The History of Okinawa

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The History of Okinawa

Prehistory (Paleolithic era – Gusuku era)

There are several theories surrounding the origin of the Minatogawa people who are believed to have lived in Okinawa 22,000 years ago, one suggesting China being their origin while others speculating their origin to be Indonesia, Australia, and other regions.
Life was centered on hunting, gathering, and fishing during the Shell Mound era, which lasted until around the 10th century.
During the Gusuku era between the 12th and 15th centuries, life transitioned to revolve around farming, and it can be seen from historical sites that the population grew rapidly during this era.

Sanzan Era

Further into the Gusuku era, conflict began to erupt among regional chiefs in the 13th century, and the three political spheres of influence, Hokuzan, Chuzan, and Nanzan were eventually formed. All three regions traded with China / the Ming dynasty, and embraced the rich culture from the continent.
The three regions were unified in 1429 by Sho Hashi and became the Ryukyu Kingdom, the first unified regime to be established in Ryukyu.

Great Trade Era – Disposition of Ryukyu

The Ryukyu Kingdom actively conducted trades with Japan and China as well as Luzon (now the Philippines) and Siam (now Thailand) in Southeast Asia among other nearby countries and was even recognized by the Europeans as Lequios or Goresu.
In order to entertain the envoys of the Chinese emperor who were dispatched each time the king of Ryukyu changed, the unique culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom, including performing arts, crafts, and food, became more refined.

However, in 1591, the invasion of Satsuma (now Kagoshima) began, and the Ryukyu Kingdom was placed under the control of Satsuma in 1606. While visiting Edo as a subsumption ritual for Japan, Ryukyu continued its tributary trades with China, but in 1875 during the Meiji era, the Ryukyu Kingdom was abolished, followed by orders to terminate the tributary relationship with the Qing Dynasty to comply with the political system of Japan, and Okinawa Prefecture was established.

Before the Wars – World War II

After the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture in 1879, the Japanese central government appointed Naoyoshi Nabeshima to become the first governor. Okinawa underwent modernization during that period, but a fierce ground battle unfolded during World War II that involved the general population, causing severe damage both, in terms of human lives and culturally.

After World War II – Present

In 1945, as World War II came to a close, Okinawa was placed under American rule, and until it was reverted to Japan on May 15, 1972, it went through a different history from that of the Mainland with heavy influence from the United States.

Since then, the G8 Summit (G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit) of 2000 and other international events were held, the Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu were registered under the World Cultural Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2000, and today, Okinawa is highly received as one of the leading resort destinations in Japan by not only domestic travelers but also international travelers.