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Okinawa Prefecture

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Okinawa Prefecture (沖縄県 Okinawa-ken)
Map of Japan with Okinawa highlighted
Capital Naha (那覇)
Region Kyūshū (九州)
Island Okinawa
Governor Keiichi Inamine
Area 2,271.30 km² (44th)
 - % water 0.5%
Population  (October 1, 2000)
 - Population 1,318,218 (32nd)
 - Density 580 /km²
Districts 5
Municipalities 41
ISO 3166-2 JP-47
Prefectural Symbols
 - Flower Deigo (Erythrina variegata)
 - Tree Ryūkyūmatsu
 - Bird Okinawa woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii)
Symbol of Okinawa Prefecture
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.


[edit] History

Please expand this article.
Further information might be found in a section of the talk page or at Requests for expansion.

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.

[edit] Geography

[edit] Major islands

The islands of Okinawa Prefecture.
The islands of Okinawa Prefecture.

Okinawa's inhabited islands are typically divided into three geographical archipelagos. From northeast to southwest:

[edit] Cities

Map of Okinawa Prefecture.
Map of Okinawa Prefecture.

Okinawa Prefecture includes eleven cities.

[edit] Towns and villages

These are the towns and villages in each district.

[edit] Mergers

[edit] Demography

Okinawa prefecture age pyramid as of 1 October 2003
(per 1000's of people)

Age People
0-4 Image:g50.pngImage:g30.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.pngImage:g01.png 84
5-9 Image:g50.pngImage:g30.pngImage:g10.png 85
10-14 Image:g50.pngImage:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g01.pngImage:g01.png 87
15-19 Image:g50.pngImage:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.pngImage:g01.png 94
20-24 Image:g50.pngImage:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g01.png 91
25-29 Image:g100.pngImage:g01.pngImage:g01.png 97
30-34 Image:g100.pngImage:g03.pngImage:g01.png 99
35-39 Image:g50.pngImage:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g01.pngImage:g01.png 87
40-44 Image:g50.pngImage:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g01.png 91
45-49 Image:g100.pngImage:g01.png 96
50-54 Image:g100.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g01.png 100
55-59 Image:g50.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g01.pngImage:g01.png 64
60-64 Image:g50.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.png 65
65-69 Image:g50.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.pngImage:g01.png 66
70-74 Image:g50.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g01.png 53
75-79 Image:g30.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.pngImage:g01.png 37
80 + Image:g50.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.png 55

Okinawa Prefecture age pyramid, divided by sex, as of 1 October 2003
(per 1000's of people)

Men Age Women
43 Image:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.png 0-4 Image:r30.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r03.png 41
44 Image:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g01.png 5-9 Image:r30.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r03.png 41
45 Image:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g01.pngImage:g01.png 10-14 Image:r30.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r03.pngImage:r01.png 42
48 Image:g50.png 15-19 Image:r30.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r05.pngImage:r03.png 46
46 Image:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.png 20-24 Image:r30.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r05.pngImage:r01.pngImage:r01.png 45
49 Image:g50.pngImage:g01.png 25-29 Image:r50.png 48
49 Image:g50.pngImage:g01.png 30-34 Image:r50.pngImage:r03.png 50
43 Image:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.png 35-39 Image:r30.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r05.pngImage:r01.png 44
46 Image:g30.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.png 40-44 Image:r30.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r05.pngImage:r01.pngImage:r01.png 45
49 Image:g50.pngImage:g01.png 45-49 Image:r30.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r05.pngImage:r03.pngImage:r01.png 47
52 Image:g50.pngImage:g05.png 50-54 Image:r50.png 48
32 Image:g30.pngImage:g03.png 55-59 Image:r30.pngImage:r03.png 32
32 Image:g30.pngImage:g03.png 60-64 Image:r30.pngImage:r03.pngImage:r01.png 33
32 Image:g30.pngImage:g03.png 65-69 Image:r30.pngImage:r05.pngImage:r01.png 34
24 Image:g10.pngImage:g10.pngImage:g05.png 70-74 Image:r30.png 29
14 Image:g10.pngImage:g03.pngImage:g01.png 75-79 Image:r10.pngImage:r10.pngImage:r03.pngImage:r01.png 23
17 Image:g10.pngImage:g05.pngImage:g03.png 80 + Image:r30.pngImage:r10.png 38

[edit] Climate and nature

Gusuku ruins.
Gusuku ruins.

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.

[edit] Language and culture

Shisa on a traditional tile roof.
Shisa on a traditional tile roof.
Awamori pots.
Awamori pots.
"Ishiganto", a stone that wards off evil spirits (Yomitan, Okinawa).
"Ishiganto", a stone that wards off evil spirits (Yomitan, Okinawa).

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.

Another traditional Okinawan product that owes its existence to Okinawa's trading history is awamori—an Okinawan distilled spirit made from indica rice imported from Thailand.

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

[edit] Karate

Main article: Karate

Karate originated on Okinawa. There are several styles, among them being Shotokan, Shorin-Ryu, Wado Ryu, Uechi Ryu, Goju Ryu, Isshin-Ryu and Shorinjiryu.

[edit] In popular culture

[edit] Architecture

A traditional Okinawan house.
A traditional Okinawan house.

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.

[edit] 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.[1] 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.

[edit] 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. [2] [3] This is despite the Japanese Constitution being explicitly not just anti-nuclear-weapons, but anti-war. [4] 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.'"

[edit] 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[5].

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 [6] The article even questions whether the current use of Camp Schwab for Amphibious training violates these three conventions.

[edit] Education

The public schools in Okinawa are overseen by the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education. The agency directly operates several public high schools [7].

[edit] Transportation

[edit] Air transportation

[edit] Highways

[edit] Rail

See also: Rail transportation in Okinawa

[edit] Ports

The major ports of Okinawa include

  • Naha Port [8]
  • Port of Unten [9]
  • Port of Kinwan [10]
  • Nakagusukuwan Port [11]
  • Hirara Port [12]
  • Port of Ishigaki [13]

[edit] United States military installations

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • News
  • History
    • Kumejima Okinawa - MSN group site dedicated to the US battle for Okinawa in World War 2.

Shadow picture of Okinawa Prefecture Okinawa Prefecture
Flag of Okinawa Prefecture
Ginowan | Ishigaki | Itoman | Miyako-jima | Nago | Naha (capital) | Nanjo | Okinawa | Tomigusuku | Urasoe | Uruma
Kunigami | Miyako | Nakagami | Shimajiri | Yaeyama

Coordinates: 26° N 128° E

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