THE SECRET OF LONGEVITY
Find the restorative sights of longevity and history of the island that the longest living people on earth live on
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”
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