The people of Okinawa have benefited greatly and been influenced from their history of trade with China, Japan, Korea and other Southeast Asian countries along with the mild year round subtropical climate. For the lives of people cultivated in this backdrop, it is said that each village possesses originality, and the cultures and customs are diversified. The difficulty of summarizing life in Okinawa into one word can be called the allure of Okinawa.
Okinawa has been known as the prefecture of longevity as there are many people more than 100 years old. The secret to their longevity lies hidden in the relaxed environment which is unique to warm tropical areas and the rich nature and unique lifestyle of the people in Okinawa.
Customs and the Ways of Living
Customs formed by the mild climate and traditions prior to the Ryukyu Kingdom are truly diverse. For example, there are many festivals with various purposes from ancestor worship to praying for good harvests and bountiful catches. The custom of respecting one’s ancestors and caring for your ancestors and family is more rooted in Okinawa than elsewhere in Japan. Okinawa is also known for the extreme longevity of its citizens which they say results from Okinawa’s food culture and the influence of “Yuimaru” (meaning to help each other) spirit.
The dialect of Okinawa is believed to have split from primitive Japanese and evolved. In fact, the vestiges of languages used in Japan from around 7th to 8th century can be found in the Okinawa dialect. It is also said that you may have difficulty understanding people from other islands if you live on a different island and that local dialects differ by region. Well known Okinawan words are “Mensore = Welcome”, “Haisai = Hello” and so on.