcome the objections of the Foreign Ministry whose representatives argued that such a meeting was inappropriate because the FSM was not yet a fully independent and self-governing nation.
After his time in Tokyo, Nakayama visited Yokohama to attend a gathering of the Nan’yō Guntō Kai, a nation-wide association of Japanese citizens who had lived and worked in Micronesia during Mandate days. Nakayama thanked his Japanese hosts for their hospitality, and recalled that his father was from Yokohama and had been a member of the association. While in Japan, Nakayama, along with the presidents of Republic of Belau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, attended a gathering of Asia Pacific Parliamentarians Union, and met with Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro. It was the first formal diplomatic meeting between a Japanese prime minister and the heads of Micronesian governments. Later, in a December 1984 interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun, Nakayama called for more assistance from Japan, and anticipated even closer ties between the two countries in the years to come. He also took the opportunity to explain the Compact of Free Association and its defense provisions, and to express the hope that outstanding war claims between Japan and the FSM would be settled “with some kind of formula to pay people what is due them.”
Nakayama at times took a firm stand with Japan. The FSM’s need for assistance did not prevent Nakayama from speaking out against the degradation of the region’s environment. As he had during his Congress of Micronesia days, Nakayama consistently opposed any an all plans to dump nuclear waste into Pacific waters. In September of 1980, he joined with chief executives from other parts of the Micronesian region in asking Japan not to dump 10,000 barrels of low-grade nuclear waste into international waters 540 miles north of the Mariana Islands. In late June of 1984, he spoke to the crew of the visiting Pacific Peacemaker on Pohnpei and assured them of the FSM’s opposition to all nuclear testing and dumping in the region. He voiced his intention to support all anti-nuclear testing and dumping resolutions at the South Pacific Forum meeting on Tuvalu later that year.
Nakayama continued contact with Japan after his second term as president expired. He again visited Japan in 1989 for Akihito’s coronation as emperor and, from 1991 until 2003, headed the Japan-FSM Parliamentarian Friendship Society, an organization that seeks to maintain the historical connections between Japan and its former Mandate Islands. Former Prime Mister of Japan Mori Yoshiro, whose father had served in Chuuk during the war, succeeded Nakayama as president of the society in 2003 While he spoke Chuukese and had a limited ability in Japanese, Nakayama used English to help legislate and negotiate the Federated States of Micronesia into existence. He spoke softly, and in simple declarative sentences. He would sometimes drop an article, a possessive or a preposition, and on occasion employ an awkward phrase or word. Nonetheless, his proficiency in English was quite remarkable given his limited formal schooling, and enabled him to engage with the most sophisticated or complicated of ideas. That said, he was in many ways a modernist; he believed in the promise of modernity. He used words like “democracy,” “development,” “nation,” and “sovereignty,” in ways that were quite literal and uncritical. While many within and beyond Micronesia worried about the growing dependency caused by the infusion of large amounts of American aid in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nakayama argued that it was not nearly enough. When asked what would be the economic foundations for an autonomous, self-governing Micronesian nation, he pointed to the sea, the sun, and the wind, and referenced the example of Japan in so doing. Referring to outside development specialists, Nakayama said; “They tell us we have nothing to gain from the land, and practically nothing to gain from the sea. These people are a bunch of liars. They lie; they fool us . . . In Japan, they bottle and sell Fujiyama air. Things will change. Air will become very precious. Sunshine might become like medicine.”
There were many who doubted the possibility of a unified, self-governing Micronesia. It sounded like such a preposterous, impractical, outrageous, and unworkable idea. Tosiwo Nakayama countered that doubt and skepticism with stories that spoke of his hopes and aspirations. He was very much a story teller. Nakayama believed strongly in the possibilities of Micronesian unity despite the artificial bordering of the region by six different colonial regimes and the diversity and difference within that bordering. In his efforts to promote the acceptance of the Micronesian draft constitution before the 1978 plebiscite, Nakayama traveled widely. In his meetings on the different atolls and island visited, he would tell the story of a deity once dismembered but made whole again by the belief of people. For those who wondered what leverage Micronesia’s representatives had in their negotiations with a country as large, rich, and powerful as the United States, Nakayama cited the tale of a young boy who, alone among a crowd, showed that the way to make a large elephant move was to squeeze its balls.
Stories aside, we should not underestimate the enormous complexities of establishing a nation-state anywhere in the world, especially in the Micronesian area. They say that navigators develop bloodshot eyes over the course of a voyage. They are awake and vigilant at all times of the day and night, keeping track of the a canoe’s course, drift and position while reading the stars, the waves, and other signs from the sea. As the individual most responsible for bringing the FSM into being, Tosiwo Nakayama often had bloodshot eyes. For Nakayama and the FSM, there were thirteen years of complex, frustrating, strained, and often stalled negotiations with the United States government; negotiations that included eight formal negotiating sessions held in different locations ranging from Washington, D. C. to Hilo, Honolulu, and Guam. Over the life of the negotiations, the Micronesian team, of which Nakayama was a pivotal member until 1979, had to deal with four presidential administrations, CIA surveillance, the complicated, sometimes conflicting requirements of the different American military branches and civilian bureaucracies, the decision of the Marianas, Marshalls and Palau to pursue their own separate negotiations with the United States, proposed cuts by the American side in already agreed upon levels of federal funding, and American reluctance to follow through on capitol improvement projects deemed a necessary prerequisite to any compact of free association. With negotiations completed in 1982, there followed a four-year period that included a local education program and country-wide referendum on the draft compact, and reviews by the four Micronesian state legislatures, the FSM and US Congresses, and the United Nations. Formal dissolution of the Trust Territory government’s administering authority over the Federated States of Micronesia did not come until 1986, Nakayama’s next to last year as president.
Nakayama had been a strong advocate of independence during his time in the Congress of Micronesia. A quiet man, Nakayama as president of the Senate rarely gave speeches, preferring to concentrate his efforts on managing the flow of congressional business from the president’s podium. His most-famous congressional utterance was only seven words long and was given in 1971 during a meeting of the Congress of Micronesia’s Senate; “Mr. President,” he said,” Micronesia ought to be independent.” To some, his eventual endorsement of free association with the United States seemed a startling reversal and contradiction of his earlier advocacy of independence. Nakayama himself did not see it that way. The constitution of the FSM was the foundation of an autonomous, self-governing, and sovereign nation, a fact to which American negotiators had begrudgingly acquiesced after initial opposition and considerable delay. The FSM constitution took precedence over any and all other agreements. To Nakayama’s way of thinking, the entry into a compact of free association was itself a demonstration of sovereignty – the act of a sovereign nation. When asked about the dangers of continuing to associate with the United States, Nakayama replied that there were many sharks in the ocean; it was to the FSM’s ultimate advantage to be allied with the biggest, ugliest, and meanest of them. He later explained that memories of World War Two made palatable and necessary the FSM’s entrusting of its defense to the United States through the Mutual Security Pact that was added as an addendum to the compact of Free Association.
Nakayama did not write or articulate in detail his world view or political philosophy. His views are to be ferreted from the many speeches and interviews he gave as well a modest body of correspondence from his congressional and presidential years. In this feature, he was unlike Jean-Marie Tjibaou, Bernard Narokobi, and Haunani-Kay Trask who wrote extensively about their respective visions for their peoples. While ne never wrote or spoke explicitly about the archipelagic character of greater Japan, I suspect he would have found Shimao Toshie’s concept of an Okinawa-centered Yaponesia eminently sensible. Similarly, his international travels and experiences would have led him to agree with Imafuku Ryūta’s view of a history that looks away from metropolitan centers toward islands and islander histories with their interconnected, hybrid and networked types of knowledge and consciousness. In many ways, Nakayama’s life was transoceanic in character. The expansiveness of the world in which he lived, worked, and traveled defies colonially imposed boundaries and periods of history. His life was about linkages and connections past and continuing. Tosiwo Nakayama’s life also invites a consideration of not only his ancestral links to Japan and Japan’s links to the islands, but also Japan’s identity as an island nation. Such an approach also encourages the English-speaking world to consider the complexities of Japan’s relationship with the islands called Micronesia, and beyond the narrative of war and the simple histories of victory and defeat engendered by that narrative.