History of the Ryukyu Islands

This article is about the history of the Ryukyu Islands southwest of the main islands of Japan.


The name "Ryūkyū" originates from Chinese writings.[1][2] The earliest references to "Ryūkyū" write the name as 琉虬 and 流求 (pinyin: Liúqiú; Jyutping: Lau4kau4) in the Chinese history Book of Sui in 607. It is a descriptive name, meaning "glazed horn-dragon".

The origin of the term "Okinawa" remains unclear, although "Okinawa" (Okinawan: Uchinaa) as a term was used in Okinawa. There was also a divine woman named "Uchinaa" in the book Omoro Sōshi, a compilation of ancient poems and songs from Okinawa Island. This suggests the presence of a divine place named Okinawa. The Chinese monk Jianzhen, who traveled to Japan in the mid-8th century CE to promote Buddhism, wrote "Okinawa" as 阿児奈波 (Hanyu Pinyin: A'érnàibō; Cantonese Jyutping: Aa2ngai4noi6bo1; Japanese: Ajinawa, Aninawa). The Japanese map series Ryukyu Kuniezu labeled the island as 悪鬼納 (Wokinaha) in 1644. The current Chinese characters (kanji) for Okinawa (沖縄) were first written in the 1702 version of Ryukyu Kuniezu.

Early history

Prehistoric period

The ancestry of the modern-day Ryukyuan people is disputed. One theory claims that the earliest inhabitants of these islands crossed a prehistoric land bridge from modern-day China, with later additions of Austronesians, Micronesians, and Japanese merging with the population.[3] The time when human beings appeared in Okinawa remains unknown. The earliest human bones were those of Yamashita Cave Man, about 32 000 years ago, followed by Pinza-Abu Cave Man, Miyakojima, about 26 000 years ago and Minatogawa Man, about 18 000 years ago. Of them, perfect bodies were excavated of the Minatogawa man. They probably came through China and were once considered to be the direct ancestors of those living in Okinawa. No stone tools were discovered with them. For the following 12 000 years, no trace of archaeological sites was discovered after the Minatogawa man site.[4]

Okinawa midden culture

Okinawa midden culture or shell heap culture is divided into the early shell heap period corresponding to the Jōmon period of Japan and the latter shell heap period corresponding to the Yayoi period of Japan. However, the use of Jōmon and Yayoi of Japan is questionable in Okinawa. In the former, it was a hunter-gatherer society, with wave-like opening Jōmon pottery. In the latter part of Jōmon period, archaeological sites moved near the seashore, suggesting the engagement of people in fishery. In Okinawa, rice was not cultivated during the Yayoi period but began during the latter period of shell-heap age. Shell rings for arms made of shells obtained in the Sakishima Islands, namely Miyakojima and Yaeyama islands, were imported by Japan. In these islands, the presence of shell axes, 2500 years ago, suggests the influence of a southeastern-Pacific culture.[5][6]

Mythology, the Shunten Dynasty and the Eiso Dynasty

The first history of Ryukyu was written in Chūzan Seikan ("Mirrors of Chūzan"), which was compiled by Shō Shōken (1617–75), also known as Haneji Chōshū. The Ryukyuan creation myth is told, which includes the establishment of Tenson as the first king of the islands and the creation of the Noro, female priestesses of the Ryukyuan religion. The throne was usurped from one of Tenson's descendants by a man named Riyu. Chūzan Seikan then tells the story of a Japanese samurai, Minamoto no Tametomo (1139–70), who fought in the Hogen Rebellion of 1156 and fled first to Izu Island and then to Okinawa. He had relations with the sister of the Aji of Ōzato and sired Shunten, who then led a popular rebellion against Riyu and established his own rule at Urasoe Castle. Most historians, however, discount the Tametomo story as a revisionist history that is intended to legitimize Japanese domination over Okinawa.[7] Shunten's dynasty ended in the third generation when his grandson, Gihon, abdicated, went into exile, and was succeeded by Eiso, who began a new royal lineage. The Eiso dynasty continued for five generations.

Gusuku period

Gusuku wall

Gusuku is the term used for the distinctive Okinawan form of castles or fortresses. Many gusukus and related cultural remains in the Ryukyu Islands have been listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites under the title Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu. After the midden culture, agriculture started about the 12th century, with the center moving from the seashore to higher places. This period is called the gusuku period. There are three perspectives regarding the nature of gusukus: 1) a holy place, 2) dwellings encircled by stones, 3) a castle of a leader of people. In this period, porcelain trade between Okinawa and other countries became busy, and Okinawa became an important relay point in eastern-Asian trade. Ryukyuan kings, such as Shunten and Eiso, were considered to be important governors. In 1272, Kublai Khan ordered Ryukyu to submit to Mongol suzerainty, but King Eiso refused. In 1276, the Mongol envoys returned, but were driven off the island by the Ryukyuans.[8] Hiragana was imported from Japan by Ganjin in 1265.

Three-Kingdom period

Nakijin gusuku (今帰仁城) built during the Sanzan Period
Ryukyu Kingdoms of Sanzan era
Three Kingdoms

The Three-Kingdom period, also known as the Sanzan period (三山時代 Sanzan-jidai) (Three Mountains), lasted from 1322 until 1429. There was a gradual consolidation of power under the Shō family. Shō Hashi (1372–1439) conquered Chūzan, the middle kingdom, in 1404 and made his father, Shō Shishō, the king. He conquered Hokuzan, the northern kingdom, in 1416 and conquered the southern kingdom, Nanzan, in 1429, thereby unifying the three kingdoms into a single Ryukyu Kingdom. Shō Hashi was then recognized as the ruler of the Ryukyu Kingdom (or Liuqiu Kingdom in Chinese) by the Emperor of China (during the Ming dynasty). He was presented with a red lacquerware plaque from the Emperor known as the Chūzan Tablet.[9] Although independent, the kings of the Ryukyu Kingdom paid tribute to the rulers of China.

Ryukyu Kingdom

Ryukyu Kingdom

Royal Seal of Ryukyu
Royal Seal
Map of Ryukyu Kingdom
Common languagesRyukyuan (native languages), Classical Chinese
native Ryukyuan religion, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, Taoism
King (国王) 
• 1429–1439
Shō Hashi
• 1477–1526
Shō Shin
• 1587–1620
Shō Nei
• 1848–1879
Shō Tai
Sessei (摂政) 
• 1666–1673
Shō Shōken
Kokushi (国師) 
• 1751–52
Sai On
LegislatureShuri Ō-fu (首里王府), Sanshikan (三司官)
• Unification
April 5, 1609
• Reorganized into Ryukyu Domain
• Annexed by Japan
March 27 1879
2,271 km2 (877 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kagoshima Prefecture
Okinawa Prefecture
Today part of Japan

In 1429, King Shō Hashi completed the unification of the three kingdoms and founded one Ryukyu Kingdom with its capital at Shuri Castle. Shō Shin (尚真) (1465–1526; r. 1477–1526) was the third king of the Second Sho Dynasty, whose reign has been described as the "Great Days of Chūzan", a period of great peace and relative prosperity. He was the son of Shō En, the founder of the dynasty, by Yosoidon, Shō En's second wife, often referred to as the queen mother. He succeeded his uncle, Shō Sen'i, who was forced to abdicate in his favor. Much of the foundational organization of the kingdom's administration and economy is traced back to developments which occurred during Shō Shin's reign. The reign of Shō Shin also saw the expansion of the kingdom's control over several of the outlying Ryukyu Islands, such as Miyako-jima and Ishigaki Island.

Many Chinese moved to Ryukyu to serve the government or engage in business during this period. The Ming dynasty Chinese sent from Fujian 36 Chinese families at the request of the Ryukyuan King to manage oceanic dealings in the kingdom in 1392 during the Hongwu Emperor's reign. Many Ryukyuan officials were descended from these Chinese immigrants, being born in China or having Chinese grandfathers.[10] They assisted the Ryukyuans in advancing their technology and diplomatic relations.[11][12][13]

Satsuma domination, 1609–1871

The invasion of the Ryukyu Kingdom by the Shimazu clan of Satsuma Domain took place in April 1609. Three thousand men and more than one hundred war junks sailed from Kagoshima at the southern tip of Kyushu. The Ryukyuans were defeated in the Amami Islands, then at Nakijin Castle on Okinawa Island. The Satsuma Samurai made a second landing near Yomitanzan and marched overland to Urasoe Castle, which they captured. Their war junks attempted to take the port city of Naha, but were defeated by the Ryūkyūan coastal defences. Finally Satsuma captured Shuri Castle,[14] the Ryukyuan capital, and King Shō Nei. Only at this point, the King famously told his army that "nuchidu takara" (life is a treasure), and they surrendered.[15] Many priceless cultural treasures were looted and taken to Kagoshima. As a result of the war, the Amami Islands were ceded to Satsuma in 1611, and the direct rule of Satsuma over the Amami Islands started in 1613.

After 1609, the Ryukyuan kings became vassals of Satsuma. Though recognized as an independent kingdom,[16] the islands were occasionally also referred to as being a province of Japan.[17] The Shimazu introduced a policy banning sword ownership by commoners. This led to the development of the indigenous Okinawan martial arts, which utilizes domestic items as weapons. This period of effective outside control also featured the first international matches of Go, as Ryukyuan players came to Japan to test their skill. This occurred in 1634, 1682, and 1710.[18][19]

In the 17th century, the kingdom was both a tributary of China and a vassal of Japan. Because China would not make a formal trade agreement unless a country was a tributary state, the kingdom was a convenient loophole for Japanese trade with China. When Japan officially closed foreign trade, the only exceptions for foreign trade were with the Dutch through Nagasaki, the Ryukyu Kingdom through the Satsuma Domain, and Korea through Tsushima.[20] Perry's "Black Ships", official envoys from the United States, came in 1853.[21] In 1871, the Mudan incident occurred, in which fifty-four Ryukyuans were killed in Taiwan. They wandered into the central part of Taiwan after their ship was wrecked.

Ryukyu Domain, 1872–1879

In 1872, the Ryukyu Kingdom was reconfigured as a feudal domain (han).[22] The people were described as appearing to be a "connecting link" between the Chinese and Japanese.[23] After the Taiwan Expedition of 1874, Japan's role as the protector of the Ryukyuan people was acknowledged; but the fiction of the Ryukyu Kingdom's independence was partially maintained until 1879.[24] In 1878, the islands were listed as a "tributary" to Japan. The largest island was listed as "Tsju San", meaning "middle island". Others were listed as Sannan in the south and Sanbok in the North Nawa. The main port was listed as "Tsju San". It was open to foreign trade.[23] Agricultural produce included tea, rice, sugar, tobacco, camphor, fruits, and silk. Manufactured products included cotton, paper, porcelain, and lacquered ware.[23]

Okinawa Prefecture, 1879–1937

In 1879, Japan declared its intention to annex the Ryukyu Kingdom. China protested and asked former U.S. President Ulysses Grant, then on a diplomatic tour of Asia, to intercede. One option considered involved Japan annexing the islands from Amami Island north, China annexing the Miyako and Yaeyama islands, and the central islands remaining an independent Ryukyu Kingdom. When the negotiation eventually failed, Japan annexed the entire Ryukyu archipelago.[25] Thus, the Ryukyu han was abolished and replaced by Okinawa Prefecture by the Meiji government. The monarchy in Shuri was abolished and the deposed king Shō Tai (1843–1901) was forced to relocate to Tokyo. In compensation, he was made a marquis in the Meiji system of peerage.[26]

King Sho Tai
The last King Shō Tai

Hostility against mainland Japan increased in the Ryukyus immediately after its annexation to Japan in part because of the systematic attempt on the part of mainland Japan to eliminate the Ryukyuan culture, including the language, religion, and cultural practices. Japan introduced public education that permitted only the use of standard Japanese while shaming students who used their own language by forcing them to wear plaques around their necks proclaiming them "dialect speakers." This increased the number of Japanese language speakers on the islands, creating a link with the mainland. When Japan became the dominant power of the Far East, many Ryukyuans were proud of being citizens of the Empire. However, there was always an undercurrent of dissatisfaction for being treated as second class citizens.

The mongoose was introduced from India in 1910 to control the venomous habu snake, but because it is active at night while the snakes are active during the day, the strategy to control the snakes did not work. The mongoose since then has become considered an invasive species because it has fed upon indigenous species, such as the Okinawa rail, almost to the point of extinction.[27]

Okinawa and World War II

In the years leading up to World War II, the Japanese government sought to reinforce national solidarity in the interests of militarization. In part, they did so by means of conscription, mobilization, and nationalistic propaganda. Many of the people of the Ryukyu Islands, despite having spent only a generation as full Japanese citizens, were interested in proving their value to Japan in spite of prejudice expressed by mainland Japanese people.[28]

In 1943, during World War II, the US President asked its ally, the Republic of China, if it would lay claim to the Ryukyus after the war.[29] "The President then referred to the question of the Ryukyu Islands and enquired more than once whether China would want the Ryukyus. The Generalissimo replied that China would be agreeable to joint occupation of the Ryukyus by China and the United States and, eventually, joint administration by the two countries under the trusteeship of an international organization." On March 23, 1945, the United States began its attack on the island of Okinawa, the final outlying islands, prior to the expected invasion of mainland Japan.

Battle of Okinawa - April 1 – June 22, 1945

The Battle of Okinawa was one of the last major battles of World War II,[30] claiming the lives of an estimated 120,000 combatants. The Ryukyus were the only inhabited part of Japan to experience a land battle during World War II. In addition to the Japanese military personnel who died in the Battle for Okinawa, well over one third of the civilian population, which numbered approximately 300,000 people, were killed. Many important documents, artifacts, and sites related to Ryukyuan history and culture were also destroyed, including the royal Shuri Castle.[31] Americans had expected the Okinawan people to welcome them as liberators but the Japanese had used propaganda to make the Okinawans fearful of Americans. As a result, some Okinawans joined militias and fought along Japanese. This was a major cause of the civilian casualties, as Americans could not distinguish between combatants and civilian.

Due to fears concerning their fate during and after the invasion, the Okinawan people hid in caves and in family tombs. Several mass deaths occurred, such as in the "Cave of the Virgins", where many Okinawan school girls committed suicide by jumping off cliffs for fear of rape. Similarly, whole families committed suicide or were killed by near relatives in order to avoid suffering what they believed would be a worse fate at the hands of American forces; for instance, on Zamami Island at Zamami Village, almost everyone living on the island committed suicide two days after Americans landed.[32] Although the Americans had made plans to safeguard the Okinawans,[33] their fears were not entirely unfounded, as killing of civilians and destruction of civilian property did take place; for example, on Aguni Island, 90 residents were killed and 150 houses were destroyed.[34]

As the fighting intensified, Japanese soldiers hid in caves with civilians, further increasing civilian casualties. Additionally, Japanese soldiers shot Okinawans who attempted to surrender to Allied Forces. America utilized Nisei Okinawans in psychological warfare, broadcasting in Okinawan, leading to the Japanese belief that Okinawans who did not speak Japanese were spies or disloyal to Japan, or both. These people were often killed as a result. As food became scarce, some civilians were killed over small amounts of food. "At midnight, soldiers would wake up Okinawans and take them to the beach. Then they chose Okinawans at random and threw hand grenades at them."[35]

Massive casualties in the Yaeyama Islands caused the Japanese military to force people to evacuate from their towns to the mountains, even though malaria was prevalent there. Fifty-four percent of the island's population died due to starvation and disease. Later, islanders unsuccessfully sued the Japanese government. Many military historians believe that the ferocity of the Battle of Okinawa led directly to the American decision to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A prominent holder of this view is Victor Davis Hanson, who states it explicitly in his book Ripples of Battle: "because the Japanese on Okinawa, including native Okinawans, were so fierce in their defense (even when cut off, and without supplies), and because casualties were so appalling, many American strategists looked for an alternative means to subdue mainland Japan, other than a direct invasion."[36]

Princess Lilies

After the beginning of World War II, the Japanese military conscripted school girls (15 to 16 years old) to join a group known as the Princess Lilies (Hime-yuri) and to go to the battle front as nurses. There were seven girls' high schools in Okinawa at the time of World War II. The board of education, made up entirely of mainland Japanese, required the girls' participation. The Princess Lilies were organized at two of them, and a total of 297 students and teachers eventually joined the group. Teachers, who insisted that the students be evacuated to somewhere safe, were accused of being traitors.

Most of the girls were put into temporary clinics in caves to take care of injured soldiers. With a severe shortage of food, water and medicine, 211 of the girls died while trying to care for the wounded soldiers. The Japanese military had told these girls that, if they were taken as prisoners, the enemy would rape and kill them; the military gave hand grenades to the girls to allow them to commit suicide rather than be taken as prisoners. One of the Princess Lilies explained: "We had a strict imperial education, so being taken prisoner was the same as being a traitor. We were taught to prefer suicide to becoming a captive."[35] Many students died saying, "Tennō Heika Banzai", which means "Long live the Emperor".

Post-war occupation

STOCKADE in Okinawa
Stockade housing some of the thousands of Japanese troops who surrendered in the last stages of the campaign on Okinawa (1945)

After the war, the islands were occupied by the United States and were initially governed by the United States Military Government of the Ryukyu Islands from 1945 to 1950 when it was replaced by the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands from 1950 which also established the Japanese Government of the Ryukyu Islands in 1952. The Treaty of San Francisco which went into effect in 1952, officially ended wartime hostilities. However, ever since the battle of Okinawa, the presence of permanent American bases has created friction between Okinawans and the U.S. military. During the occupation, American military personnel were exempt from domestic jurisdiction since Okinawa was an occupied territory of the United States.

Effective U.S. control continued even after the end of the occupation of Japan as a whole in 1952. The United States dollar was the official currency used, and cars drove on the right, American-style, as opposed to on the left as in Japan. The islands switched to driving on the left in 1978, six years after they were returned to Japanese control. The U.S. used their time as occupiers to build large army, air force, navy, and marine bases on Okinawa.

On November 21, 1969, U.S. President Richard Nixon and Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Satō signed the Okinawa Reversion Agreement in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1971.[37] The U.S. reverted the islands to Japan on May 15, 1972, setting back a Ryūkyū independence movement that had emerged. Under terms of the agreement, the U.S. retained its rights to bases on the island as part of the 1952 Treaty to protect Japan, but those bases were to be nuclear-free. The United States military still controls about 19% of the island, making the 30,000 American servicemen a dominant feature in island life. While the Americans provide jobs to the locals on base, and in tourist venues, and pay rent on the land, widespread personal relationships between U.S. servicemen and Okinawan women remain controversial in Okinawan society. Okinawa remains Japan's poorest prefecture.

Some Okinawans refuse to raise the Japanese flag at official events. Because of its perceived connection to Japanese Imperialism, many on the left of political affiliation will refuse to raise the flag, though some undoubtedly have additional nationalistic motives.

Agent Orange controversy

Evidence suggests that the US military's Project 112 tested biochemical agents on US marines in Okinawa in the 1960s.[38] Later, suggestions were made that the US may have stored and used Agent Orange at its bases and training areas on the island.[39][40] In at least one location where Agent Orange was reportedly used, there have been incidences of leukemia among locals, one of the listed effects of Agent Orange exposure. Drums that were unearthed in 2002 in one of the reported disposal locations were seized by the Okinawa Defense Bureau, an agency of Japan's Ministry of Defense, which has not issued a report on what the drums contained.[41] The United States denies that Agent Orange was ever present on Okinawa.[42] Thirty US military veterans claim that they saw Agent Orange on the island. Three of them have been awarded related disability benefits by the US Veteran's administration. The locations of suspected Agent Orange contamination include Naha port, Higashi, Camp Schwab, and Chatan.[43][44] In May 2012, it was claimed that the US transport ship USNS Schuyler Otis Bland (T-AK-277) had transported herbicides to Okinawa on 25 April 1962. The defoliant might have been tested in Okinawa's northern area between Kunigami and Higashi by the US Army's 267th Chemical Service Platoon to assess its potential usefulness in Vietnam.[45] A retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel, Kris Roberts, told The Japan Times that his base maintenance team unearthed leaking barrels of unknown chemicals at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in 1981.[46] In 2012 a US Army environmental assessment report, published in 2003, was discovered which stated that 25,000 55-gallon drums of Agent Orange had been stored on Okinawa before being taken to Johnston Atoll for disposal.[47] In February 2013, an internal US DoD investigation concluded that no Agent Orange had been transported to, stored, or used on Okinawa. No veterans or former base workers were interviewed for the investigation.[48]

Prosecution under Status of Forces Agreement

After Okinawa reunited with Japan in 1972, Japan immediately signed a treaty with the U.S. so that the American military could stay in Okinawa. The legal agreement remained the same. If American military personnel were accused of a crime in Okinawa, the US military retained jurisdiction to try them as part of the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) if the victim were another American or if the offense were committed during the execution of official duties. This is routine for military service people stationed in foreign countries.

In 1995, two Marines and a sailor kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old girl, and, under the SOFA with the U.S., local police and prosecutors were unable to get access to the troops until they were able to prepare an indictment. What angered many Okinawans in this instance was that the suspects were not handed over to Japanese police until after they had been formally indicted in an Okinawan court, although they were apprehended by American military law enforcement authorities the day after the rape and confined in a navy brig until then. In the Michael Brown Okinawa assault incident, a US Marine officer was convicted of attempted indecent assault and destruction of private property involving a local resident of Filipino descent who worked at Camp Courtney.[49]

In February, 2008, a U.S. Marine was arrested for allegedly raping a 14-year-old Japanese girl in Okinawa,[50] and a member of the U.S. Army was suspected of raping a Filipino woman in Okinawa.[51] U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer flew to Okinawa and met with Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima to express U.S. concern over the cases and offer cooperation in the investigation.[52] U.S. Forces Japan designated February 22 as a Day of Reflection for all U.S. military facilities in Japan, setting up a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Task Force in an effort to prevent similar incidents.[53]

Planned development of American bases

Base-related revenue makes up 5% of the total economy. If the U.S. vacated the land, it is claimed that the island would be able to generate more money from tourism by the increased land available for development.[54] In the 1990s, a Special Actions Committee was set up to prepare measures to ease tensions, most notably the return of approximately 50 square kilometres (19 sq mi) to the Japanese state.

Other complaints are that the military bases disrupt the lives of the Okinawan people; the American military occupy more than a fifth of the main island. The biggest and most active air force base in east Asia, Kadena Air Base, is based on the island; the islanders complain the base produces large amounts of noise and is dangerous in other ways. In 1959 a jet fighter crashed into a school on the island, killing 17 children and injuring 121. On August 13, 2004, a U.S. military helicopter crashed into Okinawa International University, injuring the three crew members on board. The U.S. military arrived on scene first then physically barred local police from participating in the investigation of the crash. The US did not allow local authorities to examine the scene until six days after the crash.[55][56][57][58][59] In a similar manner, unexploded ordnance from WWII continues to be a danger, especially in sparsely-populated areas where it may have lain undisturbed or been buried.[60]

Notable people

  • Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., an American Lieutenant-General, was killed during the closing days of the Battle of Okinawa by enemy artillery fire, making him the highest-ranking US military officer to have been killed by enemy fire during World War II.
  • Isamu Chō was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army known for his support of ultranationalist politics and involvement in a number of attempted military and right-wing coup d'etats in pre-World War II Japan.
  • Satō Eisaku was a Japanese politician and the 61st, 62nd and 63rd Prime Minister of Japan. During his tenure, Okinawa was returned to Japan.
  • Takuji Iwasaki was a Japanese meteorologist, biologist, ethnologist historian.
  • Uechi Kanbun was the founder of Uechi-ryū, one of the primary karate styles of Okinawa.
  • Ōta Minoru was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, and the final commander of the Japanese naval forces defending the Oroku Peninsula during the Battle of Okinawa.
  • Ernest Taylor Pyle was an American journalist who wrote as a roving correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspaper chain from 1935 until his death in combat during World War II. He died in Ie Jima, Okinawa.
  • Akira Shimada was a governor of Okinawa Prefecture. He was sent to Okinawa in 1945 and died in the battle.
  • Mitsuru Ushijima was the Japanese general at the Battle of Okinawa, during the final stages of World War II.
  • Kentsū Yabu was a prominent teacher of Shōrin-ryū karate in Okinawa from the 1910s until the 1930s, and was among the first people to demonstrate karate in Hawaii.

See also


  1. ^ Minamijima Fudoki Chimei-gaisetsu Okinawa, Higashionna Kanjun, p.16 in Japanese
  2. ^ The transition of Okinawa and Ryukyu Ryukyu-Shimpo-Sha, 2007, in Japanese
  3. ^ An Austronesian Presence in Southern Japan: Early Occupation in the Yaeyama Islands Archived February 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Glenn R. Summerhayes and Atholl Anderson, Department of Anthropology, Otago University, retrieved November 22, 2009
  4. ^ Toshiaki, Arashiro (2001), High School History of Ryukyu, Okinawa, Toyo Kikaku, pp. 10–11, ISBN 4-938984-17-2 in which 3 more sites in Okinawa are described. Coral islands favor the preservation of olden human bones.
  5. ^ Toshiaki 2001, pp. 12, 20.
  6. ^ Ito, Masami, "Between a rock and a hard place", Japan Times, May 12, 2009, p. 3.
  7. ^ Tze May Loo, Heritage Politics: Shuri Castle and Okinawa's Incorporation into Modern Japan (New York: Lexington Books, 2014), 94-96.
  8. ^ George H. Kerr, Okinawa: History of an Island People (Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1958), 51.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Shih-shan Henry Tsai (1996). The eunuchs in the Ming dynasty (illustrated ed.). SUNY Press. p. 145. ISBN 0-7914-2687-4. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  11. ^ Angela Schottenhammer (2007). Angela Schottenhammer (ed.). The East Asian maritime world 1400–1800: its fabrics of power and dynamics of exchanges. Volume 4 of East Asian economic and socio-cultural studies: East Asian maritime history (illustrated ed.). Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. xiii. ISBN 3-447-05474-3. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  12. ^ Gang Deng (1999). Maritime sector, institutions, and sea power of premodern China. Volume 212 of Contributions in economics and economic history (illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 125. ISBN 0-313-30712-1. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  13. ^ Katrien Hendrickx (2007). The Origins of Banana-fibre Cloth in the Ryukyus, Japan (illustrated ed.). Leuven University Press. p. 39. ISBN 90-5867-614-5. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
  14. ^ Okinawa Prefectural reserve cultural assets center (2015). "首里城跡". sitereports.nabunken.go.jp. Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  15. ^ Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai Capture a King: Okinawa 1609. 2009.
  16. ^ Smits, Gregory. (1999). Visions of Ryūkyū: Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics, p. 28.
  17. ^ Toby, Ronald P. (1991). State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan: Asia and the development of the Tokugawa bakufu, pp. 45–46, citing manuscripts at the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo; excerpt, "Ieyasu granted the Shimazu clan the right to "rule" over Ryukyu ... [and] contemporary Japanese even referred to the Shimazu clan as 'lords of four provinces', which could only mean that they were including the Ryukyu Kingdom in their calculations. However, this does not mean that Ryūkyū ceased to be a foreign country or that relations between Naha and Edo ceased thereby to be foreign relations.".
  18. ^ Sensei's Library: Ryukyuan players
  19. ^ MindZine – Go – Feature: Go in old Okinawa Archived March 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Hamashita Takeshi, "The Intra-Regional System in East Asia in Modern Times", in Network Power: Japan and Asia, ed. P. Katzenstein and T. Shiraishi (1997), 115
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ Lin, Man-houng. "The Ryukyus and Taiwan in the East Asian Seas: A Longue Durée Perspective," Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. October 27, 2006, translated and abridged from Academia Sinica Weekly, No. 1084. August 24, 2006.
  23. ^ a b c (Ross/Globe Vol. IV: Loo-Choo, 1878)
  24. ^ Goodenough, Ward H. Book Review: "George H. Kerr. Okinawa: the History of an Island People ...," The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, May 1959, Vol. 323, No. 1, p. 165.
  25. ^ The Demise of the Ryukyu Kingdom: Western Accounts and Controversy. Ed by Eitetsu Yamagushi and Yoko Arakawa. Ginowan-City, Okinawa: Yonushorin, 2002.
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  27. ^ "Flightless bird species coming back in Okinawa." [3] 20 Mar 2014. Accessed 4 May 2016.
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  34. ^ Aguni Island
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  36. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis, (October 12, 2004). "Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think", Anchor, October 12, 2004, ISBN 0-385-72194-3 ISBN 978-0385721943
  37. ^ Okinawa Reversion Agreement – 1971
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  55. ^ No Fly Zone English Home
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  60. ^ MACHINAMI : Ie Island


Further reading

  • John McLeod (1818), "(Lewchew)", Voyage of His Majesty's ship Alceste, along the coast of Corea to the island of Lewchew (2nd ed.), London: J. Murray

External links

Coordinates: 24°26′N 122°59′E / 24.433°N 122.983°E

Aji (Ryukyu)

An aji, anji, or azu (按司) was a ruler of a petty kingdom in the history of the Ryukyu Islands. The word later became a title and rank of nobility in the Ryukyu Kingdom. It has been theorized to be related to the Japanese aruji ("master"), and the pronunciation varied throughout the islands. It ranked next below a prince among nobility. The sons of princes and the eldest sons of aji became aji. An aji established a noble family equivalent to a miyake of Japan.

The aji arose around the twelfth century as local leaders began to build gusuku (Ryukyuan castles). Shō Hashi was an aji who later unified Okinawa Island as king. The title aji variously designated sons of the king and regional leaders. During the Second Shō Dynasty, when the aji settled near Shuri Castle, the word came to denote an aristocrat in the castle town.

A pattern for addressing a male aji began with the place he ruled and ended with the word aji, for example, "Nago Aji". For women, the suffix ganashi or kanashi (加那志) followed: "Nago Aji-ganashi".

Amami tip-nosed frog

The Amami tip-nosed frog (Odorrana amamiensis) is a species of frog in the family Ranidae. It is endemic to the Amami Islands, a part of the Ryukyu Islands, Japan. Specifically, it is known from the islands of Amamioshima and Tokunoshima.

Enteroplax yaeyamensis

Enteroplax yaeyamensis is a species of air-breathing land snail, terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusks in the family Strobilopsidae.

Girida rigida

Girida rigida is a moth in the family Geometridae. It is found from the Ryukyu Islands through tropical and subtropical south-east Asia to New Caledonia. Records for eastern Africa refer to Girida sporadica, which was promoted to species rank in 2012.The wings are dark grey with a fine double white postmedial line on each wing.

Ishikawa's frog

Ishikawa's frog (Odorrana ishikawae) is a species of frog in the family Ranidae. It is endemic to Okinawa Island, one of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. It has been described as the most beautiful frog in Japan.Its natural habitats are temperate forests, rivers, and intermittent rivers. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Ocellate topeshark

The ocellate topeshark (Hemitriakis complicofasciata) is a species of houndshark, belonging to the family Triakidae. It is found in the western Pacific from the Ryukyu Islands to the Philippines and Taiwan.

Odorrana supranarina

Odorrana supranarina is a species of frog in the family Ranidae. It is endemic to Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan, and is known from the islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote, both in the Yaeyama Group. The specific name supranarina refers to the large size of this species (Latin supra means "beyond")—at the time of the species description, it was the largest member of the so-called Rana narina complex. Common name greater tip-nosed frog has been coined for it.

Odorrana utsunomiyaorum

Odorrana utsunomiyaorum is a species of frog in the family Ranidae. It is endemic to Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan, and is known from the islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote, both in the Yaeyama Group. The specific name utsunomiyaorum honours Taeko and Yasuaki Utsunomiya for their contributions to clarifying the amphibian fauna of the Yaeyama Group.

Okinawa flying fox

The Okinawa flying fox (Pteropus loochoensis) is a species of megabat in the genus Pteropus. It is endemic to possibly Japan. It was previously listed as extinct by the IUCN, but because the two known specimens are taxonomically uncertain and of unknown provenance, it was changed to 'Data Deficient'. Some place this animal into synonymy under Pteropus mariannus.

Two specimens are in the British Natural History Museum, and the whereabouts of the third is unknown. Two of the specimens are believed to have come from Southeast Asia, so the true distribution of the Okinawa flying fox is unknown.

Postage stamps and postal history of Ryukyu Islands

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of the Ryukyu Islands.

The Ryukyu Islands are a chain of islands in the western Pacific Ocean, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. The largest of the islands is Okinawa Island.

The Ryukyu Kingdom was formally annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1872, although the kingdom had been part of the feudal Satsuma Domain in Kyushu since 1609. During World War II, the islands came under the occupation of the United States military in 1945, and a civilian government was set up under American control in 1952. The islands reverted to the control of Japan in 1972.

Ryukyu Trench

The Ryukyu Trench (琉球海溝, Ryūkyū kaikō), also called Nansei-Shotō Trench, is a 1398 km (868 mi) long oceanic trench located along the southeastern edge of Japan's Ryukyu Islands in the Philippine Sea in the Pacific Ocean, between northeastern Taiwan and southern Japan. The trench has a maximum depth of 7460 m (24,476 ft). The trench is the result of oceanic crust of the Philippine Plate obliquely subducting beneath the continental crust of the Eurasian Plate at a rate of approximately 52 mm/yr. In conjunction with the adjacent Nankai Trough to the northeast, subduction of the Philippine plate has produced 34 volcanoes.

The largest earthquake to have been recorded along the Ryukyu Trench, the 1968 Hyūga-nada earthquake,

was magnitude 7.5 and occurred along the northernmost part of the trench on 1 April 1968. This earthquake also produced a tsunami.

Ryukyu arc

The Ryukyu arc (琉球弧, Ryūkyū-ko) is a volcanic island arc system of Japan's triple junction formed by the subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath the Eurasian Plate between Ryukyu Trench to the south-east and the Okinawa Trough to north-west. It comprises the entirety of the Ryukyu Islands chain. The Ryukyu and Southwest Honshu arcs together form the southwest trending arm of the Boso Triple Junction.

Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle

The Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle or Ryukyu leaf turtle, Geoemyda japonica, is a species of turtles in the family Geoemydidae (formerly Bataguridae) endemic to the Ryukyu Islands in Japan. In 1975, the species was designated a National Natural Monument of Japan. It grows to about 5–6 inches long. In captivity, it feeds on worms, snails, insects, and fruit. Due to its rarity and very attractive appearance, this species is highly coveted by turtle collectors worldwide.At first it was considered a subspecies of Geoemyda spengleri, and named Geoemyda spengleri japonica. It was redescribed as a separate species and given its current binomial name in 1992.Hybrids between different genera of Geoemydidae are rather commonplace. This species is known to hybridize with Cuora flavomarginata males in captivity and in the wild.

Ryukyu flying fox

The Ryukyu flying fox or Ryukyu fruit bat (Pteropus dasymallus) is a species of megabat in the family Pteropodidae. It is found in Japan, Taiwan, and the Batanes and Babuyan Islands of the Philippines. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical swamps. It is threatened by habitat loss and by hunting for food and the IUCN classify it as "Vulnerable".

Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat

The Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat or Ryukyu rat (Diplothrix legata) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only extant species in the genus Diplothrix. It is found only in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. Its natural habitat is temperate forests. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Ryukyu shrew

The Ryukyu shrew (Crocidura orii), also known as Orii's shrew is a species of mammal in the family Soricidae. It is endemic to Japan. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Ryukyu spiny rat

The Ryukyu spiny rat (Tokudaia osimensis) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. Endemic to Amami Ōshima island in the Amami Islands of the Ryukyu archipelago of Japan, its natural habitat is subtropical moist broadleaf forest. The karyotype has an odd diploid number, 2n = 25. Like its relative T. tokunoshimensis, it has lost its Y chromosome and SRY gene.The species is threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation, predation by feral cats and dogs and introduced mongooses, and competition with introduced black rats.

Ryukyu tip-nosed frog

The Ryukyu tip-nosed frog, (Odorrana narina), is a species of frog in the family Ranidae that is endemic to Japan.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and rivers. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Yanbaru whiskered bat

The Yanbaru whiskered bat (Myotis yanbarensis) is a species of vesper bat in the genus Myotis.

It is known only from three islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago, south of Japan, Okinawa (where the Yanbaru forest is situated), Amami Ōshima, and Tokunoshima.

The species has been classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.


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