|• Governor||Hirokazu Nakaima|
|• Total||2,271.30 km2 (876.95 sq mi)|
|Population (October 1, 2013)|
|• Density||622/km2 (1,610/sq mi)|
|ISO 3166 code||JP-47|
|Flower||Deego (Erythrina variegata)|
|Tree||Pinus luchuensis (ryūkyūmatsu)|
|Bird||Okinawa woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii)|
|Fish||Banana Fish (Caesio diagramma,"Takasago", "Gurukun")|
|History of Ryūkyū|
Okinawa Prefecture (Japanese: 沖縄県 Hepburn: Okinawa-ken?, Okinawan: ウチナーチン Uchinaa-chin) is the southernmost prefecture of Japan. It comprises hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) long. The Ryukyus extend southwest from Kyūshū (the southwesternmost of Japan's main four islands) to Taiwan. The Okinawa Prefecture encompasses the southern two thirds of that chain. Okinawa's capital, Naha, is located in the southern part of Okinawa Island.
The oldest evidence of human existence in the Ryukyu islands was discovered in Naha and Yaese. Some human bone fragments from the Paleolithic era were unearthed, but there is no clear evidence of Paleolithic remains. Japanese Jōmon influences are dominant in the Okinawa Islands, although clay vessels in the Sakishima Islands have a commonality with those in Taiwan.
The first mention of the word Ryukyu was written in the Book of Sui. Okinawa was the Japanese word identifying the islands, first seen in the biography of Jianzhen, written in 779. Agricultural societies begun in the 8th century slowly developed until the 12th century. Since the islands are located at the eastern perimeter of the East China Sea relatively close to Japan, China and South-East Asia, the Ryūkyū Kingdom became a prosperous trading nation. Also during this period, many Gusukus, similar to castles, were constructed. The Ryūkyū Kingdom had a tributary relationship with the Chinese Empire beginning in the 15th century.
In 1609, the Shimazu clan, which controlled the region that is now Kagoshima Prefecture, invaded the Ryūkyū Kingdom. The Ryūkyū Kingdom was obliged to agree to form a tributary relationship with the Satsuma and the Tokugawa shogunate, while maintaining its previous tributary relationship with China; Ryukyuan sovereignty was maintained since complete annexation would have created a conflict with China. The Satsuma clan earned considerable profits from trade with China during a period in which foreign trade was heavily restricted by the shogunate.
Although Satsuma maintained strong influence over the islands, the Ryūkyū Kingdom maintained a considerable degree of domestic political freedom for over two hundred years. Four years after the 1868 Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government, through military incursions, officially annexed the kingdom and renamed it Ryukyu han. At the time, the Qing Empire asserted sovereignty over the islands of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, since the Ryūkyū Kingdom was also a tributary nation of China. Ryukyu han became Okinawa Prefecture of Japan in 1879, even though all other hans had become prefectures of Japan in 1872. In 1912, Okinawans first obtained the right to vote for representatives to the national Diet which had been established in 1890.
A quarter of the civilian population died during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. The dead, of all nationalities, are commemorated at the Cornerstone of Peace. After the end of World War II in 1945, Okinawa was under United States administration for 27 years. During trusteeship rule, the United States established numerous military bases on the Ryukyu islands. During the Korean War, B-29 Superfortresses flew bombing missions from Kadena Air Base, on Okinawa, over Korea.
In 1972, the U.S. government returned the islands to Japanese administration. Under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, the United States Forces Japan (USFJ) have maintained a large military presence. 27,000 personnel, including 15,000 Marines, contingents from the Navy, Army and Air Force, and their 22,000 family members are stationed in Okinawa. Since 1960, the U.S. and Japan have maintained an agreement that allows the U.S. to secretly bring nuclear weapons into Japanese ports, and there is speculation (see below) that some nuclear weapons may be located in Okinawa. Both tactical and strategic weapons have been maintained in Okinawa. U.S. military bases occupy 18% of the main island, while 62% (exclusive use only) of all USFJ bases are located in Okinawa prefecture.
Reports by the local media of accidents and crimes committed by U.S. servicemen have reduced the local population's support for the U.S. military bases. A strong emotional response has emerged from certain incidents. As a result, the media has drawn renewed interest in the Ryukyu independence movement which developed after 1945. The rape of a 12-year-old girl by U.S. servicemen in 1995 triggered large protests in Okinawa. U.S. servicemen in Japan have an overall low rate of criminality, lower than the general population within Okinawa. Partially as a result, but also to deploy USFJ more efficiently, the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed in 2006 to the relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and other minor bases. A new Japanese government that came to power in 2009 froze the relocation plan, but in April 2010 indicated their interest in resolving the issue by proposing a modified plan. Okinawan feelings about the U.S. military are complex, and some of the resentment towards the U.S. bases is directed towards the government in Tokyo, perceived as being insensitive to Okinawan needs and using Okinawa to house bases not desired elsewhere in Japan. Okinawa is the poorest prefecture within Japan, and the issue of U.S. bases has become tangled with the sense of colonialist/imperialist treatment of Okinawa by Tokyo.
The islands comprising the prefecture are the southern two thirds of the archipelago of the Ryūkyū Islands (琉球諸島 Ryūkyū-shotō?). Okinawa's inhabited islands are typically divided into three geographical archipelagos. From northeast to southwest:
Eleven cities are located within the Okinawa Prefecture. Okinawan names are in parentheses:
These are the towns and villages in each district:
As of March 31, 2008, 19% of the total land area of the prefecture was designated as Natural Parks, namely the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park; Okinawa Kaigan and Okinawa Senseki Quasi-National Parks; and Irabu, Kumejima, and Tonaki Prefectural Natural Parks.
Iriomote is home to one of the world's rarest and most endangered cat species, the Iriomote Cat. The region is also home to at least one endemic pit viper, Trimeresurus elegans. Coral reefs found in this region of Japan provide an environment for a diverse marine fauna. The sea turtles return yearly to the southern islands of Okinawa to lay their eggs. The summer months carry warnings to swimmers regarding poisonous jellyfish and other dangerous sea creatures.
The island is largely composed of coral, and rainwater filtering through that coral has given the island many caves, which played an important role in the Battle of Okinawa. Gyokusendo is an extensive limestone cave in the southern part of Okinawa's main island.
The island experiences temperatures above 20 °C (68 °F) for most of the year. Okinawa and the many islands that make up the prefecture contains some of the most abundant coral reefs found in the world. Rare blue corals are found off of Ishigaki and Miyako islands as are numerous species throughout the chain.
Okinawa Prefecture age pyramid, divided by sex, as of October 1, 2003
(per thousands of people)
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2006)|
Having historically been a separate nation until 1879, Okinawan language and culture differ in many ways from that of mainland Japan.
There remain numerous Ryukyuan languages which are more or less incomprehensible to Japanese speakers, although they are considered to make up the family of Japonic languages along with Japanese. These languages are in decline as Standard Japanese is being used by the younger generation. They are generally perceived as "dialects" by mainland Japanese and Okinawans themselves. Standard Japanese is almost always used in formal situations. In informal situations, de facto everyday language among Okinawans under age 60 is Okinawa-accented mainland Japanese ("Okinawan Japanese"), which is often misunderstood as Okinawan language proper. The actual traditional Okinawan language is still used in traditional cultural activities, such as folk music, or folk dance. There is a radio news program in the language as well.
Okinawans have traditionally followed Ryukyuan religious beliefs, generally characterized by ancestor worship and the respecting of relationships between the living, the dead, and the gods and spirits of the natural world.
Okinawan culture bears traces of its various trading partners. One can find Chinese, Thai and Austronesian influences in the island's customs. Perhaps Okinawa's most famous cultural export is karate, probably a product of the close ties with and influence of China on Okinawan culture. Karate is thought to be a synthesis of Chinese kung fu with traditional Okinawan martial arts. A ban on weapons in Okinawa for two long periods after the invasion and forced annexation by Japan during the Meiji Restoration period also very likely contributed to its development. Okinawans' reputation as wily resisters of being influenced by conquerors is depicted in the 1956 Hollywood film, The Teahouse of the August Moon, which takes place immediately after World War II.
Other prominent examples of Okinawan culture include the sanshin—a three-stringed Okinawan instrument, closely related to the Chinese sanxian, and ancestor of the Japanese shamisen, somewhat similar to a banjo. Its body is often bound with snakeskin (from pythons, imported from elsewhere in Asia, rather than from Okinawa's venomous Trimeresurus flavoviridis, which are too small for this purpose). Okinawan culture also features the eisa dance, a traditional drumming dance. A traditional craft, the fabric named bingata, is made in workshops on the main island and elsewhere.
The Okinawan diet consist of low-fat, low-salt foods, such as fish, tofu, and seaweed. Okinawans are known for their longevity. Individuals live longer on this Japanese island than anywhere else in the world. Five times as many Okinawans live to be 100 as in the rest of Japan, and the Japanese are already the longest-lived ethnic group of them all. There are 34.7 centenarians for every 100,000 inhabitants, which is the highest ratio worldwide. The possible explanations to this fact is the diet, low-stress lifestyle, caring community, activity, and spirituality of the inhabitants of the island.
In recent years, Okinawan literature has been appreciated outside of the Ryūkyū archipelago. Two Okinawan writers have received the Akutagawa Prize: Matayoshi Eiki in 1995 for The Pig's Retribution (豚の報い Buta no mukui?) and Medoruma Shun in 1997 for A Drop of Water (Suiteki). The prize was also won by Okinawans in 1967 by Tatsuhiro Oshiro for Cocktail Party (Kakuteru Pāti) and in 1971 by Mineo Higashi for Okinawan Boy (Okinawa no Shōnen).
Karate originated in Okinawa. Over time, it developed into several styles and sub-styles. On Okinawa, the three main styles are considered to be Shorin-Ryu, Gōjū-ryū and Uechi-Ryu. Internationally, the various styles and sub-styles include Wado Ryu, Isshin Ryu, Shotokan, Isshin-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan, Shorinjiryu Koshinkai, Shorinji Ryu, and Shuri-ryū.
Despite widespread destruction during the war, there are many remains of a unique type of castle or fortress known as gusuku; the most significant are now inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List (Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu). In addition, twenty-one Ryukyuan architectural complexes and thirty-six historic sites have been designated for protection by the national government.
Whereas most homes in Japan are made with wood and allow free-flow of air to combat humidity, typical modern homes in Okinawa are made from concrete with barred windows (protection from flying plant matter) to deal with regular typhoons. Roofs are also designed with strong winds in mind, with each tile cemented on and not merely layered as seen with many homes elsewhere in Japan.
Many roofs also display a statue resembling a lion or dragon, called a shisa, which is said to protect the home from danger. Roofs are typically red in color and are inspired by Chinese design.
Between 1965 and 1972, Okinawa was a key staging point for the United States, in its military operations directed towards North Vietnam. Okinawa, along with Guam, also presented the United States military a geographically strategic launch pad for covert bombing missions over Cambodia and Laos. Anti-Vietnam War sentiment became linked politically to the movement for reversion of Okinawa to Japan. Political leaders such as Oda Makoto, a major figure in the Beheiren movement (Foundation of Citizens for Peace in Vietnam), believed that the return of Okinawa to Japan would lead to the removal of U.S forces ending Japan's involvement in Vietnam. In a speech delivered in 1967 Oda was critical of Prime Minister Sato’s unilateral support of America’s War in Vietnam claiming "Realistically we are all guilty of complicity in the Vietnam War".
In 1965, the United States military bases, earlier viewed as paternal post war protection, were increasingly seen as aggressive. The military build up on the island during the Cold War increased a division between local inhabitants and the American military. The Vietnam War highlighted the differences between the United States and Okinawa, but showed a commonality between the islands and mainland Japan.
The United States military bases on Okinawa became a focal point for anti-Vietnam War sentiment. By 1969, over 50,000 American military personnel were stationed on Okinawa, accustomed to privileges and laws not shared by the indigenous population. The United States Department of Defense began referring to Okinawa as "The Keystone of the Pacific". This slogan was imprinted on local U.S military license plates.
As controversy grew regarding the alleged placement of nuclear weapons on Okinawa, fears intensified on the possible escalation of the Vietnam War. Okinawa was then perceived, by some inside Japan, as a potential target for China, should the communist government feel threatened by the United States. American military secrecy blocked any local reporting on what was actually occurring at such bases as Kadena Air Base. But as information leaked out, and images of air strikes were published, the local population began to fear the potential for retaliation.
The Beheiren became a more visible protest movement on Okinawa as the American involvement in Vietnam intensified. The anti-war movement employed tactics ranging from demonstrations, to handing leaflets to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines directly, warning of the implications for a third World War.
In 1945 the US Army and Marine Corps liberated Okinawa from the Imperial Army of Japan with 185,000 troops. The United States maintains Air Force, Marine, Navy, and Army military installations on the islands. These bases include Kadena Air Base, Camp Foster, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Camp Hansen, Camp Schwab, Torii Station, Camp Kinser, and Camp Gonsalves. The area of 14 U.S. bases are 233 square kilometres (90 sq mi), occupying 18% of the main island. Okinawa hosts about two-thirds of the 50,000 American forces in Japan. The islands account for less than one percent of total lands in Japan. Suburbs have grown towards and now surround two historic major bases, Futenma and Kadena. One third (9,852 acres (39.87 km2)) of the land used by the U.S. military is the Marine Corps Northern Training Area in the north of the island.
A 2012 book, Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, argues that the U.S. presence on Okinawa, which has provoked strong opposition and resistance among the island's inhabitants, is not geared towards defending Japan, but rather to serve as part of an American forward deployment strategy aimed at Southeast Asia and China, the stability of which is not important to Japanese commercial or defense interests.[verification needed]
Between 1972 and 2009, there were 5,634 criminal offenses committed by U.S. servicemen, including 25 murders, 385 burglaries, 25 arsons, 127 rapes, 306 assaults and 2,827 thefts. In early 2008, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice apologized after a series of crimes involving American troops in Japan, including the rape of a young girl of 14 by a Marine on Okinawa. The U.S. military also imposed a temporary 24-hour curfew on military personnel and their families to ease the anger of local residents. Okinawan Prefectural Police statistics show that the crime rate of military personnel is consistently less than that of the general Okinawan population.
According to a 2007 Okinawa Times poll, 85% of Okinawans opposed the presence of the U.S. military, because of noise pollution from military drills, the risk of aircraft accidents, environmental degradation, and extra crowding from the number of personnel there, although 73.4% of Japanese citizens appreciated the mutual security treaty with the U.S. and the presence of the USFJ. In another poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun in May 2010, 43% of the Okinawan population wanted the complete closure of the U.S. bases, 42% wanted reduction and 11% wanted the maintenance of the status quo.
The Japanese tended to oppose the introduction of nuclear arms into Japanese territory by the government's assertion of non-nuclear policy and a statement of the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. Most of the weapons were alleged to be stored in ammunition bunkers at Kadena Air Base. Between 1954 and 1972, 19 different types of nuclear weapons were deployed in Okinawa, but with fewer than around 1,000 warheads at any one time.
In 1999 and 2002, The Japan Times and the Okinawa Times reported speculation that not all the supposed weapons were removed from Okinawa. In an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun in 1981, Edwin O. Reischauer, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, said that U.S. naval ships armed with nukes stopped at Japanese ports on a routine duty and this was approved by the Japanese government.
The governments of the United States and Japan agreed on October 26, 2005 to move Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from its location in the densely populated city of Ginowan to the more northerly and remote Camp Schwab in Nago. Under the plan, thousands of Marines will relocate. Protests from environmental groups and residents over the construction of part of a runway at Camp Schwab, and from businessmen and politicians around Futenma and Henoko, have occurred.
As of 2006, some 8,000 U.S. Marines are planned to be moved from the island and eventually relocated to Guam. In November 2008, U.S. Pacific Command Commander Admiral Timothy Keating stated that the move to Guam would probably not be completed before 2015.
Japan's former foreign minister Katsuya Okada stated that he wanted to review the deployment of U.S. troops in Japan to ease the impactx on the people of Okinawa, where many U.S. bases are located, the Associated Press reported October 7, 2009. 5,000 Marines of 9,000 Marines will be deployed at Guam and the rest will be deployed at Hawaii and Australia. Japan will pay $3.1 billion cash for the moving and for developing joint training ranges on Guam and on Tinian and Pagan in the U.S.-controlled Northern Mariana Islands.
The public schools in Okinawa are overseen by the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education. The agency directly operates several public high schools. The U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) operates 13 schools total in Okinawa. Seven of these schools are located on Kadena Air Base.
There are 10 colleges/universities in Okinawa, including the University of the Ryukyus, the only national university in the prefecture, and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, a new international research institute. Okinawa's American military bases also host the Asian Division of the University of Maryland University College.
In addition, various baseball teams hold training during the winter in the prefecture as it is the warmest prefecture of Japan with no snow and higher temperatures than other prefectures.
There are numerous golf courses in the prefecture, and there was formerly a professional tournament called the Okinawa Open.
The major ports of Okinawa include:
The United States has a number of bases on Okinawa which are financially supported by the U.S. and Japan. They provide jobs for Okinawans, both directly and indirectly. They account for 4 or 5% of the economy nowadays. However, Professor of Economics, Koji Taira, argued in 1997 that because the U.S. bases occupy around 20% of Okinawa's land, they impose a deadweight loss of 15% on the Okinawan economy. In 2011, the U.S. military employed over 9800 Japanese workers in Okinawa. It contributed $1.9 billion to the local economy. The Tokyo government also pays the prefectural government around $100 million per year in compensation for the American presence, and, since much of the land on which American bases are situated is private, significant rent is also being paid that is not captured in these figures.
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