Okinawa Prefecture is east of Asia, at the southwest terminus of the great arc of the Japanese archipelago. Japan’s only island Prefecture, Okinawa includes a sweep of 160 islands, large and small, across 1,000 kilometers of Ocean east-west and 400 kilometers north-south.
In the days when Okinawa was the Ryukyu Kingdom, our ancestors filled their sails with the seasonal winds and voyaged to the four corners of the ocean to prosper through trade with China and the nations of Southeast Asia.
Given its location as the part of Japan closest to the nations of Southeast Asia, Okinawa has always cultivated relations and interactions with other countries. Geographically destined to be a base of international exchange, Okinawa will continue to be a Prefecture open to the world.
Okinawa – Quick Fact
Area: 2,275.71km2(0.6% of Japan’s total area) As of October 1, 2007
Population: 1,373.754(1.08% of Japan’s total) As of October 1, 2007
Before Okinawa, there was Ryukyu, an independent kingdom ruled by its kings, its people seafarers prospering through trade with China and other neighboring countries. In 1609, Ryukyu was invaded by Satsuma Han forces and incorporated into mainland Japan’s Tokugawa Era “bakuhan” feudal regime. Okinawa Prefecture was created in 1879 when Japan’s new Meiji government abolished hans (feudal domains).
During the Pacific War, the people of Okinawa were engulfed in the war’s only land battle on Japanese territory. After the war, America retained control of Okinawa until 1972 when sovereignty reverted to Japan.
Japan’s only Prefecture in the subtropical latitudes, Okinawa enjoys a mild climate all year round. With schools of brightly colored tropical fish, the coral reef seas support a rich profusion of life.
And in the forests of northern Okinawa Island and Iriomote Island live rare animals such as the Yanbaru Kuina (Okinawa Rail) and the Iriomote Wildcat, known worldwide as rare and important creatures.
In December 2000, nine sites including Shurijo Castle and the ruins of Nakagusuku Castle were added to the list on World Heritage Sites as “Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.” There are nearly 300 Gusuku in the Ryukyu Archipelago, most of them found at or near hilltops with open views. Many of the Gusuku included as world heritage sites were probably the castles of local lords during the era culminating in the formation of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
This group of sites and others are important reminders of Ryukyu’s independent history and culture.
During Ryukyu Kingdom times, the royal government paid close attention to the arts. The Kumiodori musical drama, dance and music embellished court life. Music and dance were also an indispensable part of festivals and the common people’s amusements and indeed continue to be today.
Contemporary Okinawa musicians and artists are heralded throughout Japan and worldwide.
Bingata and bashofu dyed weavings; lacquer were and pottery are some of today’s Okinawan traditional crafts. Many of these crafts originated in relations with China and Japan during the Ryukyu Kingdom era. International influences melded with local traditions and inspiration to produce a unique and delightful world of beauty.
Okinawa is renowned worldwide for its people’s longevity. A number of things no doubt contribute to this – the temperate climate, the people’s open-hearted character, the “yuimaru” or the spirit of mutual support – but surely the islands’ traditional diet deserves much of the credit. From China, the principle that food is medicine came to permeate Okinawan dietary culture.
Historically, there were two dietary worlds in Okinawa – the elegant royal court cuisine developed to welcome officials from Imperial China and Satsuma Han, and the robust and nourishing foods that formed the daily diet of ordinary people.
With its warm climate and lush nature, its special history and culture, Okinawa has so much to offer visitors. As a premier destination, Okinawa attracts a host of visitors from mainland Japan and abroad.
To assure sustainable tourism growth, Okinawa implements effective domestic and foreign tourist promotions. With full regard for protecting the environment, the Prefecture works to build and maintain a welcome system appropriate to an international tourist destination.
Building on hosting the Kyushu-Okinawa summit State Leading Meeting, the public and private sectors are working together to build the Convention Island Okinawa image with events such as international meetings and business conventions, pro and amateur sports camps attracted by Okinawa’s mild winters, and business incentive tours.
Developing locally based science and technology will power growth. Public research facilities like the Industrial Technology Center and the Agricultural Research Center support research and development.
The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology will be a nucleus of collaboration among researchers in Okinawa and elsewhere. Research and human resource development will spark new industries and knowledge clusters.
As the crossroads of Asia, Okinawa has a 600-year history of international exchange. Today, Okinawa trains students and technicians from abroad, sending them home equipped to help their nations grow and develop.
The Prefecture also works to build networks among the 360,000 people of Okinawan descent living all around the globe.