Sakishima Islands

The Sakishima Islands (先島諸島 Sakishima-shotō) (or 先島群島, Sakishima-guntō) (Okinawan: Sachishima, Miyako: Saksїzїma, Yaeyama: Sakїzїma, Yonaguni: Satichima) are an archipelago located at the southernmost end of the Japanese Archipelago. They are part of the Ryukyu Islands and include the Miyako Islands and the Yaeyama Islands. The islands are administered as part of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Sakishima Islands
Native name:
  • 先島諸島 (Sakishima-shotō)
  • 先島群島 (Sakishima-guntō)
  • Sachishima (Okinawan)
  • Saksїzїma (Miyako)
  • Sakїzїma (Yaeyama)
  • Satichima (Yonaguni)
Map of the Sakishima Islands (Yonaguni Island not shown)
Sakishima Islands is located in Ryukyu Islands
Sakishima Islands
Sakishima Islands
LocationBetween the southern border of the East China Sea and northwestern border of the Philippine Sea
Coordinates24°42′35″N 124°23′19″E / 24.709652°N 124.388477°ECoordinates: 24°42′35″N 124°23′19″E / 24.709652°N 124.388477°E
ArchipelagoJapanese Archipelago
Total islands44 (20 inhabited)
Major islands
Area818.45 km2 (316.01 sq mi)[1]
Highest elevation526.0 m (1,725.7 ft)
Highest pointMount Omoto
Largest cityMiyakojima (pop. 54,908 (2012))
Population105,708 (October 1, 2010)[2]
Pop. density129.2 /km2 (334.6 /sq mi)[2]
Ethnic groupsJapanese, Ryukyuan
Additional information
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
Sakishima Islands ISS039
View of the Sakishima Islands from the ISS

Inhabited islands

Sakishima Islands

Miyako ikema bridge

Ikema Bridge, between Miyako and Ikema


The Sakishima Islands were first documented in the Shoku Nihongi (797), which says that in 714 Ō no Ason Okeji (太朝臣遠建治) paid tribute to Dazaifu with 52 islanders from Amami (奄美), Shigaki (信覚), Kumi (球美) and other islands. Shigaki is believed to be the current Ishigaki (石垣), Kumi to be the current Kume (久米) or Komi (古見) settlement of Iriomote.[3] The History of Yuan (1370) documented a castaway from Mìyágǔ (密牙古) arrived to Wenzhou in 1317. This is believed to be the first documentation of Miyako (宮古).[3]

Stone tools and shell tools from 2,500 years ago have been excavated from shell mounds on the Sakishima Islands. Shell tools of the same era are also found in Taiwan and the Philippines, but not on Okinawa Island or Amami. Thus those islands are thought to have had a stronger or closer cultural relationship with Taiwan, the Philippines, and other regions.

Local earthenware was made beginning in the 11th century. Many local leaders, known as aji, appeared in the 15th century. At the same time, the political authorities on Okinawa saw the outlying islands as useful stopping points along a maritime trade route, and gradually enhanced their influence. Yohanashiidu Tuyumya (与那覇勢頭豊見親) unified Miyako in 1365, and paid tribute to Satto, the king of the Chūzan kingdom of Okinawa.

Ryukyuan control

In 1500, Oyake Akahachi (遠弥計赤蜂 or 於屋計赤蜂), Aji of Ishigaki, unified most of the Yaeyama Islands and rose up in resistance against the Ryukyu Kingdom by refusing to pay further tribute. As he was planning to invade Miyako, Nakasone Tuyumya (仲宗根豊見親), Aji of Miyako, discovered the plan and launched a preemptive invasion of the Yaeyama Islands. Oyake Akahachi was defeated at Furusutobaru Castle, and Nakasone Tuyumya went on to conquer Yonaguni. King Shō Shin of Ryukyu responded to the initial rebellion by sending troops, but they arrived at Miyako after most of the fighting had ended. The Ryukyuan army consisted of 3,000 soldiers and 100 ships; Nakasone Tuyumya chose to surrender instead of fighting, handing over all of the Sakishima Islands to Ryukyu.

The Shimazu clan of the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma invaded the kingdom during the 1609 Invasion of Ryukyu. Satsuma was able to capture Shuri Castle and King Shō Nei by early May, then sent a message to the Sakishima Islands demanding their surrender, which they complied with. In the following centuries of vassalage to Satsuma, the Ryukyuan government was placed under extreme tax pressure, and instituted a heavy poll tax in the Sakishima Islands. As a result of the extreme economic conditions, infanticide and other methods of population control became common, as they did throughout the Ryukyu Islands; remains of the sites where this took place can still be found throughout the Sakishima Islands. Yaeyama islanders were taxed even more heavily than those of Miyako, as the rebel Oyake Akahachi was from Yaeyama. The kingdom prohibited migration of islanders, isolating them to prevent group resistance. The Yaeyama earthquake in 1771 caused a tsunami which killed 12,000, or a half of the entire Sakishima population. Because the soil was adversely affected by salination, famines were frequent, and the population of the islands further decreased until the early Meiji period.

Japanese control

After the Meiji Restoration, in 1872, the Japanese government unilaterally declared that the Ryukyu Kingdom was then Ryukyu Domain and began incorporating the islands as a part of Japan. In 1879, after the Ryukyuan government resisted and disobeyed orders from Tokyo, Japan abolished the domain, deposed the king, and established Okinawa Prefecture. The Qing Dynasty of China, however, opposed the action, claiming sovereignty over the former kingdom. Japan proposed to cede the Sakishima Islands, provided China add "most favored nation" status of Japan to the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Amity. China agreed at first, but after objections from Viceroy Li Hongzhang, the agreement was not made. China effectively conceded its claims to sovereignty over Ryukyu, including the Sakishima Islands, following its defeat by Japan in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.

The modernization of Sakishima by the Japanese government was slow compared with Japan or even Okinawa. The heavy poll tax continued until as late as 1903. Meanwhile, the islands, as well as Taiwan, used Western Standard Time (UTC+8) until 1937, 1 hour behind the Central Standard Time of Japan (UTC+9).

Yaeyama Islands Notice board in 1945
A notice board by the Yaeyama Community Association, December 1945

During World War II, there was an air battle waged against the Sakishima Islands' two largest islands that lasted for 82 days in order to neutralize Kamikaze airfields.[4] Twenty-five US escort carriers, five larger fast carriers with their air groups consisting of fighters and torpedo bombers along with heavy naval patrol bombers and an assortment of DD-Destroyers and DE-Destroyer Escorts along with the British Pacific Fleet bombed, rocketed and fired their guns at runways and other targets daily while the land battle raged on Okinawa 175 miles away. This was the least publicized battle for its size that took place involving the Americans and British during the war. The thirty-two thousand seasoned Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and Naval (IJN) troops on Miyako did not surrender until 27 days after Japan formally surrendered. The amount of ordnance expended against the Sakishima Islands may have exceeded the ordnance spent on the island of Iwo Jima. The Sakishima Islands did not suffer a ground war during World War II.

In June 1945, the Japanese government ordered locals to evacuate to northern Ishigaki and Iriomote, where 3,647 of them lost their lives to malaria. In contrast, air raids killed much fewer: 174. After the Imperial Japanese Army was defeated on Okinawa later that month, there was a vacuum of military and government control in the Sakishima Islands. Some garrison troops robbed crops from farms or engaged in violence against locals. To counter them, the residents of Ishigaki formed the Yaeyama Community Association (八重山自治会). Since it acted as a temporary local government, some historians later described the association as the Yaeyama Republic (八重山共和国).

American control

United States Occupation authorities declared the establishment of military rule in December 1945, restoring Miyako Subprefecture and Yaeyama Subprefecture. The local association ceased operation. In 1952, the Treaty of San Francisco confirmed these islands to be under American control. Malaria was eradicated from the island in 1961. The islands were returned to Japan in 1972, along with the rest of Okinawa Prefecture.


Today the Sakishima Islands enjoy a thriving tourist industry. The nearby Senkaku Islands, which fall under Okinawa Prefecture and Ishigaki City politically, are disputed with the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. The Japanese Self Defense Force and Japan Coast Guard have a large presence in the Sakishima Islands because of this dispute.


There are three native languages on the islands; Miyako language on the Miyako Islands, Yonaguni language on Yonaguni, and Yaeyama language on the other Yaeyama Islands. All these languages belong to the Ryukyuan languages group, which in turn belong to the Japonic languages group. These languages are not mutually intelligible. As on Okinawa, therefore, standard Japanese language is used in formal situations, while Okinawan Japanese, that is, standard Japanese with native Ryukyuan words, pronunciation changes, etc. mixed in, is quite commonly used as well.

See also


  1. ^ 平成22年 全国都道府県市区町村別面積調 [2010 National Administrative Divisions Area Measurements Key] (PDF) (in Japanese). Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 15, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  2. ^ a b 平成22年国勢調査確報値 沖縄県の人口、世帯、住居 [2010 National Census Confirmed Population Data Values for Okinawa Prefecture, Households, Dwellings] (in Japanese). Okinawa Prefecture Planning Department Statistics Division. 2010. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. ^ a b Shimoji Kazuhiro 下地和宏, Tōji bōeki to Miyako 陶磁交易と宮古, Nichiryū bōeki no reimei 日琉交易の黎明, pp. 327–346, 2008.
  4. ^ Miyako US and British Military History Ref. Declassified US Naval records and National Archives holdings compiled in "Wings over Sakishima" by Fredio Samples, ISBN 978-0-615-39668-2 Author's permission granted.

External links

Administrative divisions of the Ryukyu Kingdom

The administrative divisions of the Ryukyu Kingdom were a hierarchy composed of districts, magiri, cities, villages, and islands established by the Ryukyu Kingdom throughout the Ryukyu Islands.

Chobin Zukeran

Chobin Zukeran (瑞慶覧 長敏, Zukeran Chōbin, born 24 October 1958) is the mayor of Nanjō, Okinawa and a former member of the House of Representatives of Japan, representing Okinawa 4th district (southern Okinawa Island and the Sakishima Islands). He was elected in the 2009 Japanese general election. He is an outspoken proponent of the removal of American bases from Okinawa.On 21 January 2018, Zukeran was elected as mayor of Nanjō after defeating three-term incumbent Keishun Koja. He took office on 12 February.

Common emerald dove

The common emerald dove, Asian emerald dove, or grey-capped emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica) is a pigeon which is a widespread resident breeding bird in the tropical and sub-tropical parts of the Indian Subcontinent and east through Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, the Sakishima Islands of Japan and Indonesia. The dove is also known by the names of green dove and green-winged pigeon. The common emerald dove is the state bird of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Pacific emerald dove and Stephan's emerald dove were both considered conspecific.

FM Okinawa

FM Okinawa (エフエム沖縄) is an FM radio station in Okinawa, Japan. The station is an affiliate of the Japan FM Network (JFN). It started broadcasting on September 1, 1984, replacing its existing AM radio station Far East Broadcasting (極東放送) which started broadcasting in February 1958.

The station is also receivable at Yoronjima in Kagoshima Prefecture and parts of the Amami Islands. Some of the station's programs are also broadcast on FM Miyako (76.5 MHz), a community FM radio station for the Miyako-jima island due to no relay transmitters in Sakishima Islands and Daito Island.

The station is also receivable in Honshu in good conditions during Sporadic E layer outbreak layer conditions which happen from the middle of May until late June.

The station broadcasts 24 hours a day which starts at 5:00 am every day. However the station will be closed for maintenance between 1:00 and 5:00 am on Monday early mornings (Sunday late night).


Gusuku (グスク, 城, Okinawan: gushiku) often refers to castles or fortresses in the Ryukyu Islands that feature stone walls. However, the origin and essence of gusuku remain controversial. In the archaeology of Okinawa Prefecture, the Gusuku period refers to an archaeological epoch of the Okinawa Islands that follows the shell-mound period and precedes the Sanzan period, when most gusuku are thought to have been built. Many gusuku and related cultural remains on Okinawa Island have been listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites under the title Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.

List of islands by name (H)

This article features a list of islands sorted by their name beginning with the letter H.

List of islands by name (I)

This article features a list of islands sorted by their name beginning with the letter I.

List of islands by name (K)

This article features a list of islands sorted by their name beginning with the letter K.

List of islands by name (Y)

This article features a list of islands sorted by their name beginning with the letter Y.

List of islands in the East China Sea

Islands in the East China Sea include:

Matsu Islands (29.61 km²)

Peikan (Beigan)

Kaoteng (Gaodeng)

Nankan (Nangan)

Tungyin (Dongyin)

Hsiyin (Xiyin)

Liang Island

Chukuang (Jyuguang)

Tungchu (Dongjyu, Dongquan)

Hsichu (Xijyu, Xiquan)


Ryukyu Islands (4,597.68 km²—Daitō Islands excluded)

Satsunan Islands

Ōsumi Islands:

Tanegashima, Yaku, Kuchinoerabu, Mageshima

Takeshima, Iōjima, Kuroshima

Tokara Islands: Kuchinoshima, Nakanoshima, Gajajima, Suwanosejima, Akusekijima, Tairajima, Kodakarajima, Takarajima

Amami Islands: Amami Ōshima, Kikaijima, Kakeromajima, Yoroshima, Ukeshima, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabujima, Yoronjima


Okinawa Islands: Okinawa Island, Kume, Iheya, Izena, Aguni, Ie (Iejima), Iwo Tori Shima (Iōtorishima)

Kerama Islands: Tokashiki, Zamami, Aka, Geruma

Sakishima Islands

Miyako Islands: Miyakojima, Ikema, Ōgami, Irabu, Shimoji, Kurima, Minna, Tarama

Yaeyama Islands: Iriomote, Ishigaki, Taketomi, Kohama, Kuroshima, Aragusuku, Hatoma, Yubujima, Hateruma, Yonaguni

Senkaku Islands (7 km²)

Uotsurijima, Kuba Jima, Taisho Jima, Kita Kojima, Minami Kojima, Oki-no-Kita-Iwa, Oki-no-Minami-Iwa, Tobise

Zhoushan Archipelago (1,440.12 km²)

Zhoushan Island

Daishan Island

Liuheng Island

Jintang Island

Zhujiajian Island

Qushan Island

Mount Putuo

Jeju Island (1,849 km²)


Pengjia Islet (1.14 km²)Total land area: 7,924.55 square kilometres

List of islands of Japan

Japan has 6,852 islands. Approximately 430 are inhabited. Japan is the largest island country in East Asia and the fourth largest island country in the world. Here's a list of islands of Japan.

Miyako Islands

The Miyako Islands (宮古列島, Miyako-rettō, Miyako: Myaaku, Tarama dialect: Meeku, Okinawan: Naaku) (also Miyako Sima group) are a group of islands in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, belonging to the Ryukyu Islands. They are situated between the Okinawa Island and Yaeyama Islands.

In the early 1870's, the population of the islands was estimated to number about ten thousand. Miyako island has 55,914 people. A bridge connects Miyako Island to Ikema Island, which has 801 people. Tarama village has 1,214 people, between the two islands of Minna and Tarama.

Okinawa Islands

The Okinawa Islands (沖縄諸島, Okinawa Shotō) (Okinawan: Uchinaa, informally Churaashima "beautiful island", Kunigami: Fuchinaa) are an island group in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and are the principal island group of the prefecture. The Okinawa Islands are part of the larger Ryukyu Islands group, and are located between the Amami Islands of Kagoshima Prefecture to the northeast and the Sakishima Islands of Okinawa Prefecture to the southwest.The Okinawa Islands, apart from the main island, contain three smaller island groups: the Kerama, Yokatsu, and Iheya-Izena island groups.The Okinawa Islands are the political, cultural and population center of Okinawa Prefecture. The prefectural capital of Naha is within the island group. 90% of the population of the prefecture reside within the Okinawa Islands, primarily on the largest island of the group, Okinawa Island. Access to the various Okinawa Islands is primarily via small airports which connect to Naha Airport. Additionally, the islands are connected via ferry service to the Port of Naha in the prefectural capital.The Okinawa Islands are within the subtropical climate zone, which supports the production of sugarcane, pineapples and cut flowers. The military bases of the United States in Okinawa Prefecture are located on the Okinawa Islands.Historically the rule of the Ryukyu Kingdom, centered on Okinawa Island, consolidated the Okinawa Islands before spreading south to the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands and north to Amami Ōshima.

Ryukyu Kingdom

The Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawan: 琉球國 Ruuchuu-kuku; Japanese: 琉球王国 Ryūkyū Ōkoku; Middle Chinese: Ljuw-gjuw kwok; historical English name: Lewchew, Luchu, and Loochoo) was an independent kingdom that ruled most of the Ryukyu Islands from the 15th to the 19th century. The kings of Ryukyu unified Okinawa Island and extended the kingdom to the Amami Islands in modern-day Kagoshima Prefecture, and the Sakishima Islands near Taiwan. Despite its small size, the kingdom played a central role in the maritime trade networks of medieval East and Southeast Asia, especially the Malacca Sultanate.

Sakishima Beacons

The Sakishima Beacons (先島諸島火番盛, Sakishima-shotō hibanmui) are a network of eighteen observation platforms and beacons dating to the early Edo period and located in the Sakishima Islands, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Erected in 1644 by the government of the Ryūkyū Kingdom at the instigation of the Satsuma overlords, at a time of international tension during the transition between the Ming and the Qing Dynasties of China, the beacons were responsible for monitoring and reporting on maritime traffic, with a view to restricting foreign vessels in accordance with the Tokugawa policy of sakoku, i.e. national seclusion. After an initial survey by the Council for the Protection of Cultural Properties in 1993, due to uncertainties over land rights and difficulties of coordination between the involved municipalities, it was not until 2007 that they were jointly designated an Historic Site.


Sotobanari (also Sotobakuri, Japanese 外離島) is one of the Yaeyama Islands, within the Sakishima Islands, at the southern end of the Ryukyu Islands. It is to the west of Iriomote Island, its nearest large neighbour. It is administered as part of the town of Taketomi, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

The small island (about 1 km in diameter), whose name means outer distant island, is vegetated, but has no running water. Sotobanari had one human inhabitant, an eighty-two-year-old man named Masafumi Nagasaki, who had lived there in semi-isolation for three decades (1989 - 2018), nude, and bought food and water from a settlement an hour away by boat weekly with ¥10,000 sent by family, fully clothed. He was featured on the Vice News segment "Japan's Naked Island Hermit".

Recently (April 2018) he left the island because of illness (suspected influenza). He was too weak to resist the police. He always had said he wished to die on the island. Now, the Japanese government won't let him go back to the island.

Southern Ryukyuan languages

The Southern Ryukyuan languages (南琉球語群, Minami Ryūkyū gogun) form one of two branches of the Ryukyuan languages. They are spoken on the Sakishima Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The three languages are Miyako (on the Miyako Islands) and Yaeyama and Yonaguni (on the Yaeyama Islands, of the Macro-Yaeyama subgroup). The Macro-Yaeyaman languages have been identified as "critically endangered" by UNESCO and Miyako as "definitely endangered".All Ryukyuan languages are officially labeled as dialects of Japanese by the Japanese government despite mutual unintelligibility. While the majority of Ryukyuan languages have used Chinese or Japanese script for writing, the Yaeyama Islands never had a full-featured writing system. Islanders developed the Kaidā glyphs as a simple method to record family names, items, and numerals to aid in tax accounting. This system was used until the 19th century introduction of Japanese-language education. Even today, communication in the Yaeyama or Yonaguni languages is almost exclusively oral, and written communication is done in Japanese.

Toshinobu Nakasato

Toshinobu Nakasato (仲里 利信, Nakasato Toshinobu, born 16 March 1937) is a Japanese politician and a former member of the House of Representatives of Japan representing Okinawa 4th district (southern Okinawa Island and the Sakishima Islands). Before he entered national politics, Nakasato was a member of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly for 16 years. He served as the Speaker of the Assembly from 2006 until his retirement from prefectural politics in 2008. He is opposed against the construction of a US base in Yonaguni and the relocation of the Futenma air base within Okinawa Prefecture.

Yaeyama Islands

The Yaeyama Islands (八重山列島 Yaeyama-rettō, also 八重山諸島 Yaeyama-shotō, Yaeyama: Yaima, Yonaguni: Daama, Okinawan: Yeema) are an archipelago in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and cover 591.46 square kilometres (228.36 sq mi). The islands are located southwest of the Miyako Islands, part of the Ryukyu Islands archipelago. The Yaeyama Islands are the remotest part of Japan from the main islands and contain Japan's most southern (Hateruma) and most western (Yonaguni) inhabited islands. The city of Ishigaki serves as the political, cultural, and economic center of the Yaeyama Islands.The Yaeyama Islands are home to numerous species of subtropical and tropical plants, and mangrove forests. The islands produce sugarcane and pineapples. Coral reefs around the islands are ideal habitats for dolphins, sea turtles, and larger fish such as manta rays and whale sharks. Before being wiped out by humans, whales and dugongs were common as well, and Yaeyama once had the largest population of dugongs in the Ryukyu Islands. On Aragusuku Island, there is a Utaki which specially enshrines hunted dugongs with their skulls, but non-residents are not permitted to enter unless they receive special permission from inhabitants, and it is said that any aliens without permission will be driven out by force.


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