The effects of the battle of Okinawa in 1945 still remain today with countless tracts of land left vacant as ownership records were lost during air raids. Just over 805,000 sqm (199 acres) of land is missing records of ownership as houses were burned down along with the land registers and title documents.
In Teruya, Itoman City, in the southern end of Okinawa, sugarcane farming and residential houses are gradually increasing. However, a small 74 sqm block of land remains vacant as no one knows who the rightful owner is.
An 81 year old neighbor said the house and farm has long since disappeared. During the 1945 battle, 213 of the 544 local residents in this neighborhood lost their lives and 13 homes were destroyed. The neighbor remembers walking through the area on her way to and from highschool following the battle. At that time there were just two tiled-roof houses remaining, and the fields were full of holes.
The town halls that kept the land registers and the courthouses that kept the registration documents were destroyed in the war. Following the war, land owners formed new boundary agreements with neighbors. However, there were many land owners who perished in the battle.
In Okinawa Prefecture, there are 2663 blocks of land with unknown owners. The Prefecture’s Property Management Division has published the details of each block on their website which can be viewed .
The government will be embarking on a factual investigation this year and hope to find a way to deal with the unclaimed land within the next 5 years.
The Okinawa Times, May 19, 2012.
The Asahi Shimbun, June 23, 2012.