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The Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
(琉球諸島[1], Ryūkyū-shotō, Japanese pronunciation: [ɾʲɯːkʲɯː], English: /riˈuːkjuː/[2]), more commonly known in Japanese as the Nansei Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shotō, lit. "Southwest Islands") and also known as the Ryukyu Arc (琉球弧, Ryūkyū-ko), are a chain of Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu
Kyushu
to Taiwan: the Ōsumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima Islands
Sakishima Islands
(further divided into the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands), with Yonaguni
Yonaguni
the southernmost. The larger are mostly high islands and the smaller mostly coral. The largest is Okinawa. The climate of the islands ranges from humid subtropical climate ( Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification
Cfa) in the north to tropical rainforest climate ( Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification
Af) in the south. Precipitation
Precipitation
is very high, and is affected by the rainy season and typhoons. Except the outlying Daitō Islands, the island chain has two major geologic boundaries, the Tokara Strait between the Tokara and Amami Islands, and the Kerama Gap
Kerama Gap
between the Okinawa
Okinawa
and Miyako Islands. The islands beyond the Tokara Strait are characterized by their coral reefs. The Ōsumi and Tokara Islands, the northernmost of the islands, fall under the cultural sphere of the Kyushu
Kyushu
region of Japan; the people are ethnically Japanese and speak a variation of the Kagoshima dialect of Japanese. The Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands
have a native population collectively called the Ryukyuan people, named for the former Ryukyu Kingdom
Ryukyu Kingdom
that ruled them. The varied Ryukyuan languages are traditionally spoken on these islands, and the major islands have their own distinct languages. In modern times, the Japanese language
Japanese language
is the primary language of the islands, with the Okinawan Japanese
Okinawan Japanese
dialect prevalently spoken. The outlying Daitō Islands were uninhabited until the Meiji period, when their development was started mainly by people from the Izu Islands
Izu Islands
south of Tokyo, with the people there speaking the Hachijō language. Administratively, the islands are divided into Kagoshima Prefecture (specifically the islands administered by Kagoshima District, Kumage Subprefecture/District, and Ōshima Subprefecture/District) in the north and Okinawa Prefecture
Okinawa Prefecture
in the south, with the divide between the Amami and Okinawa
Okinawa
Islands, with the Daitō Islands
Daitō Islands
part of Okinawa Prefecture. The northern (Kagoshima) islands are collectively called the Satsunan Islands, while the southern part of the chain (Okinawa Prefecture) are called the Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
in Japanese.

Contents

1 Island subgrouping 2 Names and extents

2.1 Nansei Islands 2.2 Ryukyu

2.2.1 Historical usage

2.3 Okinawa 2.4 Southern Islands

3 History

3.1 The Eastern Islands of Liuqiu 3.2 Ancient Japan's Southern Islands 3.3 Kikaigashima and Iōgashima 3.4 Shimazu Estate and Kamakura shogunate's expansion 3.5 Tanegashima
Tanegashima
under the Tanegashima
Tanegashima
clan 3.6 Amami and Tokara Islands 3.7 Okinawa
Okinawa
Islands

3.7.1 Historical description of the "Loo-Choo" islands

4 Population

4.1 Ryukyuan native people 4.2 Religion

5 Ecology

5.1 Yakushima 5.2 Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama

6 See also 7 References

7.1 Citations 7.2 Sources

8 External links

Island subgrouping[edit]

The latest sunset in Japan
Japan
is seen from Yonaguni.

The Ryukyus are commonly divided into two or three primary groups:

either administratively, with the Northern Ryukyus being the islands in Kagoshima Prefecture
Kagoshima Prefecture
(known in Japanese as the "Satsunan Islands") and the Southern Ryukyus being the islands in Okinawa
Okinawa
Prefecture (known in Japanese as the "Ryukyu Islands"), or geologically, with the islands north of the Tokara Strait (Ōsumi and Tokara) being the Northern Ryukyus, those between the Tokara Strait and Kerama Gap
Kerama Gap
(Amami and Okinawa) being the Central Ryukyus, and those south of the Kerama Gap
Kerama Gap
(Miyako and Yaeyama) being the Southern Ryukyus.

Following are the grouping and names used by the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Department of the Japan
Japan
Coast Guard.[3] The islands are listed from north to south where possible.

Nansei Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shotō)

Satsunan Islands
Satsunan Islands
(薩南諸島, Satsunan-shotō)

Ōsumi Islands
Ōsumi Islands
(大隅諸島, Ōsumi-shotō) with:

Tanegashima, Yaku, Kuchinoerabu, Mageshima
Mageshima
in the North-Eastern Group, Takeshima, Iojima, Kuroshima in the North-Western Group.

Tokara Islands
Tokara Islands
(吐噶喇列島, Tokara-rettō): Kuchinoshima, Nakanoshima, Gajajima, Suwanosejima, Akusekijima, Tairajima, Kodakarajima, Takarajima Amami Islands
Amami Islands
(奄美群島, Amami-guntō): Amami Ōshima, Kikaijima, Kakeromajima, Yoroshima, Ukeshima, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabujima, Yoronjima

Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
(琉球諸島, Ryūkyū-shotō)

Okinawa Islands
Okinawa Islands
(沖縄諸島, Okinawa-shotō): Okinawa
Okinawa
Island, Kume, Iheya, Izena, Aguni, Ie (Iejima), Iwo Tori Shima (Iōtorishima) [4]

Kerama Islands
Kerama Islands
(慶良間諸島, Kerama-shotō): Tokashiki, Zamami, Aka, Geruma

Sakishima Islands
Sakishima Islands
(先島諸島, Sakishima-shotō, the "Further Isles")

Miyako Islands
Miyako Islands
(宮古列島, Miyako-rettō): Miyakojima, Ikema, Ōgami, Irabu, Shimoji, Kurima, Minna, Tarama Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands
(八重山列島, Yaeyama-rettō): Iriomote, Ishigaki, Taketomi, Kohama, Kuroshima, Aragusuku, Hatoma, Yubujima, Hateruma, Yonaguni Senkaku Islands
Senkaku Islands
(尖閣諸島, Senkaku-shotō, claimed by China
China
and Taiwan): Uotsurijima, Kuba Jima, Taisho Jima, Kita Kojima, Minami Kojima

Daitō Islands
Daitō Islands
(大東諸島, Daitō-shotō): Kita Daitō, Minami Daitō, Oki Daitō

The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, another government organization that is responsible for standardization of place names, disagrees with the Japan
Japan
Coast Guard over some names and their extent, but the two are working on standardization.[3] They agreed on February 15, 2010, to use Amami-guntō (奄美群島) for the Amami Islands; prior to that, Amami-shotō (奄美諸島) had also been used.[5] Names and extents[edit] The English and Japanese uses of the term "Ryukyu" differ. In English, the term Ryukyu may apply to the entire chain of islands, while in Japanese Ryukyu usually refers only to the islands that were previously part of the Ryūkyū Kingdom
Ryūkyū Kingdom
after 1624. Nansei Islands[edit] Nansei-shotō (南西諸島) is the official name for the whole island chain in Japanese. Japan
Japan
has used the name on nautical charts since 1907. Based on the Japanese charts, the international chart series uses Nansei Shoto.[3] Nansei literally means "southwest", the direction of the island chain from mainland Japan. Some humanities scholars prefer the uncommon term Ryūkyū-ko (琉球弧, "Ryukyu Arc") for the entire island chain.[6] In geology, however, the Ryukyu Arc includes subsurface structures such as the Okinawa Trough
Okinawa Trough
and extends to Kyushu. During the American occupation of Amami, the Japanese government objected to them being included under the name "Ryukyu" in English, because they worried that this might mean that the return of the Amami Islands to Japanese control would be delayed until the return of Okinawa. However, the American occupational government on Amami continued to be called the "Provisional Government for the Northern Ryukyu Islands" in English, though it was translated as Rinji Hokubu Nansei-shotō Seichō (臨時北部南西諸島政庁, Provisional Government for the Northern Nansei Islands) in Japanese.[7] Ryukyu[edit] The name of Ryūkyū (琉球) is strongly associated with the Ryūkyū Kingdom,[8] a kingdom that originated from the Okinawa Islands
Okinawa Islands
and subjected the Sakishima and Amami Islands. The name is generally considered outdated[by whom?] in Japanese although some entities of Okinawa
Okinawa
still bear the name, such as the local national university. In Japanese, the "Ryukyu Islands" (琉球諸島, Ryūkyū-shotō) cover only the Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama Islands,[9] while in English it includes the Amami and Daitō Islands. The northern half of the island chain is referred to as the Satsunan ("South of Satsuma") Islands in Japanese, as opposed to Northern Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
in English. Humanities scholars generally agree that the Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands
share much cultural heritage, though they are characterized by a great degree of internal diversity as well. There is, however, no good name for the group.[6][10] The native population do not have their own name, since they do not recognize themselves as a group this size. Ryukyu is the principal candidate because it roughly corresponds to the maximum extent of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. However, it is not necessarily considered neutral by the people of Amami, Miyako, and Yaeyama, who were marginalized under the Okinawa-centered kingdom.[10] The Ōsumi Islands
Ōsumi Islands
are not included because they are culturally part of Kyushu. There is a high degree of confusion in use of Ryukyu in English literature. For example, Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
equates the Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
with Japanese Ryūkyū-shotō or Nansei-shotō in the definition but limits its scope to the Amami, Okinawa
Okinawa
and Sakishima (Miyako and Yaeyama) in the content.[11] Historical usage[edit] "Ryūkyū" is an exonym and is not a self-designation. The word first appeared in the Book of Sui (636). Its obscure description of Liuqiu (流求) is the source of a never-ending scholarly debate over what was referred to by the name Taiwan, Okinawa
Okinawa
or both. Nevertheless, the Book of Sui shaped perceptions of Ryūkyū for a long time. Ryūkyū was considered a land of cannibals and aroused a feeling of dread among surrounding people, from Buddhist monk Enchin
Enchin
who traveled to Tang China
China
in 858 to an informant of the Hyōtō Ryūkyū-koku ki who traveled to Song China
China
in 1243.[12] Later, some Chinese sources used "Great Ryukyu" (Chinese: 大琉球; pinyin: Dà Liúqiú) for Okinawa and "Lesser Ryukyu" (Chinese: 小琉球; pinyin: Xiǎo Liúqiú) for Taiwan. Okinawan forms of "Ryūkyū" are Ruuchuu (ルーチュー) or Duuchuu (ドゥーチュー) in Okinawan and Ruuchuu (ルーチュー) in the Kunigami language.[13][14] An Okinawan man was recorded as having referred to himself as a "Doo Choo man" during Commodore Matthew C. Perry's visit to the Ryūkyū Kingdom
Ryūkyū Kingdom
in 1852.[15] From about 1829 until the mid-20th century, the islands' English name was spelled Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew. These spellings were based on the Chinese pronunciation of the characters "琉球", which in Mandarin is Liúqiú,[16] as well as the Okinawan language's form Ruuchuu (ルーチュー).[17] Okinawa[edit] Uchinaa (沖縄), Okinawa
Okinawa
in Japanese, is originally a native name for the largest island in the island chain. The Japanese map series known as the Ryukyu Kuniezu lists the island as Wokinaha Shima (悪鬼納嶋) in 1644 and Okinawa
Okinawa
Shima (沖縄嶋) after 1702. The name was chosen by the Meiji government for the new prefecture when they annexed the Ryukyu Kingdom
Ryukyu Kingdom
in 1879. "Okinawa" never extends to Kagoshima Prefecture. Outside the prefecture, Okinawa Prefecture
Okinawa Prefecture
is simply referred to as Okinawa. In Okinawa
Okinawa
Prefecture, however, Okinawa is strongly associated with Okinawa
Okinawa
Island, and in this sense, Okinawa excludes the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands. People in the Yaeyama Islands would use the expression "go to Okinawa" when they visit Okinawa Island. People from the Amami Islands, Kagoshima Prefecture
Kagoshima Prefecture
would also oppose being included in Okinawa.[10] Some scholars feel the need to group the Amami and Okinawa
Okinawa
Islands because Amami is closer to Okinawa
Okinawa
in some respects, for example from a linguistic point of view, than Miyako and Yaeyama. Japanese scholars use "Amami–Okinawa"[18] while American and European scholars use "Northern Ryukyuan".[19] They have no established single-word term for the group since the native population had not felt the need for such a concept.[10] Southern Islands[edit] The folklorist Kunio Yanagita
Kunio Yanagita
and his followers used Nantō (南島, "Southern Islands"). This term was originally used by the imperial court of Ancient Japan. Yanagita hypothesized that the southern islands were the origin of the Japanese people
Japanese people
and preserved many elements that were subsequently lost in Japan. The term is outdated today.[10] History[edit] Main article: History of the Ryukyu Islands

This section only describes one highly specialized aspect of its associated subject. Please help improve this article by adding more general information. The talk page may contain suggestions. (November 2015)

The Eastern Islands of Liuqiu[edit] The first possible mentions of the islands are in the Annals of the Qin Dynasty. Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang
heard of "happy immortals" living on the Eastern Islands, so he sent expeditions there to find the source of immortality, to no avail.[20][page needed] While some purport that these expeditions reached Japan
Japan
and launched a social and agricultural revolution, the same events are marked in Ryukyuan folklore on Kudaka Island.[21] The Eastern Islands are again mentioned as the land of immortals in the Annals of the Han Dynasty. In 601, the Chinese sent an expedition to the "Country of Liuqiu" (流求國). They noted that the people were small but pugnacious. The Chinese couldn't understand the local language and returned to China. In 607, they sent another expedition to trade, and brought back one of the islanders. A Japanese embassy was in Loyang when the expedition returned, and one of the Japanese exclaimed that the islander wore the dress and spoke the language of Yaku Island. In 610, a final expedition was sent with an army that demanded submission to the Chinese Emperor. The islanders fought the Chinese, but their "palaces" were burned and "thousands" of people were taken captive, and the Chinese left the island.[22] Ancient Japan's Southern Islands[edit] The island chain appeared in Japanese written history as Southern Islands (南島, Nantō). The first record of the Southern Islands is an article of 618 in the Nihonshoki
Nihonshoki
(720) which states that people of Yaku (掖玖,夜勾) followed the emperor's virtue. In 629 the imperial court dispatched an expedition to Yaku. Yaku in historical sources was not limited to modern-day Yakushima
Yakushima
but seems to have covered a broader area of the island chain. In 657, several persons from Tokara (都貨邏, possibly Dvaravati) arrived at Kyushu, reporting that they had first drifted to Amami Island (海見島, Amamijima), which is the first attested use of Amami.[23] Articles of the late 7th century give a closer look at the southern islands. In 677, the imperial court gave a banquet to people from Tane Island (多禰島, Tanejima). In 679 the imperial court sent a mission to Tane Island. The mission carried some people from the southern islands who were described as the peoples of Tane, Yaku, and Amami (阿麻弥) in the article of 682. According to the Shoku Nihongi (797), the imperial court dispatched armed officers in 698 to explore the southern islands. As a result, people of Tane, Yaku, Amami and Dokan visited the capital to pay tribute in the next year. Historians identify Dokan as Tokunoshima
Tokunoshima
of the Amami Islands. An article of 714 reports that an investigative team returned to the capital, together with people of Amami, Shigaki (信覚), and Kumi (球美) among others. Shigaki should be Ishigaki Island
Ishigaki Island
of the Yaeyama Islands. Some identify Kumi as Iriomote
Iriomote
Island of the Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands
because Komi is an older name for Iriomote. Others consider that Kumi corresponded to Kume Island
Kume Island
of the Okinawa
Okinawa
Islands. Around this time "Southern Islands" replaced Yaku as a collective name for the southern islands.[23] In the early 8th century the northern end of the island chain was formally incorporated into the Japanese administrative system. After a rebellion was crushed, Tane Province
Tane Province
was established around 702. Tane Province consisted of four districts and covered Tanegashima
Tanegashima
and Yakushima. Although the tiny province faced financial difficulties from the very beginning, it was maintained until 824 when it was merged into Ōsumi Province.[24] Ancient Japan's commitment to the southern islands is attributed to ideological and strategic factors. Japan
Japan
applied to herself the Chinese ideology of emperorship that required "barbarian people" who longed for the great virtue of the emperor. Thus Japan
Japan
treated people on its periphery, i.e., the Emishi
Emishi
to the east and the Hayato and the Southern Islanders to the south, as "barbarians". The imperial court brought some of them to the capital to serve the emperor. The New Book of Tang (1060) states at the end of the chapter of Japan
Japan
that there were three little princes of Yaku (邪古), Haya (波邪), and Tane (多尼). This statement should have based on a report by Japanese envoys in the early 8th century who would have claimed the Japanese emperor's virtue. At the site of Dazaifu, the administrative center of Kyushu, two wooden tags dated in the early 8th century were unearthed in 1984, which read "Amami Island" (㭺美嶋, Amamijima) and "Iran Island" (伊藍嶋, Iran no Shima) respectively. The latter seems to correspond to Okinoerabu Island. These tags might have been attached to "red woods", which, according to the Engishiki (927), Dazaifu was to offer when they were obtained from the southern islands.[23]

Sea routes used by Japanese missions to Tang China

The southern islands had strategic importance for Japan
Japan
because they were on one of the three major routes used by Japanese missions to Tang China
China
(630–840). The 702 mission seems to have been the first to successfully switch from the earlier route via Korea to the southern island route. The missions of 714, 733 and 752 probably took the same route. In 754 the Chinese monk Jianzhen
Jianzhen
managed to reach Japan. His biography Tō Daiwajō Tōseiden (779) makes reference to Akonaha (阿児奈波) on the route, which may refer to modern-day Okinawa
Okinawa
Island. An article of 754 states that the government repaired mileposts that had originally been set in the southern islands in 735. However, the missions from 777 onward chose another route that directly connected Kyūshū to China. Thereafter the central government lost its interest in the southern islands.[23] Kikaigashima and Iōgashima[edit] The southern islands reappeared in written history at the end of the 10th century. According to the Nihongi ryaku (c. 11th–12th centuries), Dazaifu, the administrative center of Kyushu, reported that the Nanban (southern barbarians) pirates, who were identified as Amami islanders by the Shōyūki (982–1032 for the extant portion), pillaged a wide area of Kyūshū in 997. In response, Dazaifu ordered "Kika Island" (貴駕島, Kikashima) to arrest the Nanban. This is the first attested use of Kikaigashima, which is often used in subsequent sources.[25] The series of reports suggest that there were groups of people with advanced sailing technology in Amami and that Dazaifu had a stronghold in Kikai Island. In fact, historians hypothesize that the Amami Islands were incorporated into a trade network that connected it to Kyūshū, Song China
China
and Goryeo. In fact, the Shōyūki recorded that in the 1020s, local governors of southern Kyūshū presented to the author, a court aristocrat, local specialties of the southern islands including the Chinese fan palm, red woods, and shells of Green Turban Shell. The Shinsarugakuki, a fictional work written in the mid-11th century, introduced a merchant named Hachirō-mauto, who traveled all the way to the land of the Fushū in the east and to Kika Island (貴賀之島, Kikanoshima) in the west. The goods he obtained from the southern islands included shells of Green Turban Shell and sulfur. The Shinsarugakuki was not mere fiction; the Golden Hall of Chūson-ji (c. 1124) in northeastern Japan
Japan
was decorated with tens of thousands of green turban shells.[25] Some articles of 1187 of the Azuma Kagami
Azuma Kagami
state that Ata Tadakage of Satsuma Province
Satsuma Province
fled to Kikai Island
Kikai Island
(貴海島, Kikaishima) sometime around 1160. The Azuma Kagami
Azuma Kagami
also states that in 1188 Minamoto no Yoritomo, who soon became the shōgun, dispatched troops to pacify Kikai Island
Kikai Island
(貴賀井島, Kikaishima). It was noted that the imperial court objected the military expedition claiming that it was beyond Japan's administration.[25] The Tale of the Heike (13th century) depicted Kikai Island
Kikai Island
(鬼界島, Kikaishima), where Shunkan, Taira no Yasuyori, and Fujiwara no Naritsune were exiled following the Shishigatani Incident of 1177. The island depicted, characterized by sulfur, is identified as Iōjima of the Ōsumi Islands, which is part of Kikai Caldera. Since China's invention of gunpowder made sulfur Japan's major export, Sulfur
Sulfur
Island or Iōgashima became another representative of the southern islands. It is noted by scholars that the character representing the first syllable of Kikai changed from ki (貴, noble) to ki (鬼, ogre) from the end of the 12th century to the early 13th century.[26] The literature-based theory that Kikai Island
Kikai Island
was Japan's trade center of the southern islands is supported by the discovery of the Gusuku Site Complex in 2006. The group of archaeological sites on the plateau of Kikai Island
Kikai Island
is one of the largest sites of the era. It lasted from 9th to 13th centuries and at its height from the second half of the 11th to the first half of the 12th century. It was characterized by a near-total absence of the native Kaneku Type pottery, which prevailed in coastal communities. What were found instead were goods imported from mainland Japan, China
China
and Korea. Also found was the Kamuiyaki pottery, which was produced in Tokunoshima
Tokunoshima
from the 11th to 14th centuries. The skewed distribution of Kamuiyaki
Kamuiyaki
peaked at Kikai and Tokunoshima
Tokunoshima
suggests that the purpose of Kamuiyaki
Kamuiyaki
production was to serve it to Kikai.[27] Shimazu Estate and Kamakura shogunate's expansion[edit] Around the Hōen
Hōen
era (1135–1141), Tanegashima
Tanegashima
became part of Shimazu Estate on southern Kyūshū. The Shimazu Estate was said to have established at Shimazu, Hyūga Province
Hyūga Province
in 1020s and dedicated to Kanpaku
Kanpaku
Fujiwara no Yorimichi. In the 12th century, Shimazu Estate expanded to a large portion of the Satsuma and Ōsumi Provinces including Tanegashima.[24] Koremune no Tadahisa, a retainer of the Fujiwara family, was appointed as a steward of Shimazu Estate in 1185. He was then named shugo of Satsuma and Ōsumi (and later Hyūga) Provinces by first shōgun Minamoto no Yoritomo
Minamoto no Yoritomo
in 1197. He became the founder of the Shimazu clan. Tadahisa lost power when his powerful relative Hiki Yoshikazu was overthrown in 1203. He lost the positions of shugo and jitō and only regained the posts of shugo of Satsuma Province
Satsuma Province
and jitō of the Satsuma portion of Shimazu Estate. The shugo of Ōsumi Province
Ōsumi Province
and jitō of the Ōsumi portion of Shimazu Estate, both of which controlled Tanegashima, were succeeded by the Hōjō clan
Hōjō clan
(especially its Nagoe branch). The Nagoe family sent the Higo clan to rule Ōsumi. A branch family of the Higo clan settled in Tanegashima
Tanegashima
and became the Tanegashima
Tanegashima
clan.[24] The islands other than Tanegashima
Tanegashima
were grouped as the Twelve Islands and treated as part of Kawanabe District, Satsuma Province. The Twelve Islands were subdivided into the Near Five (口五島/端五島, Kuchigoshima/Hajigoshima) and the Remote Seven (奥七島, Okunanashima). The Near Five consisted of the Ōsumi Islands
Ōsumi Islands
except Tanegashima
Tanegashima
while the Remote Seven corresponded to the Tokara Islands. After the Jōkyū War in 1221, the jitō of Kawanabe District was assumed by the Hōjō Tokusō family. The Tokusō family let its retainer Chikama clan rule Kawanabe District. In 1306, Chikama Tokiie created a set of inheritance documents that made reference to various southern islands. The islands mentioned were not limited to the Twelve but included Amami Ōshima, Kikai Island
Kikai Island
and Tokunoshima
Tokunoshima
(and possibly Okinoerabu Island) of the Amami Islands. An extant map of Japan
Japan
held by the Hōjō clan
Hōjō clan
describes Amami as a "privately owned district". The Shimazu clan
Shimazu clan
also claimed the rights to the Twelve. In 1227 Shōgun
Shōgun
Kujō Yoritsune
Kujō Yoritsune
affirmed Shimazu Tadayoshi's position as the jitō of the Twelve Islands among others. After the Kamakura shogunate was destroyed, the Shimazu clan
Shimazu clan
increased its rights. In 1364, it claimed the "eighteen islands" of Kawanabe District. In the same year, the clan's head Shimazu Sadahisa gave his son Morohisa properties in Satsuma Province
Satsuma Province
including the Twelve Islands and the "extra five" islands. The latter must be the Amami Islands.[28] Tanegashima
Tanegashima
under the Tanegashima
Tanegashima
clan[edit] The Tanegashima
Tanegashima
clan came to rule Tanegashima
Tanegashima
on behalf of the Nagoe family but soon got autonomous. It usually allied with, sometimes submitted itself to, and sometimes antagonized the Shimazu clan
Shimazu clan
on mainland Kyūshū. The Tanegashima
Tanegashima
clan was given Yakushima
Yakushima
and Kuchinoerabu Island
Kuchinoerabu Island
by Shimazu Motohisa in 1415. In 1436, it was given the Seven Islands of Kawanabe District, Satsuma Province
Satsuma Province
(the Tokara Islands) and other two islands by Shimazu Mochihisa, the head of a branch family.[29]

Tanegashima
Tanegashima
matchlock

Tanegashima
Tanegashima
is known in Japanese history for the introduction of European firearms to Japan. Around 1543, a Chinese junk with Portuguese merchants on board was driven to Tanegashima. Tanegashima Tokitaka succeeded in reproducing matchlock rifles obtained from the Portuguese. Within a few decades, firearms, then known as tanegashima, were spread across Sengoku Japan. Toyotomi Hideyoshi's reunification of Japan
Japan
finalized the Tanegashima clan's status as a senior vassal of the Shimazu clan. It was relocated to Chiran of mainland Kyūshū in 1595. Although it moved back to Tanegashima
Tanegashima
in 1599, Yakushima
Yakushima
and Kuchinoerabu Island
Kuchinoerabu Island
fall under the direct control of the Shimazu clan. These islands all constituted Satsuma Domain
Satsuma Domain
during the Edo period. Amami and Tokara Islands[edit] The Amami Islands
Amami Islands
were a focal point for dispute between the southward-expanding Satsuma Domain
Satsuma Domain
and the northward-expanding Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1453, a group of Koreans were shipwrecked on Gaja Island, where they found the island half under the control of Satsuma and half under the control of Ryukyu. Gaja Island is only 80 miles from Satsuma's capital at Kagoshima City. The Koreans noted that the Ryukyuans used guns "as advanced as in [Korea]".[30] Other records of activity in the Amami Islands
Amami Islands
show Shō Toku's conquest of Kikai Island in 1466, a failed Satsuma invasion of Amami Ōshima
Amami Ōshima
in 1493, and two rebellions on Amami Ōshima
Amami Ōshima
during the 16th century. The islands were finally conquered by Satsuma during the 1609 Invasion of Ryukyu. The Tokugawa shogunate granted Satsuma the islands in 1624. During the Edo Period, Ryukyuans referred to Satsuma's ships as "Tokara ships". Okinawa
Okinawa
Islands[edit] Main article: Okinawa
Okinawa
Islands

Okinawa Islands
Okinawa Islands
during the Sanzan Period

Flag of the Ryūkyū Kingdom
Ryūkyū Kingdom
until 1875

Polities of the Okinawa Islands
Okinawa Islands
were unified as the Ryūkyū Kingdom in 1429. The kingdom conquered the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands. At its peak, it also subjected the Amami Islands
Amami Islands
to its rule. In 1609, Shimazu Tadatsune, Lord of Satsuma, invaded the Ryūkyū Kingdom
Ryūkyū Kingdom
with a fleet of 13 junks and 2,500 samurai, thereby establishing suzerainty over the islands. They faced little opposition from the Ryukyuans, who lacked any significant military capabilities, and who were ordered by King Shō Nei
Shō Nei
to surrender rather than to suffer the loss of precious lives.[31] After that, the kings of the Ryukyus paid tribute to the Japanese shōgun as well as to the Chinese emperor. During this period, Ryukyu kings were selected by a Japanese clan, unbeknownst to the Chinese, who believed the Ryukyus to be a loyal tributary.[32] In 1655, the tributary relations between Ryukyu and Qing were formally approved by the shogunate.[33] In 1874, the Ryukyus terminated tribute relations with China.[34] In 1872, the Japanese government established the Ryukyu han under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry. In 1875, jurisdiction over the Ryukyus changed from the Foreign Ministry to the Home Ministry.[34] In 1879, the Meiji government announced the annexation of the Ryukyus, establishing it as Okinawa Prefecture
Okinawa Prefecture
and forcing the Ryukyu king to move to Tokyo.[34] When China
China
signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki
Treaty of Shimonoseki
after its 1895 defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, China
China
officially abandoned its claims to the Ryukyus.[34] American military control over Okinawa
Okinawa
began in 1945 with the establishment of the United States Military Government of the Ryukyu Islands, which in 1950 became the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands. Also in 1950, the Interim Ryukyus Advisory Council (臨時琉球諮詢委員会, Rinji Ryūkyū Shijun Iinkai) was formed, which evolved into the Ryukyu Provisional Central Government (琉球臨時中央政府, Ryūkyū Rinji Chūō Seifu) in 1951. In 1952, the U.S. was formally granted control over Ryukyu Islands south of 29°N latitude, and other Pacific islands, under the San Francisco Peace Treaty between the Allied Powers and Japan. The Ryukyu Provisional Central Government then became the Government of the Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
which existed from 1952 to 1972. Administrative rights reverted to Japan
Japan
in 1972. Today, numerous issues arise from Okinawan history. Some Ryukyuans and some Japanese feel that people from the Ryukyus are different from the majority Yamato people. Some natives of the Ryukyus claim that the central government is discriminating against the islanders by allowing so many American soldiers to be stationed on bases in Okinawa
Okinawa
with a minimal presence on the mainland. Additionally, there is some discussion of secession from Japan.[35] As the territorial dispute between China
China
and Japan
Japan
over the Senkaku Islands
Senkaku Islands
intensified in the early 21st century, Communist Party of China-backed scholars published essays calling for a reexamination of Japan's sovereignty over the Ryukyus.[36] In 2013 The New York Times
The New York Times
described the comments by said scholars as well as military figures as appearing to constitute "a semiofficial campaign in China
China
to question Japanese rule of the islands", noting that "almost all the voices in China
China
pressing the Okinawa
Okinawa
issue are affiliated in some way with the government".[37] Many popular singers and musical groups come from Okinawa
Okinawa
Prefecture. These include the groups Speed and Orange Range, as well as solo singers Namie Amuro
Namie Amuro
and Gackt, among many others. Historical description of the "Loo-Choo" islands[edit] The islands were described by Hayashi Shihei
Hayashi Shihei
in Sangoku Tsūran Zusetsu, which was published in 1785.[38] An article in the 1878 edition of the Globe Encyclopaedia of Universal Information describes the islands:[39]

Loo-Choo, Lu-Tchu, or Lieu-Kieu, a group of thirty-six islands stretching from Japan
Japan
to Formosa, in 26°–27°40′ N. lat., 126°10′–129°5′ E. long., and tributary to Japan. The largest, Tsju San ('middle island'), is about 60 miles long and 12 [miles] broad; others are Sannan in the [south] and Sanbok in the [north]. Nawa, the chief port of Tsju San, is open to foreign commerce. The islands enjoy a magnificent climate and are highly cultivated and very productive. Among the productions are tea, rice, sugar, tobacco, camphor, fruits, and silk. The principal manufactures are cotton, paper, porcelain, and lacquered ware. The people, who are small, seem a link between the Chinese and Japanese.[39]

Population[edit] Ryukyuan native people[edit] Main article: Ryukyuan people The residents of the island chain are currently Japanese citizens. Labeling them as Japanese poses no problem with regard to the Ōsumi Islands and Tokara Islands
Tokara Islands
in the north, but there are problems about the ethnicity of the residents of the central and southern groups of the island chain. Scholars who recognize shared heritage among the native population of the Amami, Okinawa, Miyako and Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands
label them as Ryukyuans (琉球人, Ryūkyūjin). But nowadays, the residents of these Ryukyu Islands do not identify themselves as such, although they share the notion that they are somewhat different from Japanese, whom they call "Yamato" or "Naicha". Now, they usually express self-identity as the native of a particular island. Their identity can extend to an island and then to Japan
Japan
as a whole, but rarely to intermediate regions. For example, the people of Okinawa Island
Okinawa Island
refer to themselves as Uchinaanchu (ウチナーンチュ, people of Okinawa) and the people of Okinoerabujima
Okinoerabujima
in the Amami Islands
Amami Islands
call themselves the Erabunchu (エラブンチュ, people of Erabu), while referring to the Okinawans as Uchinaanchu or Naafanchu (ナーファンチュ, people of Naha), as they consider themselves distinct from the Okinawans.[10] Other terms used include Amaminchu (アマミンチュ) and Shimanchu (シマンチュ) in the Amami Islands, Yeeyamabitu (イェーヤマビトゥ) in the Yaeyama Islands, Yunnunchu (ユンヌンチュ) on Yoronjima
Yoronjima
and Myaakunchuu (ミャークンチュー) in the Miyako Islands. Religion[edit] Main article: Ryukyuan religion

Harimizu utaki (Harimizu Shrine), a Ryukyuan shrine in Miyakojima, Okinawa
Okinawa
Prefecture.

The indigenous Ryukyuan religion
Ryukyuan religion
is generally characterized by ancestor worship (more accurately termed "ancestor respect") and the respecting of relationships between the living, the dead, and the gods and spirits of the natural world. Some of its beliefs indicative of its ancient animistic roots, such as those concerning local spirits and many other beings classified between gods and humans. Ryukyuan religious practice has been influenced by Chinese religions (Taoism, Confucianism, and folk beliefs), Buddhism
Buddhism
and Japanese Shinto.[40] Roman Catholics are pastorally served by their own Roman Catholic Diocese of Naha, which was founded in 1947 as the "Apostolic Administration of Okinawa
Okinawa
and the Southern Islands". Ecology[edit]

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Yakushima[edit]

Jōmon Sugi
Jōmon Sugi
in Yakushima

Crossing the Tokara Islands, Watase's Line and marks a major biogeographic boundary. The north of the line belongs to the Palaearctic subregion while the southern portion is the northern limit of the Oriental subregion. Yakushima
Yakushima
in Ōsumi is the southern limit of the Palaearctic subregion. It is featured with millennium-old cedar trees. The island is part of Kirishima-Yaku National Park
Kirishima-Yaku National Park
and was designated as World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
by UNESCO in 1993. Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama[edit]

The Yonaguni
Yonaguni
Monument, a rock formation theorized by some to be submerged ruins

The south of Watase's Line is recognized by ecologists as a distinct subtropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion. The flora and fauna of the islands have much in common with Taiwan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia, and are part of the Indomalaya
Indomalaya
ecozone. The coral reefs are among the World Wildlife Fund's Global 200 ecoregions. The reefs are endangered by sedimentation and eutrophication, which result from agriculture as well as fishing. Mammals endemic to the islands include Amami Rabbit, Iriomote
Iriomote
cat, the Ryukyu flying fox, the Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat, the Ryukyu mouse, the Ryukyu Inu and the Ryukyu shrew. Birds found in the Ryukyus include the Amami woodcock, the Izu thrush, the Japanese paradise flycatcher, the narcissus flycatcher, the Okinawa
Okinawa
rail (yanbaru kuina), the Lidth's Jay, the Ryukyu kingfisher, the Ryukyu minivet, the Ryukyu robin, the Ryūkyū scops owl, the extinct Ryukyu wood pigeon, Amami woodpecker
Amami woodpecker
and the Okinawa woodpecker. Approximately one half of the amphibian species of the islands are endemic. Endemic
Endemic
amphibians include the sword-tail newt, Anderson's crocodile newt, Hyla hallowellii, Holst's frog, Otton frog, Ishikawa's frog, the Ryukyu tip-nosed frog, Namiye's frog, and the Kampira Falls frog.[41] Various species of snake known locally as habu also inhabit the Ryukyus, including Trimeresurus elegans, Trimeresurus flavoviridis, Trimeresurus tokarensis, and Ovophis okinavensis. Other snakes native to the Ryukyus are Achalinus werneri, Achalinus formosanus, Elaphe carinata, Elaphe taeniura, Cyclophiops semicarinatus, Cyclophiops herminae, Dinodon semicarinatum, Dinodon rufozonatum, Calamaria pfefferri, Amphiesma pryeri, Calliophis japonicus, Laticauda semifasciata, and Hydrophis ornatus. Lizards native to the islands include Kishinoue's giant skink, Kuroiwa's ground gecko, Japalura polygonata, Plestiodon stimpsonii, Plestiodon marginatus, Scincella boettgeri, Scincella vandenburghi, Ateuchosaurus pellopleurus, Cryptoblepharus boutonii nigropunctatus, Apeltonotus dorsalis, and Takydromus toyamai. Subspecies of the Chinese box turtle
Chinese box turtle
and the yellow pond turtle are native to the islands, as is the Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle. See also[edit]

Ryukyu portal Japan
Japan
portal Islands portal

Nanpō Islands Tanegashima
Tanegashima
Space Center

References[edit] Citations[edit]

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Oxford English Dictionary
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Japan
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Okinawa
shotō to kokusai shakai 古代の奄美・沖縄諸島と国際社会, Ikeda Yoshifumi ed., Kodai chūsei no kyōkai ryōiki 古代中世の境界領域, pp. 49–70, 2008. ^ "語彙詳細 ― 首里・那覇方言". University of the Ryukyus. Retrieved 2012-01-01.  ^ "語彙詳細 ― 今帰仁方言". University of the Ryukyus. Retrieved 2012-02-08.  ^ Hawk, Francis L. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China
China
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Japan
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Okinawa
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Okinawa
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Okinawa
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Sources[edit]

Kang, David C. (2010). East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute. New York : Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231153188 ISBN 9780231526746 ISBN 0231526741; OCLC 562768984 Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric and Käthe Roth (2005). Japan
Japan
encyclopedia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 58053128 This article incorporates text from the 1878 edition of the Globe Encyclopaedia of Universal Information, a work in the public domain

External links[edit]

A Brief History of the Uchinanchu (Okinawans) National Archives of Japan: Ryukyu Chuzano ryoshisha tojogyoretsu, scroll illustrating procession of Ryuku emissary to Edo, Hōei 7 (1710) Historic maps in the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
by the Army Map Service, Ryukyu Retto 1:50,000 Series L791, 1943 - 1945

v t e

Regions and administrative divisions of Japan

Regions

Hokkaido Tōhoku Kantō

Nanpō Islands

Chūbu

Hokuriku Kōshin'etsu Shin'etsu Tōkai

Kansai Chūgoku

San'in San'yō

Shikoku Kyushu

Northern Southern Okinawa

47 Prefectures

Hokkaido

Hokkaido

Tōhoku

Aomori Iwate Miyagi Akita Yamagata Fukushima

Kantō

Ibaraki Tochigi Gunma Saitama Chiba Tokyo Kanagawa

Chūbu

Niigata Toyama Ishikawa Fukui Yamanashi Nagano Gifu Shizuoka Aichi

Kansai

Mie Shiga Kyoto Osaka Hyōgo Nara Wakayama

Chūgoku

Tottori Shimane Okayama Hiroshima Yamaguchi

Shikoku

Tokushima Kagawa Ehime Kōchi

Kyushu

Fukuoka Saga Nagasaki Kumamoto Ōita Miyazaki Kagoshima Okinawa

Authority control

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