Thursday, May 21, 2009

History of Ryukyu Kingdom

Ryukyu Kingdom
Prior to Japan annexing the islands in 1879, Okinawa was ruled by the Ryukyu kingdom (Allen, 2002). The Ryukyu rulers enjoyed economic prosperity -- trading with Japan, China, and Southeast Asia – and maintained peaceful diplomatic relationships with their trading partners for centuries (Hein & Seldon, 2003). Today, the most tangible physical representation of the Ryukyu kingdom is Shuri Castle, which was constructed in approximately 1427 as a royal residence, seat of government, and religious center. Shuri Castle maintained these functions in 1879, when it became part of Japanese army barracks. The castle burned during the battle of Okinawa, and was partially reconstructed in 1992. In 1999, the castle was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Hein & Seldon, 2003).

The Ryukyu kingdom traded with China, Korean Peninsula, Siam (Thailand), Malacca (a state in Malaysia), Luzon (the largest island in the Philippines), among others, from the 14th century until its annexation by Japan near the end of the 19th century. This relationship resulted in a great deal of Chinese, Korean, and other Southeast Asian countries influencing the culture of Okinawa, especially with respect to local language, custom, clothes, food, music, ceramics, and textiles (Okinawa Prefecture Government of Military Base Affairs Division, 2008). In 1609, the Ryukyu Kingdom was invaded by Japan’s Satsuma domain, which allowed the Ryukyu king to retain power and cultivated the trading relationship with Japan’s mainland (Allen, 2002). In consequence of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the Meiji Government altered the Ryukyu Kingdom into Okinawa prefecture in 1879, known as the “Ryukyu Disposition” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 2009).

Allen, M. (2002). Identity and Resistance in Okinawa. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Selden (Ed), Island of Discontent, 1-35. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Okinawa Prefecture Government of Military Base Affairs Division
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa Prefecture)
Early History of The Ryukyu Kingdom and its Relationship with China and Japan (Okinawa Peace Network of Los Angles)


  1. Interesting history. So the Okinawan self-rule is an ancient concept; this means there is a history to back Okinawans emotionally as they struggle for more control over their own destiny. In any identity group, that history gives power and endurance, patience and determination.

  2. I recently lived there on a military base and I can understand the Okinawans not wanting us there. But they would lose so much financially and security-wise if the military were to leave. Their government has a contract with the military there, that we have to provide so many jobs to the locals that it is almost impossible for any of the military dependents to get a job there because they are all taken by the locals. We provide so many jobs to them, provide so much money to their economy, and we protect them too for letting us be in their country.

  3. Hillary- Yes, that is true that the U.S. military brings lots of economy and provide lots of jobs to locals. However, that is not what Okinawan local people want or need. This issue is even controversial and create another conflict among Okinawans. Also, that is the actual purpose of the U.S. government, and their excuse to justify themselves and staying there. Yes, they will lose lots of money and jobs if the U.S. military leaves, but they will find the alternative way to survive without the military. The entire system is created to let them depend on the military base, so they cannot get rid of the military from their land. If they have a choice, they do not want to depend on the military or get those whatever "benefits". If you would like to more about this issue, I have more resources, so please let me know. You will understand how the system was actually created only beneficial to the U.S. but not Okinawan people.
    Second, about the issue of security, please read my other posts. I think you will realize how Okinawa is secure and safe for local people with the presence of the U.S. military. It is very clear that Okinawan people don't feel the military is there to protect them.

  4. Hello! I'm not American nor Japanese (Canadian).

    But it seems hypocritical to me to want Americans to leave Okinawa but not the Japanese.

    Do the Okinawan people want to be occupied by the Japanese instead of the US, or do they want true independence?

  5. Okinawans want peace of mind to not have to live in fear or worry that an aircraft will crash into their home or childrens school, or that they will be raped or beated or run over by a drunk driver who gets away scott free. They want to get a good nights sleep instead of the deafening aircraft noise that flies at ridiculous hours. Okinawans want their voices heard and be able to live a better quality of life. They want autonomy and not be pawns for the US or Japan. They want rights to their ancestral graves, clean environment without agent orange, depleted uranium, dioxins, toxic soils, water etc. They want security in their own backyard. They want true good neighbors not where military personnel break into peoples homes to vandalize on a drunked night. You can say the us military is there to protect them but really they need protection for them. Crimes committed by us military are a constant threat to it's people. They see wolves in sheeps clothing as they pick up trash or play sports with the locals. There are still unexploded ordance in their backyard. How much clean up has been done? We are only now being told the truth about agent orange in Okinawa.
    How many people have gotten cancer, esp. leukima. which is known to occur near us bases. Okinawans want peace, clean environment, safety, security, not fear and lies.