||This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2012)|
|Native name: 沖縄本島|
Okinawa Island heads Okinawa Prefecture, a part of Japan
|Area||1,201.03 km2 (463.72 sq mi)|
|Largest city||Naha (pop. 313,970)|
|Population||1,384,762 (as of 2009)|
|Density||1,015.79 /km2 (2,630.88 /sq mi)|
Okinawa Island (沖縄本島 Okinawa-hontō , alternatively 沖縄島 Okinawa-jima; Okinawan: ウチナー Uchinaa; Kunigami: フチナー Fuchinaa) is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu (Nansei) Islands of Japan, and is home to Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture. The island has an area of 1,201.03 square kilometers (463.72 sq mi). It is roughly 640 kilometres (400 mi) south of the rest of Japan.
The island's population is known as the longest-lived people in the world; there are 34 centenarians per 100,000 people, which is more than three times the rate in the United States.[clarification needed]
The time when human beings first appeared in Okinawa remains unknown. They may have arrived from the Chinese mainland 32,000 years ago, possibly via land bridge. Since that time, there have probably been immigrants from Japan, Australia, and elsewhere.
Okinawa midden culture or shell heap culture is divided into the early shell heap period. 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.
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. 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. 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 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.
In 1429, King Shō Hashi completed the unification of the three kingdoms and founded one Ryūkyū Kingdom with its capital at Shuri Castle. The Chinese Ming dynasty sent 36 families from Fujian at the request of the Ryukyuan King. Their job was to manage maritime 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 ancestors. They assisted in the Ryukyuans in developing their technology and diplomatic relations.
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.
The island of Okinawa was the site of most of the ground warfare in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, when American Army and Marine Corps troops fought a long and bloody battle to capture Okinawa, so it could next be used as the major air force and troop base for the planned invasion of Japan. During this 82-day-long battle, about 95,000 Imperial Japanese Army troops and 12,510 Americans were killed, and in addition to these deaths, somewhere between 42,000 and 150,000 Okinawan civilians - approximately one quarter of the civilian population - were either killed or committed suicide.
During the American military occupation of Japan (1945–52), which followed the Imperial Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, the United States controlled Okinawa Island and the nearby Ryukyu islands and islets. These all remained in American military possession until June 17, 1972, with numerous U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force bases there.
Since 1972, United States Armed Forces personnel remained on Okinawa Island per Okinawa Reversion Agreement.
There has been a movement among some of the local Japanese Okinawan population against the American military and naval presence on Okinawa. Several rape cases have been prosecuted against American servicemen. The most publicized rape took place on September 4, 1995, when three American servicemen from Camp Hansen, kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old 6th-grade Japanese girl. All three were arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for this crime.
In February 2010 an earthquake, measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale, hit the island.
As of September, 2009, the Japanese government estimates the population at 1,384,762, which includes American military personnel and their families. The Okinawan language is called Uchinaguchi or "Hogen" and is spoken mostly by the elderly people. Okinawan people have spoken Japanese since the Ryukyu Kingdom joined Japan.
Whereas northern Okinawa Island is largely unpopulated, the south-central and central parts of the island are markedly urbanized—particularly the city of Naha and the urban corridor stretching north from there to Okinawa City (Okinawa-shi).
The central part of the island has an American presence which creates a cultural blend. In the north, American presence is less concentrated, although several smaller bases and recreation facilities are there.
Okinawa is the fifth largest island in Japan (excluding the disputed islands north of Hokkaido). The island has an area of 1,201.03 square kilometers (463.72 sq mi). It is roughly 640 kilometres (400 mi) south of the rest of Japan.
The southern end of the island consists of uplifted coral reef, whereas the northern half has proportionally more igneous rock. The easily eroded limestone of the south has many caves, the most famous of which is Gyokusendō in Nanjō. An 850 m stretch is open to tourists.
There are many local izakaya and cafes that cater to specific Okinawan cuisines such as goya champuru (bitter melon), fu champuru (wheat gluten), and tonkatsu (tenderized, breaded, fried pork cutlet). Okinawan soba is the signature dish as opposed to the mainland version (buckwheat noodles served cold with soy sauce). Okinawan soba are noodles served hot in a soup usually with pork (rib or pork belly.) American presence on the island has also created some creative dishes such as taco rice, which is now a common meal served in bentos.
The North has more of an agricultural, traditional type lifestyle with a number of tourist attractions in Nago. There are two festivals annually. Other tourist attractions include a beach, a park and a beer factory. and Hiji Falls. There are scenic routes in the North.
U.S. Military 
There are 32 U.S. military bases located on Okinawa Island. In total, these bases occupy approximately 20% of the island's area. The bases include Futenma, Kadena, Hansen, Torii, Schwab, Foster, and Kinser. The bases are and have long been controversial. According to the Japan Times, the bases account for 4 to 5% of the island economy, a share which has declined over the years from over 50%. The same newspaper suggests that the presence of the bases may be hampering investment. In 2012, an agreement was struck between the United States and Japan to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel on the island moving 9000 personnel to other locations, but 10 000 marines will remain on the island, along with other U.S. military units. Attempts to close bases on the islands have been impeded by the U.S. desire that alternative locations be found where bases subject to closure could move to and by Japanese opposition to other suggested locations.
|This section requires expansion. (October 2012)|
Naha Airport serves the island.
Okinawa was also the setting for the 1986 film The Karate Kid, Part II where Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita) returns home to Okinawa with his student Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). Although Okinawa was the setting for the film, only short scenes of the film were actually filmed in Okinawa. Teahouse of the August Moon, starring Marlon Brando and based on the play, was also filmed on location in Okinawa.
See also 
Photo gallery 
Okinawa Island from Space Shuttle Mission STS-43 (Earth Sciences and Image Analysis, NASA-Johnson Space Center)
- Beare, Sally (2005). 50 Secrets of the World's Longest Living People. Da Capo Press. p. 304.
- Arashiro Toshiaki High School History of Ryukyu, Okinawa, Toyo Kikaku, 2001, p12,ISBN 4-938984-17-2 p20
- Ito, Masami, "Between a rock and a hard place", Japan Times, May 12, 2009, p. 3.
- Central Okinawan language at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
- "Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu." UNESCO: World Heritage Convention.
- Orion Beer Festival and the Cherry Tree Blossom Festival
- Sakura Matsuri
- Century Beach, Pineapple Park and Orion Beer Factory
- Jaffe, Greg; Heil, Emily; Harlan, Chico (April 26, 2012), "U.S. comes to agreement with Japan to move 9,000 Marines off Okinawa", The Washington Post, washingtonpost.com, retrieved April 28, 2012
- Okinawa Island travel guide from Wikivoyage