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Okinawa is the southern most prefecture of Japan and the main island of
the Ryukyu island chain. Because Okinawa had been the half-independent
Ryukyu Kingdom until 1879, Okinawa has a culture and a language that are
different from mainland Japan. The Okinawan language, known locally as
Uchinaguchi, is only used by older Okinawan people. Most of the younger
Okinawan people prefer to speak Japanese.
Area Ranked 44th
- Total 2,271.30
Climate and Nature - % water km²
Okinawa is said to have the most Population
beautiful beaches in all of Japan and - Total (Oct. 1, Ranked 32nd
normally enjoys above 20 degree 2000) 1,318,218
celcius weather throughout the year. - Density 580/km²
Many coral reefs are found in this Districts: 5
region of Japan and wildlife is
abundant. Sea turtles return yearly to Municipalities: 53
the southern islands of Okinawa to lay ISO 3166-2: JP-47
their eggs. The summer months carry Symbols
warnings to swimmers regarding
poisonous jelly fish and other Deigo
dangerous sea creatures. Okinawa is a Pref. Flower: (Erythrina
major producer of sugar cane and variegata)
tropical fruits. Pref. Tree: Ryukyumatsu
Pref. Bird: woodpecker
Whereas most homes in Japan are made noguchii)
with wood and allow free-flow of air
to combat humidity, homes in Okinawa are typically made from concrete to
deal with regular typhoons. Roof styles also hint at resisting high gusts
with each tile cemented on and not merely layered on as seen with most homes
in Japan. Many roofs also display a roundish dragon statue called a Shisa
which is said to protect the home from danger. Roofs are typically red in
color and are inspired by Chinese design.
Okinawa is also considered the birth place of karate. The origins of this
form of martial art are not clear, but were likely born from the synthesis
of an external style of kung fu brought from China and native Okinawan
fighting techniques, known as Okinawa-te or simply Te. A ban on weapons in
Okinawa for two long periods in its history very likely contributed to the
purely weaponless nature of karate.
American service men and woman stationed in Okinawa after World War II
learned karate there and took the martial art to America where it grew in
Okinawan Tension with Japan
Many Okinawans refuse to raise the Japanese flag at official events, because
of the flag's perceived link to Japan's emperor, the Japanese Imperial
Military, and the World War II Battle of Okinawa. The Japanese flag reminds
many Okinawans of the worst aspects of Japanese imperialism.
On October of 1987, Mr. Syoichi Chibana burned the Japanese flag while it
was being raised for the Kaiho National Athletic meet in Yomitan, Okinawa.
This incident not only shocked Okinawans, but also Japanese.
During the Battle of Okinawa, Japanese soldiers killed Okinawan civilians.
One reason was due to non combatants disturbing the Japanese military in
their hiding places. During the battle, people hid in the many caves on
Okinawa. At first, there were only civilians, but the soldiers also took
refuge in the caves after the fighting became intense. During the many
fierce battles, the babies in the caves started crying. Their mothers tried
to stop the crying, but the soldiers, being afraid of being found by the
enemy, murdered the babies at once. This brutality was not unusual to the
Okinawans. They were also killed over small amounts of food. "At midnight,
soldiers would wake up Okinawans and take them to the beach. Then they chose
Okinawans at random and threw hand grenades at them." (Moriguchi, 1992)
The suspicion of being a spy was another reason why Okinawans were killed.
Classified World War II Japanese military documents describe punishment for
Okinawans who didn't speak Japanese. They were declared spies, and killed
for speaking their own language. Additionally, Japanese soldiers shot
Okinawans who wanted to surrender to Allied Forces appealing to them to quit
fighting. The Japanese military commanders were afraid of their subordinates
losing their fighting spirit while watching civilians surrender. So they
killed civilians to prevent their troops from losing morale.
During March 1945, there was an intense battle on Yaeyama Island. The
Japanese military forced people to evacuate from their towns to the
mountains even though malaria was prevalent there. Okinawans, without food
and medicine, lost 54% of the island's population to starvation and disease.
After WW II, the government stated that the Japanese military didn't know
that malaria was prevalent on Yaeyama Island, however there is some evidence
that this was known before evacuating the Okinawans to the mountains. The
bereaved families of the malaria victims filed a lawsuit against the
government for its responsibility.
The Princess Lilies
Another point of Okinawan resentment is due to that the WWII Japanese
military forced school girls to join a group known as the Princess Lilies
and go to the battle front as nurses. The Princess Lilies was an
organization made up of girl students, 15 to 16 years old, who participated
in the battle as nurses. There were seven girl's high schools in Okinawa at
the time of WW II. The Princess Lilies were organized at two of them, and a
total of 297 students and teachers joined the group and eventually served
the Army as nurses. Two hundred and eleven died. Most of the girls were put
into caves, which served as temporary clinics, and took care of injured
soldiers. There was no medicine, food or water. Many of the young girls died
while trying to get water for the wounded soldiers. The Japanese military
also told these girls that if they were taken prisoner the enemy would rape
and then kill them, and then gave the girls hand grenades to commit suicide
with before being taken prisoner. One of the Princess Lilies explains this
by saying, "We had a strict imperial education, so being taken prisoner was
the same a being a traitor. We were taught to prefer suicide to becoming a
captive." --(Moriguchi, 1992) Many students died saying "Tenno Banzai."
which means "Long live the Emperor."
The board of education, made up entirely of mainland Japanese, required the
girls' participation. Teachers opposed to the board of education, insisting
the students be evacuated to somewhere safe, were accused of being traitors.