Invasion of Ryukyu

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Invasion of Ryukyu
Ryukyu orthographic.svg
Map of Ryukyu Kingdom
DateMarch–May 1609
Result Satsuma victory; Ryukyu becomes a vassal state
Ryūkyū Kingdom Ryukyu Kingdom Maru juji.svg Satsuma Domain of Japan
Commanders and leaders
Greater than 3,000 men; unknown number of ships 3,000 men in 100 ships
Casualties and losses
At least 1,500 No more than 500

The invasion of Ryukyu (琉球侵攻, Ryūkyū Shinkō) by forces of the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma took place from March to May of 1609, and marked the beginning of the Ryukyu Kingdom's status as a vassal state under the Satsuma domain. The invasion force was met with stiff resistance from the Ryukyuan military on all but one island during the campaign. Ryukyu would remain a vassal state under Satsuma, alongside its already long-established tributary relationship with China, until it was formally annexed by Japan in 1879 as the Okinawa Prefecture.


The war was called the Disturbance of Kiyū (己酉ノ乱, Kiyū no ran), with 1609 being a kiyū year in the sexagenary cycle. It was also called the Japanese Disturbance of Kiyū (己酉倭乱, Kiyū Wa ran) by the Ryukyu Kingdom.[1] In Japan, the war was called the Ryukyu Expansion (琉球征伐, Ryūkyū Seibatsu) or the Entry into Ryukyu (琉球入り, Ryūkyū iri) during the Edo period,[2] and was called the Okinawa Expansion Campaign (征縄の役, Sei Nawa no Eki) by many Japanese scholars before WWII.[3][failed verification]


Satsuma's invasion of Ryukyu was the climax of a long tradition of relations between the kingdom and the Shimazu clan of Satsuma. The two regions had been engaged in trade for at least several centuries and possibly for far longer than that; in addition, Ryukyu at times had paid tribute to the Ashikaga shogunate (1336–1573) of Japan as it did to China since 1372.

In the final decades of the 16th century, the Shimazu clan, along with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who ruled Japan from 1582 to 1598, requested or demanded various types of aid or service from the kingdom on a number of occasions. King Shō Nei (r. 1587–1620) met some of these demands. Shō Nei sent a tribute ship, the Aya-Bune, to Satsuma in February or March of 1592,[4][5] and agreed to provide approximately half of his allocated burden in preparation for the invasion of Korea in 1593.[6] However, Shō Nei also ignored many communications from Shimazu and Hideyoshi, which spurred the Shimazu, with the permission of the newly established Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867), to invade Ryukyu in 1609, claiming it to be a punitive mission.

One of the chief events which spurred Satsuma to aggression occurred when Hideyoshi launched the first of two invasions of Korea. In 1591, Shimazu Yoshihisa said that "Hideyoshi ordered Ryukyu and Satsuma to contribute 15000 troops in order to invade China; however, Ryukyu is a far country and Japanese military strategy is unfamiliar to your forces. I exempt you from mobilization of the troops. In exchange, however, you must supply 10 months' rations for 7000 troops."[7][8][9] Sho Nei supplied only half of the demanded amount in 1593.

Following Hideyoshi's death in 1598, and Tokugawa Ieyasu's subsequent rise to power, Shō Nei was asked by Satsuma to formally submit to the new shogunate, a request which was ignored. In 1603, some Ryukyu sailors were cast ashore on the coast of the Sendai domain, and Tokugawa Ieyasu sent them back to Ryukyu.[10] The Shimazu asked Ryukyu to thank Ieyasu again, but Ryukyu ignored the request.[11][12] The Shimazu then requested to launch a punitive mission against Ryukyu. Approximately 100 ships carrying roughly 3,000 soldiers concentrated at Yamakawa harbor on March 1, 1609. Ichirai Magobee, who was one of them, would write a diary documenting the expedition. The fleet left harbor on March 4, under the command of Kabayama Hisataka and Hirata Masumune.


Amami Island[edit]

The Satsuma fleet arrived at Amami Ōshima on April 7, where the Amamian people did not resist, but assisted the Satsuma army. Tameten (笠利首里大屋子為転), the chief of Kasari, was a subject of Kabayama, and called on the Amamian people to surrender.[13] Shigetedaru (焼内首里大屋子茂手樽), the chief of Yakiuchi, supplied the Satsuma army.[14] On April 10, Shō Nei was informed of Satsuma's landing on Amami, and he sent Ibun (天龍寺以文長老), the priest of Tenryu temple,[15] to Amami in order to surrender, but Ibun missed the Satsuma army for unknown reasons. On April 16, 13 Satsuma ships then left for Tokunoshima in advance,[16] and the others left Amami at 6am on April 20.

Tokuno Island[edit]

On April 17, 13 ships arrived at Tokunoshima and dispersed. Two ships arrived at Kanaguma, but nothing happened. Eight ships arrived at Wanya.[17] The ships were besieged all night by 1,000 people. On April 18, Satsuma troops disembarked, fired into the crowds, and killed 50 people. Three ships arrived at Akitoku,[18] and were attacked at the water's edge by the Akitoku people. However, troops quickly fought back and killed 20–30 people.[19] The Satsuma fleet also arrived at Akitoku at 4pm, April 20. On April 21, Kabayama left for Okierabu Island with 10 ships in advance. Others left Tokunoshima at 10am, April 24, and arrived at Okierabu at sunset. They met Kabayama and his ships there, and quickly departed for Okinawa Island.

Okinawa Island[edit]

The Satsuma fleet arrived at Unten harbor on the Motobu Peninsula of Okinawa island on April 25 at 18:00. On April 27, some disembarked. They found Nakijin Castle deserted, and set fires in several places.[20] As soon as Shō Nei heard of Satsuma's arrival at Nakijin, he called Kikuin (菊隠[21]), the zen master, giving him a royal order: "You had lived in Satsuma for several years, so you know three lords of the Shimazu clan[22] very well. Go and make a proposal for peace."[23] Kikuin and his diplomatic mission (Kian was an assistant) left the Ryukyuan royal capital, Shuri at 8am, April 26, and arrived at Kuraha[24] at 12pm. They left Kuraha for Onna by boat. On April 27, they left Onna, and arrived at Nakijin. Kikuin parleyed with Kabayama, who then ordered peace talks at Naha.

In the early morning of April 29,[25] the Satsuma fleet and Kikuin left Unten harbor. They arrived at Ōwan, near Yomitanzan[26] at 6pm. The Ryukyuan Mission left immediately, and arrived at Makiminato at 10pm, where they left their boat, and arrived late at night. Kikuin reported Kabayama's order to Shō Nei, and went down to Naha in the early morning. At Ōwan, Kabayama sent some of his officers to Naha in order to fulfill his promise, while he disembarked his other men, because he heard that there was a chain at the entrance of Naha harbor. "If there is a chain, no ship can enter the harbor."[27] Kabayama and his army then landed at Ōwan, and marched to Shuri.

At 2 PM, May 1, the Satsuma ships entered Naha harbor, and immediately held peace talks at Oyamise (親見世).[28] At that time, there was a fire in Shuri, and Kabayama's force reacted and surged forward. Some Satsuma officers[29] ran up to Shuri from Naha, and calmed down troops. Because Shō Nei gave Kabayama his own brother Shō Ko (尚宏[30]), and all three of his ministers as hostage, Kabayama ordered his men to return to Naha from Shuri, and all of the Satsuma army were there by 4pm, May 1. On May 4, Shō Nei left Shuri Castle, and on May 5, some Satsuma officers entered the castle, and started making an inventory of treasures they found there.


Translations of the oaths of Shō Nei and the Council of Three and of the Fifteen Injunctions, published in October 1879 in the context of the Ryūkyū Disposition in The North China Herald

On May 17, Shō Nei departed Unten harbor for Satsuma along with roughly one hundred of his officials. In August, 1610, he met with the retired Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu in Sunpu Castle. He was then taken to Edo, for a formal audience with Shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada on August 28. On December 24, he arrived at Kagoshima, where he was forced to formally surrender and to declare a number of oaths to the Shimazu clan. In 1611, two years after the invasion, the king returned to his castle at Shuri. In the king's absence, Kabayama Hisataka and his deputy Honda Chikamasa governed the islands on behalf of their lord Shimazu Tadatsune. 14 samurai officials from Satsuma, along with 163 of their staff,[31] examined the kingdom's political structures and economic productivity, and conducted land surveys of all the islands. Following the king's return to Shuri and the resumption of governance under the royal establishment, some Ryukyuan officials went to Kagoshima as hostages.

The surrender documents signed at Kagoshima in 1611 were accompanied by a series of oaths.[32] The king and his councilors were made to swear that "the islands of Riu Kiu have from ancient times been a feudal dependency of Satsuma",[33] and that there was a long-standing tradition of sending tribute and congratulatory missions on the succession of the Satsuma lords, though these were clearly not true. The oaths also included stipulations that the kingdom admit its culpability in ignoring and rejecting numerous requests for materials and for manpower, that the invasion was justified and deserved, and that the lord of Satsuma was merciful and kind in allowing the king and his officers to return home and to remain in power. Finally, the councilors were forced to swear their allegiance to the Shimazu over their king. Tei Dō, a royal councilor and commander of the kingdom's defense against the invasion, refused to sign the oaths, and was subsequently beheaded.

The Ryukyus remained nominally independent, an "exotic realm" (異国, ikoku)[34] to the Japanese. The kingdom's royal governmental structures also remained intact, along with its royal lineage. However, Amami Ōshima and a number of other northern islands now known as the Satsunan Islands were annexed into Satsuma Domain, and they remain today within Kagoshima Prefecture. Though the king retained considerable powers, he was only permitted to operate within a framework of strict guidelines set down by Satsuma, and was required to pay considerable amounts in tribute to Satsuma on a regular basis. Efforts were also made to obscure Satsuma's domination of Ryukyu from the Chinese Court, in order to ensure the continuation of trade and diplomacy, since China refused to conduct formal relations or trade with Japan at the time.

This framework of guidelines was largely set down by a document sometimes called the Fifteen Injunctions (掟十五ヶ条, Okite jūgo-ka-jō), which accompanied the oaths signed in Kagoshima in 1611, and which detailed political and economic restrictions placed upon the Kingdom. Prohibitions on foreign trade, diplomacy, and travel outside of that officially permitted by Satsuma were among the chief elements of these injunctions. Ryukyu's extensive trade relations with China, Korea, and Southeast Asia were turned to Satsuma's interests, and various laws were put into place forbidding interactions between Japanese and Ryukyuans, and travel between the two island nations. Likewise, travel abroad from Ryukyu in general, and the reception of ships at Ryukyu's harbors, were heavily restricted with exceptions made only for official trade and diplomatic journeys authorized by Satsuma.

Campaign gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chūzan Seikan (中山世鑑), chapter 2: "琉球徃古ニハ金銀満ッテ或ハカンサシヲ作リ或ハ祭噐ヲ作リ又ハ大明暹羅日本ナトヘ往来致シ商賈ヲシケルモ察度王金宮ヨリ堀出給ケル金トソ聞ヱシ其ノ祭噐モカンサシモ数百年ノ後尚寧王ノ時マテ傳リケルカ己酉ノ乱ニ失セタリキ"
  2. ^ 高良倉吉『琉球王国の構造』吉川公文館、1987年、ISBN 9784642026536 pp.234
  3. ^ 国土交通省 奄美群島の概要
  4. ^ 「雑録後編2」No.851
  5. ^ 上原 pp.64
  6. ^ 「大日本古文書巻16・島津家文書之3」No.1452「去々年貴邦の軍役について天下の命に任せて使礼をもって演説のところ、過半を調達、珍重々々」
  7. ^ 入唐. China was the original target of the war.
  8. ^ 上原 pp.60
  9. ^ 「雑録後編2」No.785
  10. ^ 「島津家文書之二」(「大日本古文書・家わけ16」)No.1119
  11. ^ 「雑録後編3」No.1862尚寧宛義久書状「別て貴国の流人、左相府の御哀憐を以て本国に之を送らるる。其の報礼の遅延然る可からず。急ぎ一使を遣わすに謝恩の意の厚きを以てすべし。其の期に莅めば馳走を遂ぐ可き者也」
  12. ^ 「雑録後編4」No.532島津家久「呈琉球国王書」「今際聘せず、明亦懈たれば、危うからざるを欲して得べけんなり」
  13. ^ 「奄美大島諸家系譜集」「笠利氏家譜」「慶長十三年、日本薩州縦り御攻め取りの刻、両御大将舟を召し、一艘は笠利湊江御着岸、先一艘は同間切の内、雨天湊江御着岸。先一番佐文為転江御勢を向けられ、畢、為転薩州の御手に属し奉り、大島中の手引きをして、 則ち島人を降参せしむ」
  14. ^ 「奄美大島諸家系譜集」「前里家家譜」「然処に、鹿府より樺山美濃守様、本琉球対地の為、当津大和浜江御差入之宛、則ち茂手樽降参いたし、用物薪草野等捧げ奉り、首尾好く此の地相納り、之より数日ご滞在に及び、順風を以て、本琉球え御渡海なられ・・・」
  15. ^ Shō Taikyū constructed Tenryu-ji. No one knows its location.
  16. ^ 「渡海日々記」「十六日・・・此日とくと申嶋江類船之内十三艘参候」
  17. ^ a harbor of Amagi town. 天城町・湾屋港
  18. ^ present Kametoku harbor in Tokunoshima town.徳之島町・亀徳港
  19. ^ 「肝付兼篤書状」「公(肝付越前守兼篤)の船及ひ白坂式部少輔の船唯二艘、徳の島の内かなぐまに着す、此間18里、従者の舟は同嶋の内わいな(湾屋)に着す、共に着する船7艘なり、ここにて敵一千ばかりかけ来り、通夜舟の辺を囲居るの際、翌18日、各船より下りて鉄炮を放ちかくれば、暫も支へず崩れ行を追打に首50ばかり討取けり、内当手の士前田左近将監・伊達斛兵衛尉・白尾玄蕃允・有馬藤右衛門尉・坂本普兵衛尉各分捕して5人を得たりと云々、同20日、同嶋の内あき徳に至(原注:かなくまより五里)、味方の舟二三艘此所に着けるに、敵寄せ来たりしをここかしこに追詰、二三十人討取しと云々、同21日、あきとくを出、海路七八里程行けるに、俄に風悪くなりしかば、辛して漕戻し又元の泊の隣かめそう(亀津)と云所へ着す、あきとくにて樺山氏を始兵船二十艘渡海、同湊に入、当手の小舟もここにて追付奉る、都合舟数70余と云々、」
  20. ^ 「渡海日々記」「ときじんの城あけのき候、巳之刻程に俄に打ちまわり候て、方々放火共候」
  21. ^ He became Zen priest in early life, and went Japan to study Zen. 10 years later, he came back to Ryukyu, became the chief priest of Enkaku-ji (円覚寺). When Satsuma invaded, he was old and had retired from chief of the temple. After this war, Shō Nei constructed Seirai temple (西来院) for Kikuin. Sho Nei gave Kikuin the title of prince, and ordered him to succeed the prince regent Shō Ko. Kikuin assisted Sho Nei for several years, and then he retired again. He died October 13, 1620. 「琉球国由来記」No.69
  22. ^ Shimazu Yosihisa, Yoshihiro, Iehisa
  23. ^ 「喜安日記」「西来院は数年薩州に住居ありて殊更御両三殿御存知の事なれば行向て無為和睦を申調られよ」
  24. ^ 久良波. Currently a part of Onna village
  25. ^ 「喜安日記」「二十九日早天」
  26. ^ 大湾 or 大湾渡具知 (Ōwan Toguchi) downstream of the Hijya River
  27. ^ 「雑録後編4」No.553「樺山権左衛門久高譜中」「明くる日悉く那覇の津に到らんと欲するも、爰で津口に鉄鎖の設け有るを之聞き、鉄鎖有る、則ち豈に一船の津隈に入るを得んや、且つ亦、他江の軍船繋ぐ可き無し。是を以って四月朔日に、物主等の乗る船五、六艘をして、件の指南を以って那覇津に到らしめ、其の余は悉く陸地に上がらしめ、干戈を手に共にして進み向かうに・・・」
  28. ^ Satsuma delegation: 大慈寺, 市来織部, 村尾笑栖. Ryukyu: 具志上王子尚宏, 西来院(菊隠), 名護, 池城安頼, 豊美城續, 江栖栄真, 喜安, 津見. "Kian diary"
  29. ^ Ichirai-Oribe (市来織部) and Murao-Syosu (村尾笑梄) with their troops. "Kian diary"
  30. ^ He was the regent of the Kingdom. He assisted his brother very well, but died at 33 years old in Japan, on August 21, 1610. 上原 pp.201
  31. ^ Kerr. p159.
  32. ^ These can be found in translation in Kerr. pp160-163.
  33. ^ Smits. p16.
  34. ^ Toby, Ronald. State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984. pp46–47.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Samurai Capture a King, Okinawa 1609. Author: Stephen Turnbull. Osprey Raid Series #6; Osprey Publishing, 2009. ISBN 9781846034428
  • 琉球大学リポジトリ「喜安日記(伊波本)(Kian diary)」
  • 鹿児島県歴史史料センター黎明館編「旧記雑録後編4」鹿児島県,1984年.No.557「琉球渡海日々記(My diary of crossing sea to Ryukyu)」No.659「琉球入ノ記」
  • 鹿児島県歴史史料センター黎明館編「旧記雑録拾遺家わけ2」鹿児島県,1991年.No.640「肝付兼篤書状」
  • 亀井勝信編「奄美大島諸家系譜集」図書刊行会,1980年.
  • 外間守善編「琉球国由来記」角川書店、1997年。No.69「達磨峰西来禅院記」
  • 上原兼善「島津氏の琉球侵略」榕樹書林、2009年。("Ryukyu invasion by Shimazu clan". Author: Uehara Kenzen.)