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History of OKINAWA

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 Jomon 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. This Ryukyu might refer to Taiwan, not the Ryukyu islands.

Okinawa was the Japanese word depicting 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 in the center of the East China Sea relatively close to Japan, China and South-East Asia, the Ryukyu Kingdom became a prosperous trading nation. Also during this period, many Gusukus, similar to castles, were constructed. The Ryukyu Kingdom had a tributary relationship with the Chinese Empire beginning in the 15th century. In 1609 the Satsuma clan, which controlled the region that is now Kagoshima Prefecture, invaded the Ryukyu Kingdom. Following the invasion the Ryukyu Kingdom surrendered to the Satsuma and was forced to form a tributary relationship with Satsuma and the Tokugawa shogunate, in addition to its previous relationship with China.


Ryukyuan sovereignty was maintained since complete annexation would create a problem with China. The Satsuma clan earned considerable profits from trades with China during a period in which foreign trade was heavily restricted by the shogunate. Though Satsuma maintained strong influence over the islands, the Ryukyu 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 Dynasty of China asserted sovereignty over the islands of the Ryukyu Kingdom, since the Ryukyu 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. Following the Battle of Okinawa and the end of World War II in 1945, Okinawa was under United States administration for 27 years. During the trusteeship rule the USA established numerous military bases on the Ryukyu islands. In 1972, the U.S. government returned the islands to Japanese administration.

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 History of OKINAWA

The great age of trade, which was established by the Ryukyu Kingdom throughout East Asia, ended with the appearance of the Western European powers in the 16th century. The amicable trade relationship which had been built with Japan began to show changes. The Shimazu Clan of Satsuma began to approach the Ryukyus with territorial ambitions, eventually culminating in a Satsuma invasion of the Ryukyu Kingdom with a Shogunate sponsored military force in 1609. The Ryukyu Kingdom, weak militarily and having virtually no experience in battle after long peaceful years as a kingdom, was subordinated, without any real resistance, under the Satsuma clan.

Shimazu Invasion of the Ryukyus

The Shimazu invasion did not result in the dismantlement of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and its hegemony by Satsuma was concealed from China. Satsuma imposed taxes to be paid in rice and other commodities. The lucrative trade and many other facets of life were controlled by their rules. The Ryukyus were also required to send processions to Edo (Tokyo) to pay obeisance to the Shogunate.

Shimazu Hegemony

Within this age of disorder, the Ryukyus were fortunate to have had the appearance of bold and able reform leaders such as Choshu Haneji and Saion. Facing up to the reality of Satsuma domination, they tried to save the Ryukyu Kingdom through policies based on cooperation with the Satsuma clan. It was time that the traditional political system of the Ancient Ryukyus ended and the road to a new modern age in the Ryukyu Kingdom opened up.

Reconstruction of the Ryukyu Kingdom

The Latter Period Ryukyus was an age of even more advancement and development. The kingdom actively absorbed culture from Japan and China. Harmonizing the diverse cultural influences from Japan and China developed most of the Ryukyuan culture's rich distinctiveness. The traditional Okinawan culture we enjoy today was cultivated in this early modern age.

The Flourishing Industry and Culture of the Latter Period Ryukyus

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