Ryukyu history... the tug of war between two empires...


Senior Master
May 12, 2011
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Yes it is. I remember when I got to Okinawa in 1962, I found two very thick book at the library. One on the battle of Okinawa in WWII, the other on the history of Okinawa. It covered the agreement between China and Okinawa, and how when Okinawa sent tribute ships to China, they were also allowed to send merchant ships, which both countries benefitted from. Also, part of the arrangement was that China would protect Okinawa in case of need.

That worked well for both countries for several centuries, but as China weakened and Japan became more strong, Japan made its move. Japan required more tribute than had China, but forbade Okinawa from telling China. China was weaker, but not weak enough that Japan was willing to confront them openly.

The impression I got from the Okinawan people I talked to was they were quite happy with life under the occupation, but hadn't forgotten their roots either. Most seeming to think given an opportunity, it was about a 50/50 chance to stay under USA occupation or control, or returning to independence. Very few expressed a desire to return to being a part of Japan, That even though the Japanese government seemed to allow a few programs to benefit the Okinawans.

Although some of the younger people didn't speak Okinawan, most spoke both Okinawan and Japanese. It was commonly accepted that the Japanese had tried to force Okinawans to accept total assimilation into Japanese culture; but they hadn't forgotten. It was even possible to find very old people from the mountains who still did not speak more than a modicum of Japanese if any at all. I even on a couple of occasions saw very old women with tattooed hands.

I was rather surprised when I heard the Okinawans had decided to return to Japanese rule. A friend of mine whose wife was Okinawan explained that the Japanese, knowing that a referendum was likely, flooded Okinawa with school teachers. As the time for a referendum approached, teachers began telling their students return to Japan was best. Teachers being held in high regard, they were listened to by many people and that was the way the vote went. I wasn't there nor have I been since, so I have nothing more to agree with or contradict that than that under Confucian beliefs, teachers are revered and listened to.

Thanks for the link. Okinawa was my first overseas posting, and I really enjoyed it there.