Ryukyuan people

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Ryukyuan people
Five men wearing Ryukyuan Dress.JPG
Five Ryukyuan men, Meiji period.
Regions with significant populations
 Okinawa Prefecture
Kagoshima Prefecture (Amami)
Taiwan
Philippines
Brazil
Peru
California (USA)
Hawaii (USA)
Languages
Ryukyuan languages, Japanese language
Religion
Buddhism, Shinto, Animism
Related ethnic groups
Yamato people, Yayoi people [1][2]

The Ryukyuan or Lewchewan people[3] (琉球民族 Ryūkyū minzoku?, Okinawan: Ruuchuu minzuku) are the indigenous peoples of the Ryukyu Islands between the islands of Kyushu and Taiwan. The generally recognized subgroups of Ryukyuans are Amamians, Okinawans, Miyakoans, Yaeyamans, and Yonagunians. Geographically, they live in either Okinawa Prefecture or Kagoshima Prefecture. Their languages make up the Ryukyuan language family, one of the two branches of the Japonic language family, the other one being Japanese and its dialects. Okinawans are Japan's largest minority group, with 1.3 million living in Okinawa. 300,000 live in other areas of Japan. Another 300,000 are dispersed outside of Japan, mostly in Hawaii.[4]

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

Further information: Yayoi period and Kofun period

Chinese historical writings first mentioned the Ryukyus during the 6th-7th centuries (the Sui Dynasty). Exact details of these early voyages are still unknown, and it is widely believed that the ancient Ryukyus described by the Chinese consisted of the modern day Ryukyuan Islands and Taiwan.[5] The Ryukyu Islands were inhabited early in historical times, by migrants believed to have crossed into the northern Amami-Okinawa Islands via Kyushu. Multiple waves of migrants, including those related to the Jomon, and, later, newcomers from Kyushu, continued to populate these islands.[6] Similarities between the Ryukyuan and Japanese languages suggests a common origin in the language of immigrants from continental Asia to the archipelago.[7]

Many Chinese moved to Ryukyu to serve the government or to engage in business during this period. The Chinese, during the Ming dynasty, 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 Ryukyuan officials were descended from these Chinese immigrants, being born in China or having Chinese grandfathers.[8] They assisted in the Ryukyuans in advancing their technology and diplomatic relations.[9][10][11]

Modern history[edit]

In the early 17th century, the Ryukyuan Kingdom was conquered by the Satsuma-han of Kyūshū. The Satsuma domain kept the kingdom nominally alive because of the benefit from trade with China, although the Amami Archipelago came under the full control of Satsuma. During the Meiji period, the kingdom was formally abolished and Okinawa prefecture was established.

After World War II, the Ryukyus, like the Japanese home islands, were occupied by the United States, but the U.S. maintained control of Okinawa even after the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, which went into effect on April 28, 1952. Many soldiers stationed in the Ryukyu islands during World War II took aboriginal brides with them once the war ended. Twenty years later, in 1972, the Ryukyus were returned to Japan. Perceived discrimination against Ryukyuans by mainland Japanese is the cause of some resentment.[12] Furthermore, due in part to the intense fighting in the islands during World War II, many Ryukyuans are strongly anti-military. Okinawa comprises just 0.6% of Japan's total land mass, yet U.S. military bases use about 10% of all the land in the Ryukyus, including 18.8% of the land on Okinawa Island itself. Many feel that they bear more than their fair share of the U.S.-Japan security alliance, and the presence of the military remains an issue in local politics.

Culture[edit]

Cuisine[edit]

Main article: Okinawan cuisine

The Ryukyuan people's marine environmental protection awareness is very strong.[citation needed] Traditionally, Ryukyuans have a very tightly-knit family life and enjoy close personal friendships, which contributes to dietary factors that make Ryukyuans among the longest-lived people in the world (in fact, the island is part of the so-called Blue Zone). Ryukyuans tend to see themselves as bound together by their home island and, especially among older Ryukyuans, will always consider themselves from Okinawa first and Japan second.

Okinawan food is rich in vitamins and minerals and is a good balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Although rice is a staple food, pork, seaweed, rich miso (fermented soybean) pastes, and black sugar all feature prominently in native cuisine. Most famous to tourists is the bitter melon, gōya, which is often mixed into a rice dish known as gōya champurū (Goya champuru). The taste of goya can best be described as an acquired taste by some, but others will describe its unique flavor as one that is approximated by no other vegetable.

Religion[edit]

Main article: Ryukyuan religion
The kamekōbaka is the traditional Ryukyuan family tomb

Native Ryukyuan religion places strong emphasis upon the role of the women in the community, with women holding positions as shamans and guardians of the home and hearth. Shisa statues can often be seen on or in front of houses—this relates to the ancient Ryukyuan belief that the male spirit is the spirit of the outside and the female spirit is the spirit of the inside. To prevent the negative interaction or conquering of the inside spirit by the outside, the male spirits will go into the shi-shi statues while the man is inside and enter him again when he leaves. Most Ryukyuans of the younger generations are not serious adherents to this religion anymore, but many older Ryukyuans try to teach about the old ways, including dances and the language.[citation needed]

Arts[edit]

During the occupation by Japan in the mid-15th to 16th centuries, the Uchinanchu were completely disarmed of all bladed weapons by the Japanese (who feared revolt). In feudal Japan, the warrior class would often show martial awareness by keeping a daishō (matched pair of large and small swords) in the tokonoma (living room alcove), but Ryukyuans always had a sanshin in their tokonoma.[citation needed] The techniques of self-defense and using farm tools as weapons against armed opponents—called "Karate" by today's martial artists—was created totally by Uchinanchu who probably incorporated some gong fu and native techniques from China into a complete system of attack and defense known simply as Te (literally meaning "hand(s)," but with a strong connotation of "manoeuvre(s)"). These martial arts varied slightly from town to town, and were named for their towns of origin, examples being Naha-te (currently known as Goju-Ryu), Tomari-te and Shuri-te.

Shimagaijin[edit]

A Shimagaijin (島外人) is a person who is not of Ryukyuan descent but lives in Okinawa because he/she prefers to and who also has adjusted to the ways of the Okinawan people and lifestyle. The literal translation is "Islander Outsider".

Notable Ryukyuans[edit]

Deceased people[edit]

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kreiner, J. (1996). Sources of Ryūkyūan history and culture in European collections. Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien der Philipp-Franz-von-Siebold-Stiftung, Bd. 13. München: Iudicium. ISBN 3-89129-493-X
  • Ota, Masahide. (2000). Essays on Okinawa Problems. Yui Shuppan Co.: Gushikawa City, Okinawa, Japan. ISBN 4-946539-10-7 C0036.
An excellent collection of essays by a peace activist and former governor of Okinawa. Among the issues it discusses are those affecting the development of Ryukyuan identity.
  • Ouwehand, C. (1985). Hateruma: socio-religious aspects of a South-Ryukyuan island culture. Leiden: E.J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-07710-3
  • Pacific Science Congress, and Allan H. Smith. (1964). Ryukyuan culture and society: a survey. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Sakiyama, R. (1995). Ryukyuan dance = Ryūkyū buyō. Naha City: Okinawa Dept. of Commerce, Industry & Labor, Tourism & Cultural Affairs Bureau.
  • Yamazato, Marie. (1995). Ryukyuan cuisine. Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture: Okinawa Tourism & Cultural Affairs Bureau Cultural Promotion Division.

References[edit]

  1. ^ An Austronesian Presence in Southern Japan: Early Occupation in the Yaeyama Islands, Glenn R. Summerhayes and Atholl Anderson, Department of Anthropology, Otago University, retrieved November 22, 2009
  2. ^ Seafirm, Leon A. (2009). "Linguistically, What is Ryukyuan – Synchronic and diaschronic perspectives" (pre-symposium draft, 2009); retrieved 22 Nov 2009
  3. ^ Lewchew and the Lewchewans: Being a narrative of a visit to Lewchew or Loo Choo, in October, 1850. London, 1853. About the Ryukyu Islands. (Also available here) by George Smith
  4. ^ Noguchi 2001, p. 69.
  5. ^ http://www.niraikanai.wwma.net/pages/prewar/1.sanzan.html
  6. ^ http://web.mac.com/somayama/Site/tourism_history_and_culture_files/2-1.%20early-inhabitants.pdf
  7. ^ Heinrich, Patrick, "Language Loss and Revitalization in the Ryukyu Islands," Japan Focus, November 10, 2005; ______, "What leaves a mark should no longer stain: Progressive erasure and reversing language shift activities in the Ryukyu Islands," First International Small Island Cultures Conference at Kagoshima University, Centre for the Pacific Islands, February 7–10, 2005; citing Shiro Hattori. (1954) Gengo nendaigaku sunawachi goi tokeigaku no hoho ni tsuite ("Concerning the Method of Glottochronology and Lexicostatistics"), Gengo kenkyu (Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan), Vols. 26/27.
  8. ^ Shih-shan Henry Tsai (1996). The eunuchs in the Ming dynasty. SUNY Press. p. 145. ISBN 0-7914-2687-4. Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  9. ^ Angela Schottenhammer (2007). The East Asian maritime world 1400-1800: its fabrics of power and dynamics of exchanges. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. xiii. ISBN 3-447-05474-3. Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  10. ^ Gang Deng (1999). Maritime sector, institutions, and sea power of premodern China. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 125. ISBN 0-313-30712-1. Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  11. ^ Katrien Hendrickx (2007). The Origins of Banana-fibre Cloth in the Ryukyus, Japan. Leuven University Press. p. 39. ISBN 90-5867-614-5. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  12. ^ Miyume Tanji, Myth, Protest and Struggle in Okinawa, 1st ed. New York, NY: Routledge, 2006.

External links[edit]