Okinawa Island

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Okinawa
Native name: 沖縄
Map-okinawa-pref.png
Okinawa Island heads Okinawa Prefecture, a part of Japan
Okinawa Island is located in Ryukyu Islands
Okinawa Island
Location of Okinawa Island in the Ryukyu Islands
Geography
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 26°30′N 127°56′E / 26.500°N 127.933°E / 26.500; 127.933
Archipelago Okinawa Islands
Area 1,201.03 km2 (463.72 sq mi)
Country
Japan
Prefecture Okinawa Prefecture
Largest city Naha (pop. 313,970)
Demographics
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: 沖縄/うちなー Uchinaa or 地下/じじ jiji;[1] Kunigami: ふちなー Huchináa) is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu (Nansei) Islands of Japan. 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 city of Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, is located there.

The island's population is known as one of the longest-lived people in the world,[2] together with the Sardinians whose island is located in the Mediterranean sea (22 centenarians/100,000 inhabitants); in fact, there are 34 centenarians per 100,000 people, which is more than three times the rate in Japan.

History[edit]

The time when human beings first appeared in Okinawa remains unknown. Since that time, there have probably been immigrants from China, Japan, Australia, and elsewhere.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed][3][4]

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. An attempted Mongolian invasion in 1291 during the Eiso Dynasty ended in failure. Hiragana was imported from Japan by Ganjin in 1265. Noro, female shaman or priests (as in shintoism), appeared.

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 Ryukyuan 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.[citation needed]

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 last King Shō Tai

In 1879, Japan annexed the entire Ryukyu archipelago.[5] Thus, the Ryūkyū 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.

Hostility against mainland Japan increased in the Ryūkyūs 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.

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. The Cornerstone of Peace at the Okinawa Prefecture Memorial Peace Park lists 149,193 persons of Okinawan origin - approximately one quarter of the civilian population - who either died or committed suicide during the Battle of Okinawa and the Pacific War.[6]

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.

In February 2010 an earthquake, measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale, hit the island.

Demographics[edit]

As of September, 2009, the Japanese government estimates the population at 1,384,762,[7] which includes American military personnel and their families. The Okinawan language is called Uchinaguchi or "Hogen" and is spoken mostly by the elderly people.[8] Okinawan people have spoken Japanese since the Ryukyu Kingdom 1879 annexation by Japan.[citation needed]

Whereas the northern half of Okinawa Island is sparsely populated, the south-central and southern 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).

There are six gusuku, medieval Okinawan fortresses, most of which now lie in ruins.[9]

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.[citation needed]

Geography[edit]

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.

Geology[edit]

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.

Fauna[edit]

In the forests of Yanbaru there are a small number of Yanbaru Kuina (also known as the Okinawa Rail), a small flightless bird that is near extinction.

The Indian mongoose was introduced to the island to prevent the native Habu pit viper from attacking the birds. It did not succeed in eliminating the Habu, but instead preyed on birds, increasing the threat to the Okinawa Rail.

Climate[edit]

The island's subtropical climate supports a dense northern forest and a rainy season occurring in the late spring.

Map of Okinawa Island

Food[edit]

There are many local pubs (izakaya) and cafes that serve Okinawan cuisine and dishes such as goya champuru (bitter melon stir fry), fu champuru (wheat gluten chanpuru), and tonkatsu (tenderized, breaded, fried pork cutlet). Okinawan soba is the signature dish and consists of wheat noodles served hot in a soup, usually with pork (rib or pork belly). This contrasts with the mainland soba, which is buckwheat noodles served cold with soy sauce based broth. Rafute, which is braised pork belly, is another popular Okinawan dish. American presence on the island has also led to some creative dishes such as taco rice, which is now a common meal served in bentos, and common use of spam.

Economy[edit]

Tourism[edit]

The North has more of an agricultural, traditional type lifestyle with a number of tourist attractions in Nago. There are two festivals annually.[10][11] Other tourist attractions include a beach, a park and a beer factory,[12] and Hiji Falls. There are scenic routes in the North.

U.S. Military[edit]

There are 32 U.S. military bases[13] located on Okinawa Island. In total, these bases occupy approximately 20% of the island's area. The bases include Futenma,[14] Kadena, Hansen, Torii, Schwab, Foster, and Kinser.[citation needed] The bases are and have long been controversial.[15] 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.[13][16] 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.[14][17] 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.[15]

In late December, 2013, the governor of Okinawa, Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, gave permission for land reclamation to begin for a new U.S. military base, furthering the effort to consolidate American troop presence on the island.[18]

Transportation[edit]

Naha Airport serves the island. There are multiple bus companies, such as Toyo Bus, Ryukyu Bus Kotsu, Naha Bus, and Okinawa Bus. There is also a monorail. The Okinawa Expressway is a toll road that runs from Naha to Nago, and has a speed limit of 80 kilometers per hour, the highest on the island. There are also many ferries to many of the nearby islands, such as Ie Shima.

Film[edit]

Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), starring Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford, was based on the hit Broadway play. The storyline of the play and the film were set in Okinawa, but actual filming took place in mainland Japan near Nara and in a studio in California.[19]

Okinawa was the setting for the 1974 Japanese science fiction kaiju film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, which featured a shisa dog as one of the monsters in the film; due to an awkward translation from Japanese to English, this monster is known in the film as King Caesar. Several scenes were filmed in the at-that-time newly discovered Gyokusendo caves.

Okinawa was also the setting for the 1986 film The Karate Kid, Part II, in which 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.

See also[edit]

Photo gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 語彙詳細―首里・那覇方言. Okinawa Center of Language Study. Retrieved on 2014-12-02.
  2. ^ Okinawa Exploration Backgrounds - Blue Zones
  3. ^ Arashiro Toshiaki High School History of Ryukyu, Okinawa, Toyo Kikaku, 2001, p12,ISBN 4-938984-17-2 p20
  4. ^ Ito, Masami, "Between a rock and a hard place", Japan Times, May 12, 2009, p. 3.
  5. ^ The Demise of the Ryukyu Kingdom: Western Accounts and Controversy. Ed by Eitetsu Yamagushi and Yoko Arakawa. Ginowan-City, Okinawa: Yonushorin, 2002.
  6. ^ "The Cornerstone of Peace - number of names inscribed". Okinawa Prefecture. Retrieved 4 February 2011
  7. ^ (Japanese) 沖縄県推計人口データ一覧(Excel形式). Pref.okinawa.jp. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  8. ^ Central Okinawan language reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  9. ^ "Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu." UNESCO: World Heritage Convention.
  10. ^ Orion Beer Festival and the Cherry Tree Blossom Festival
  11. ^ Sakura Matsuri
  12. ^ Century Beach, Pineapple Park and Orion Beer Factory
  13. ^ a b What awaits Okinawa 40 years after reversion?. The Japan Times. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  14. ^ a b 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 
  15. ^ a b BBC News - Okinawa deal between US and Japan to move marines. Bbc.co.uk (2012-04-27). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  16. ^ Hongo, Jun. (2012-05-16) Economic reliance on bases won't last, trends suggest. The Japan Times. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  17. ^ Ito, Masami. (2012-04-28) U.S., Japan tweak marine exit plan. The Japan Times. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  18. ^ AP (27 December 2013). "Okinawa Governor Gives Go-ahead For New US Base". DailyDigest. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  19. ^ Erickson, Hal. Military Comedy Films: A Critical Survey and Filmography of Hollywood Releases Since 1918. McFarland, 2012, p. 174.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 26°30′N 127°56′E / 26.500°N 127.933°E / 26.500; 127.933