Find the restora­tive sights of longevity and his­tory of the is­land that the long­est liv­ing peo­ple on earth live on

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Find restora­tive sights of longevity and his­tory of the is­land that the long­est liv­ing peo­ple on earth live on

Longevity, the cov­eted bless­ing of Ok­i­nawans

who have long lived a stress-free, spir­i­tual and com­mu­nal life­style. Much can be said about the quiet is­land lo­cated in the south­ern­most part of Ja­pan which houses some of the world’s most beau­ti­ful sights. While sci­en­tists may con­tinue to ar­gue about the key fac­tors which con­trib­ute to the long life of Ok­i­nawans, per­haps its rich his­tory, won­der­ful sights and hos­pitable folk may of­fer a fresh per­spec­tive. Whether you’re vis­it­ing Ok­i­nawa for the melo­di­ous tunes of the lo­cal “shan-shin” banjo, its fa­mous sweet pota­toes or ex­am­in­ing the roots of pot­tery, Ok­i­nawa con­tains a wealth of cul­ture and ex­pe­ri­ences that are as­sured to bring about a re­newed per­spec­tive on life.


Those who are privy to the his­tory of Ok­i­nawa may know the is­land by its by­gone name “Ryukyu” which first sur­faced in the Book of Sui, the of­fi­cial his­tory of the Sui Dy­nasty com­pleted in 636 A.D. Un­der King Sho Hashi, the isles around Ok­i­nawa were united and the cap­i­tal was formed at Shurijo Cas­tle in 1429. This was the golden age of mar­itime trade be­tween the Ryukyu King­dom and South­east East Asia king­doms. It was said that sev­eral hun­dred voy­ages were con­ducted among the South-east Asian ports which in­cluded king­doms like Siam, Su­ma­tra, Java and Malacca. Lo­cal guides have pointed out that as many as 50 voy­ages were con­ducted be­tween Malacca and the King­dom of Ryukyu.

Not till 1609 dur­ing the in­fa­mous Sat­suma Re­bel­lion of Ja­pan did the Sho Dy­nasty fall af­ter a ruth­less three-month war plung­ing it into an era of sub­or­di­na­tion un­der both the Ja­panese and the Chi­nese King­dom. De­spite Sat­suma’s po­lit­i­cal con­trol over Ryukyu, the king­dom main­tained con­sid­er­able po­lit­i­cal free­dom for the next 2 cen­turies. The is­land of Ryukyu was then an­nexed to Ja­pan through mil­i­tary in­cur­sions which re­named it the Ok­i­nawa Pre­fec­ture of Ja­pan in 1879.

A dark pe­riod seems to cloud over Ok­i­nawa’s for­tunes in the 1900’s with things tak­ing an ul­ti­mate turn for the worst dur­ing World War 2. The is­land suf­fered heav­ily un­der the in­va­sion of US troops af­ter at­tacks on Pearl Harbour in 1941 plunged the two states into war. This re­sulted in the in­fa­mous Bat­tle of Ok­i­nawa ini­ti­ated by the Tenth Army of the United States. The at­tack on Ok­i­nawa co­de­named ‘Op­er­a­tion Ice­berg’ saw a to­tal of 250,000 US troops de­ployed against some 86,000 Ja­panese sol­diers and 20,000 Ok­i­nawan con­scripts. The bat­tle, last­ing only 82 days claimed the lives of over 122,000 Ok­i­nawans and was mostly a war of at­tri­tion on the side of the Ja­panese. The con­clu­sion of WW2 would see the United States con­trol the is­land of Ok­i­nawa un­til 1971 when the Ok­i­nawan Re­ver­sion Treaty was signed.

The is­land has since been a part of Ja­pan though the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary main­tains a heavy pres­ence on the is­land through its air­base lo­cated in Kadena. The base re­mains the largest U.S mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion in the Asia-pa­cific.

“A spe­cial di­alect ac­tu­ally ex­ists amongst Ok­i­nawan peo­ple due to the influence of the Sho Dy­nasty”

Ok­i­nawan Dialects

While many may be un­der the as­sump­tion that Ja­panese is the orig­i­nal lan­guage of the Ok­i­nawan peo­ple, a spe­cial di­alect ac­tu­ally ex­ists among Ok­i­nawan peo­ple due to the influence of the Sho Dy­nasty be­fore be­ing an­nexed to Ja­pan. Within the Ryukyuan lan­guage, many sub­di­alects emerged from vil­lage to vil­lage, though the Shuri di­alect gained promi­nence due to the cen­tral­iza­tion of gov­ern­ment by King Sho Shin. Used by the aris­to­cratic class of the Shurijo cas­tle, most an­cient po­ems and songs in Ok­i­nawa were ac­tu­ally com­posed in the Shuri di­alect. The di­alect is com­monly re­ferred to as ‘Uchi­naguchi’ in the na­tive tongue. To the left is a sim­ple guide to help you dis­tin­guish some com­monly used Ok­i­nawan phrases.

Aerial shot of Ok­i­nawa Ja­pan

The Flag of Ok­i­nawa

LEFT The royal court of Ok­i­nawa dur­ing a New Year cel­e­bra­tion at Shuri cas­tle

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