From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Area||2,271.30 km² (44th)|
|- % water||0.5%|
|Population (October 1, 2000)|
|- Population||1,318,218 (32nd)|
|- Density||580 /km²|
|- Flower||Deigo (Erythrina variegata)|
|- Bird||Okinawa woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii)|
Symbol of Okinawa Prefecture
Okinawa Prefecture (沖縄県 Okinawa-ken?, Okinawan: Uchinā) is Japan's southernmost prefecture, and consists of hundreds of the Ryūkyū Islands in a chain over 1,000 km long, which extends southwest from Kyūshū (the southwesternmost of Japan's main four islands) to Taiwan. Okinawa's capital, Naha, is located in the southern part of the largest and most populous island, Okinawa Island, which is approximately half-way between Kyūshū and Taiwan. The disputed Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands) are also administered as part of Okinawa Prefecture.
The islands that now make up Okinawa Prefecture were formerly not part of Japan, but part of an independent nation called the Ryūkyū Kingdom. Currently they include the main island of Okinawa and the Yaeyama and Miyako island groups. Okinawa's location in the East China Sea, and relatively close proximity to Japan, Korea, China and South East Asia allowed the Ryūkyū Kingdom to become a prosperous trading nation. The many castle ruins that dot the island date from this period. The Ryūkyū Kingdom long had a tributary relationship with China. In 1609 the Satsuma clan, who controlled the region that is now Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan invaded the Ryūkyū Kingdom. Following this invasion, the Ryūkyū Kingdom was forced to enter into a tributary relationship with Satsuma in addition to their previous tributary relationship with China. Ryūkyūan sovereignty, however, was maintained, since to do otherwise would have created problems with both China and the Tokugawa Shogunate, which Satsuma had opposed during the preceding period of conflict. This gave Satsuma a high level of access to trade with China during a period in which such trade was heavily restricted and largely clandestine. Though Satsuma maintained strong influence over the Ryūkyū Kingdom, the Ryūkyū Kingdom maintained a large degree of political independence. In 1879, following the Meiji Restoration, the Ryūkyū Kingdom was forcibly incorporated into Japan as a colony known as Okinawa Prefecture.
Following the end of World War II and the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, for 27 years Okinawa was under United States administration. During this time the US military established numerous bases on Okinawa Honto and elsewhere.
On May 15, 1972, Okinawa once again became part of Japan, although to this day the United States maintains a large military presence there. Over 15,000 Marines, in addition to contingents from the Navy, Army and Air Force, are stationed there. Representing only 0.6% of the total landmass of Japan, Okinawa supports roughly 75% of all U.S. troops in the country. Most Okinawans feel that the large presence places an undue burden on their small island (20% of land on Okinawa-Jima is U.S. territory) and have been upset by a number of incidents involving U.S. servicemembers and local citizens. Both Japan and the U.S., however, believe that the benefits of the U.S. presence outweigh the disadvantages. The U.S. has recently announced plans to move the bulk of its Japan-based forces to Guam, over a period of many years. See also Ryūkyūan history.
 Major islands
Okinawa's inhabited islands are typically divided into three geographical archipelagos. From northeast to southwest:
Okinawa Prefecture includes eleven cities.
 Towns and villages
These are the towns and villages in each district.
- On April 1, 2002, the villages of Gushikawa and Nakazato from Shimajiri merged to form the new town of Kumejima.
- On April 1, 2005, the cities of Gushikawa and Ishikawa and the towns of Katsuren and Yonashiro (both from Nakagami District) merged to form the new city of Uruma. Prior to the merger, both Gushikawa and Ishikawa were forced to merge into one city because both cities weren't making enough renevues for the prefecture
- On October 1, 2005, the city of Hirara and the towns of Irabu, Gusukube, Shimoji and the village of Ueno (all from Miyako District) merged to form the new city of Miyakojima.
- On January 1, 2006, the town of Kochinda and the village of Gushikami from Shimajiri District merged to form the new town of Yaese. (Merger Information Page)
- On January 1, 2006, the town of Sashiki and the villages of Tamagusuku, Chinen and Ozato (all from Shimajiri District) merged to form the new city of Nanjo. (Merger Information Page)
 Climate and nature
The island is largely composed of coral rock, and rainwater filtering through that coral has given the island many caves, which played an important role in the Battle of Okinawa. Gyokusendo, an extensive limestone cave in the southern part of Okinawa Honto, is a popular tourist attraction.
Okinawa is said to have the most beautiful beaches in all of Japan and normally enjoys above 20 degree Celsius weather for most of the year. Many coral reefs are found in this region of Japan and wildlife is abundant. 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. Okinawa is a major producer of sugar cane, pineapples, papayas and other tropical fruits.
Okinawa has a very large proportion of population living to one hundred years of age. It is attributed to their healthy diet rich in vegetables and fish. Okinawa also has the highest life expectancy rate in the world, with native men living on average to 90.1 years and native women living to an average of 93.2 years.
 Language and culture
Having historically been a separate nation, Okinawan language and culture differ considerably from that of mainland Japan. There remain numerous Ryūkyūan languages which are more-or-less incomprehensible to Japanese speakers. These languages are in decline as the Japanese government has encouraged the use of Standard Japanese. Okinawa also has its own religious beliefs.
Due to its location and history, Okinawa is also more ethnically diverse than other parts of Japan. Okinawans are a unique blend of Malay from Formosa and the Philippines, Chinese from China, and Japanese (Yamato) from Japan. 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.
The people of Okinawa maintain a strong tradition of pottery, textiles and glass making.
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 poisonous habu, which are too small for this purpose, but are sometimes used to make habu awamori). 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.
- See also: Okinawan cuisine
 In popular culture
- In the popular anime/manga series Love Hina, by Ken Akamatsu, Mutsumi Otohime originates from the island of Okinawa.
- Yukie Nakama, popular Japanese TV drama, movie actress and singer, is from Okinawa prefecture.
- Gackt, popular rock/pop musician is from Okinawa prefecture.
- Shoukichi Kina, a popular musician who combines traditional Okinawan music, Indian music and jazz.
- The Chinese movie Okinawa Rendezvous is set in Okinawa and was shot on location there.
- Orange Range, a very successful and popular alternative rock group are from Okinawa.
- Namie Amuro, popular Japanese singer, is from Okinawa Prefecture.
- The Kitano Takeshi movie Sonatine is largely set on Okinawa.
- The Karate Kid, Part II, starring Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio, is set in Okinawa, but was actually shot in Hawaii.
- American actress Tamlyn Tomita, who starred in The Karate Kid, Part II, is of Okinawan descent.
- The Japanese televised drama series Ruri no Shima is largely set on a small island in Okinawa, with additional shooting done in Naha.
- Hattori Hanzo, a fictional character from the Kill Bill series (named after the historical Hattori Hanzo) lives in Okinawa.
- Shinichiro Watanabe's Samurai Champloo is in part based on Okinawa culture.
- Olivia, a popular Japanese singer, is from Okinawa Prefecture and attended the famous Okinawa Actors School.
- Koza, Okinawa is the home of several of the main characters in the anime series, Blood+.
- Yu Yamada, popular model and actress, is from the Okinawa Prefecture.
- Meisa Kuroki, young model and actress is from Okinawa Prefecture.
Okinawa has many remains of a unique type of castle or fortress called Gusuku. These are believed to be the predecessors of Japan's castles. 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 roundish statue of 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.
 US Military controversy
While the US military presence provides employment for the residents of the communities near the bases, some Okinawans feel that their livelihood and human rights have been violated throughout the 50 years of the postwar era by high-level noise pollution from military drills, aircraft accidents, environmental destruction, and crimes committed by U.S. military personnel.
Consequent problems of military crimes (including extraterritoriality), a base-dependent local economy, and other issues continue to arise in Okinawa, and have their roots arising from the early post-war period. The Yumiko Incident is notorious for the rape and murder of 6-year-old Yumiko. Isaac J. Hart, who committed the crime was never convicted. On September 4, 1995, three U.S. servicemen raped a 12-year old girl, sparking off some of the largest anti-military protests in recent history. In November of 1995, a group called "Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence" was organized to raise awareness of the crimes committed by US military personnel on the island.
 US nuclear arms base
Okinawa is one of a number of Japanese islands which has been used by the United States to host nuclear arms, according to Robert S. Norris, William M. Arkin, and William Burr writing for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in early 2000.   This is despite the Japanese Constitution being explicitly not just anti-nuclear-weapons, but anti-war.  Whether the site is currently used for this purpose is unknown, as great secrecy surrounds the United States' siting of nuclear arms bases.
"There were nuclear weapons on Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima, an enormous and varied nuclear arsenal on Okinawa, nuclear bombs (sans their fissile cores) stored on the mainland at Misawa and Itazuki airbases (and possibly at Atsugi, Iwakuni, Johnson, and Komaki airbases as well), and nuclear-armed U.S. Navy ships stationed in Sasebo and Yokosuka."
"It is true that Chichi Jima, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa were under U.S. occupation, that the bombs stored on the mainland lacked their plutonium and/ or uranium cores, and that the nuclear-armed ships were a legal inch away from Japanese soil. All in all, this elaborate strategem maintained the technicality that the United States had no nuclear weapons 'in Japan.'"
 MCAS Futenma relocation
The governments of the United States and Japan agreed on October 26, 2005 to move the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma base from its location in the densely populated city of Ginowan to the more northerly and remote Camp Schwab. Under the plan, thousands of Marines will relocate. The move is partly an attempt to relieve tensions between the people of Okinawa and the Marine Corps. 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.
The legality of the proposed heliport relocation has been questioned as being a violation of International Law, including the World Heritage Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in an article titled "Boundary Intersections of UNESCO Heritage Conventions: Using Custom and Cultural Landscapes to Save Okinawa’s Dugong Habitat from U.S. Heliport Construction" which can be found at www.henoko.com.  The article even questions whether the current use of Camp Schwab for Amphibious training violates these three conventions.
 Air transportation
- Aguni Airport
- Hateruma Airport
- Ieshima Airport
- Ishigaki Airport
- Kerama Airport
- Kita Daito Airport
- Kumejima Airport
- Minami Daito Airport
- Miyako Airport
- Naha Airport
- Shimojijima Airport
- Tarama Airport
- Yonaguni Airport
- Okinawa Expressway
- Naha Airport Expressway
- Route 58
- Route 329
- Route 330
- Route 331
- Route 332
- Route 390
- Route 449
- Route 505
- Route 506
- Route 507
- See also: Rail transportation in Okinawa
The major ports of Okinawa include
- Naha Port 
- Port of Unten 
- Port of Kinwan 
- Nakagusukuwan Port 
- Hirara Port 
- Port of Ishigaki 
 United States military installations
- Kadena Air Base
- Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler (link)
- Naha Military Port
- Naval Facility White Beach
- Camp Lester
- Torii Station
- Camp Shields
 See also
- Ryūkyū Islands
- Ryūkyūan people
- Okinawan Samurai
- Ryūkyūan history
- Ryūkyūan religion
- Okinawan language
- Okinawa Island
 External links
- Geography and maps
- Kumejima Okinawa - MSN group site dedicated to the US battle for Okinawa in World War 2.
|Ginowan | Ishigaki | Itoman | Miyako-jima | Nago | Naha (capital) | Nanjo | Okinawa | Tomigusuku | Urasoe | Uruma|
|Kunigami | Miyako | Nakagami | Shimajiri | Yaeyama|