The origin of the term "Okinawa" remains unclear, though there was a divine woman named Okinawa in the book Omoro Soshi, a compilation of ancient poems and songs from Okinawa. 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 of the Okinawa as 阿児奈波 (pinyin: A'érnàibō; Cantonese Jyutping: Aa2ngai4noi6bo1 ; Japanese: Ajinawa, Aninawa). The current Chinese characters (kanji) for Okinawa – 沖縄 – were first written in 1719 by Arai Hakuseki, a Japanese scholar, in the book Record of Southern Islands.
Prehistoric PeriodThe 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.
The time when human beings first 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.
Okinawa Midden CultureOkinawa midden culture or shell heap culture is divided into the early shell heap period corresponding to the Jomon age of Japan and the latter shell heap period corresponding to the Yayoi period of Japan. However, the use of Jomon and Yayoi of Japan is questionable in Okinawa. In the former, it was a hunter-gatherer society, with wave-like opening Jomon pottery. In the latter part of Jomon 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.
Mythology, the Shunten Dynasty and the Eiso DynastyThe first history book of Okinawa is Chuzanseikan (Mirrors of Chuzan), which was compiled by Sho Shoken (向象賢) (1617–1675), also known as Haneji Choshu (羽地朝秀). In this and other books, the story is told of a Japanese samurai, Minamoto no Tametomo (源 為朝?, 1139–1170), who fought in the Hogen Rebellion of 1156 and fled first to Izu Island and then to Okinawa. He settled down with the sister of an anji and sired Shunten, the first king of Okinawa. Most historians, however, discount this story as a revisionist history that is intended to legitimize Japanese domination over Okinawa. The 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 (Ryukyu) Dynasty continued for five generations.
Gusuku PeriodGusuku 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 1291, there was an intended invasion of Mongol, but the Eiso Dynasty defended its land. Hiragana was imported from Japan by Ganjin in 1265. Noro, female shaman or priests (as in shintoism), appeared.
The nature of Okinawan peopleEarly Chinese visitors noted the hospitality of the islanders as well as the sharp economic divisions between the small upper class and the impoverished masses. Along with the arrival of European explorers in the nineteenth century, the Ryukyuans also came into contact with the Dutch, the Portuguese, the English and others, who always noted the hospitality of the natives.
The dominant economy has historically been based on the farming of sugar cane, and later on, the sweet potato. In 1605, Noguni Soukan brought seedlings of the sweet potato to Chatan, and Gima Shinjo (1557–1644) successfully spread the sweet potato.[clarification needed] It was later planted in Satsuma where it became known nationally as "the Satsuma potato." Other farmed items include guava, banana, papaya, and tobacco.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Ryukyuans traded with Java, Japan, China, and Korea. This trade led to increased prosperity for the kingdom.
Three-Kingdom periodSanzan period (三山時代, Sanzan-jidai ), lasted from 1322 until 1429. There was a gradual consolidation of power under the Sho family. Shō Hashi (1372–1439) conquered Chuzan, the middle kingdom, in 1404 and made his father, Sho Shi Sho, the king. He conquered Hokuzan, the northern kingdom in 1416 and conquered the southern kingdom, Nanzan, in 1429, thereby unifying the three kingdoms into the single Ryukyu Kingdom.
Sho Hashi was recognized as the ruler of the Ryukyu Kingdom (called the LooChoo 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 Chuzan Tablet. Although independent, the kings of the Ryukyu kingdom paid tribute to the rulers of China.
|Languages||Ryukyuan (native languages), Japanese|
|Religion||native Ryukyuan religion, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, Taoism|
|Legislature||Shuri Ō-fu (首里王府), Sanshikan (三司官)|
|-||Satsuma invasion||April 5, 1609|
|-||Annexed by Japan||March 11, 1879|
|Area||2,271 km² (877 sq mi)|
|¹ Ming and Qing dynasties.|
(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 Miyakojima 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 Ryukuan officials were descended from these Chinese immigrants, being born in China or having Chinese grandfathers. They assisted in the Ryukyuans in advancing their technology and diplomatic relations.
Satsuma domination, 1609–1871The invasion of the Ryūkyūs by the Shimazu clan of Satsuma took place in April 1609. Three thousand men and more than one hundred war junks sailed from Kagoshima at the southern tip of Kyūshū. The Ryūkyūans did not fight, due to the order of the king, who told them that “nuchidu takara” (life is a treasure). Many priceless cultural treasures were looted and taken to Kagoshima. As a result of the war, the Amami Islands were ceded to Satsuma, and the direct rule of Satsuma over the Amami Islands started in 1613.
After 1609, the Ryukyu rulers became vassals of the Shimazu. Though recognized as an independent kingdom, the islands were occasionally also referred to as being a province of Japan.
In the 17th century, the kingdom was both a tributary of China and a tributary 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 off trade with European nations except the Dutch, Nagasaki and Ryūkyū became the only Japanese trading ports offering connections with the outside world.
This period of effective outside control also featured the first international matches of Go, as Ryūkyūan players came to Japan to test their skill. This occurred in 1634, 1682, and 1710.
The Shimazu introduced the policy of banning sword ownership by commoners. This led to the development of the indigenous martial art karate, which utilizes domestic items as weapons.
Perry's "black ships", official envoys from the United States, came in 1853.
Mudan Incident of 1871 occurred, in which fifty-four Ryukyu people were killed in Taiwan. They wandered into the central part of Taiwan after their ship was wrecked.
Ryūkyū Domain, 1872–1879In 1872, the Ryūkyū Kingdom was reconfigured as a feudal domain (han),
After the Taiwan Expedition of 1874, Japan's role as the protector of the Ryūkyūan people was acknowledged; but fiction of the Ryūkyū Kingdom's independence was partially maintained until 1879.
Agricultural produce included tea, rice, sugar, tobacco, camphor, fruits, and silk. Manufactured products included cotton, paper, porcelain, and lacquered ware.
The people were described as appearing to be a "connecting link" between the Chinese and Japanese.
Okinawa Prefecture, 1879–1945In 1879, the Ryūkyū han was abolished and replaced by Okinawa Prefecture by the Meiji government. The monarchy in Shuri was abolished. 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.
Meiji era, Japan offered Miyako and Yaeyama islands to the Qing Dynasty in exchange for treaty concessions, though the negotiation eventually failed.
The mongoose was introduced from India in 1910 to control the poisonous habu snake.
In 1943, during World War II, the US President asked its ally, the The Republic of China, if it would lay claim to the Ryukyus after the war.“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 State and, eventually, joint administration by the two countries under the trusteeship of an international organization.”
In 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.
Okinawa and World War IIIn the years leading up to World War II, the Japanese government sought to reinforce national solidarity in the interests of militarization. They did so by means of conscription, mobilization, and nationalistic propaganda. People of the Ryukyu Islands, having spent only a generation as full Japanese citizens, were interested in proving their value to the nation in spite of prejudice expressed by mainland Japanese people, the mainland Japanese politicians appointed to govern Okinawa, and the mainland Japanese generals commanding Okinawa military units.
The Japanese government also promoted Japanese-language education in the school system to render the islanders Japanese citizens.
Princess LiliesAfter 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 Princess Lilies were organized at two of them, and a total of 297 students and teachers eventually joined the group; 211 died. 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, many 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." Many students died saying "Tenno Heika Banzai", which means "Long live the Emperor."
The board of education, made up entirely of mainland Japanese, required the girls' participation. Teachers, who insisted that the students be evacuated to somewhere safe, were accused of being traitors.
Battle of OkinawaThe Battle of Okinawa was one of the last major battles of World War II, 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, more than one third of the civilian population, 300,000 people, were killed, and many important documents, artifacts, and sites related to Ryukyuan history and culture were destroyed, including the royal Shuri Castle. 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. Although the Americans had made plans to safeguard the Okinawans, 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.
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 that 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."
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 Okinawa led directly to American use of 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. The theory goes: "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."
Even today, unexploded ordnance can from time to time be a danger, especially in sparsely-populated areas where it may have lain undisturbed or been buried.
Post-war occupationrun by a U.S. military government 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 Sato signed the Okinawa Reversion Agreement in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1971. 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.
Tension with the U.S. MilitaryThe 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. When members of the U.S. Armed services are tried for criminal violations, it is by a military court per a Status of forces agreement with Japan.
Agent Orange controversyEvidence suggests that the US military's Project 112 tested biochemical agents on US marines in Okinawa in the 1960s. Later, suggestions were made that the US may have stored and used Agent Orange at its bases and training areas on the island. 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. The United States denies that Agent Orange was ever present on Okinawa. 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. 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. 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. In 2012 a US Army environmental assessement 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. 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.
Prosecution under Status of Forces AgreementAfter Okinawa was reunited 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 against an Okinawan, the US military obtained jurisdiction to try him as part of Status of Forces Agreement, automatically putting the accused beyond the reach of Japanese law enforcement. This is routine for all 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 surprised many in this instance was not just the nature of crime but also that, in this instance, the suspects were handed over to Japanese police. 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 Fillipina descent who worked at Camp Courtney.
On February, 2008, a U.S. Marine was arrested for allegedly raping a 14-year-old Japanese girl in Okinawa, and a member of the U.S. Army was suspected on raping a Filipino woman in Okinawa. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer flew to Okinawa and met with Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima to express U.S. concern over the case and offer cooperation in the investigation. 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.
Planned development of American basesOther 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.
Base-related revenue makes up 5% of the total economy. If the U.S. vacated the land, it is claimed[who?] that the island would be able to generate more money from tourism by the increased land available for development. 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.