Japan Tour 6: Okinawa
As on my other tours, I rented a bicycle. I actually managed to bike half-way around the island before extreme heat exhaustion, and a disintegrating machine, made me do some roadside repairs...with a rock. I did get back though.
It says something about Okinawa that it doesn't even appear on the Map of Japan below. The people of Okinawa differ in many ways for the Japanese. For a long time, they retained a distinctive culture with ties to China and Japan and a trading nextwork that took advantage of the isolationist tendencies of both. They mixed cultural elements from China, Japan, and their own distinctive heritage. All of this ended when the Satsumas, a noble family in southern Japan, invaded the island in the 17th century. Thencefore, Japan tried to "Japanize" the island. This resulted in students learning Japanese, not "hogans" in their schools and the introduction of Shinto and Buddhism whereas the natives practised ancestor worship. During World War II, Okinawans served the emperor well, despite the fact many considered them "second class citizens." Their defense of Okinawa bordered on suicidal, but the Japanese saw the entire invasion as a prelude to the invasion of the "home islands," yet another demonstration of Japanese their ambivalence towards the Okinawans. Today, the Okinawans seem searching for a vision. Their coral islands, they hope, will serve as a lure for rich vacationers, rather like Guam or Hawaii. The Japanese government in Tokyo, meanwhile, continues to allow the US to use a fair amount of the island for military bases. Governor Ota decries this, and yet, the islands, the poorest prefecture in Japan, may well need the income. Okinawa remains, then, at best an ambivalent part of Japan.
These look like bunkers, but actually contain the remains of Okinawas, who practice a Chinese-style ancestor workship. They make them of stone to withstand hurricanes. During World War II, the Japanese used them as bunkers, a practice that must've galled some spirits.
Expo stands out against the rugged shoreline. A coral island, Okinawa boasts many miles of beach but all of them bordering on waters filled with razor sharp coral.
The Japanese call this a "quasi-national park." I believe that Okinawans may've jumped to their death here to avoid getting captured by American soliders during WWII.
Note the twentiesh Japanese girl on the scooter with the half hemet. Many younger Japanese buy scooters to avoid the strenuous, expensive process involved in getting a car drivers' license and even more expensive registration.
Okinawans originally practiced intense cultivation. Crops such as sugar and citrus fruits grow nowhere else in Japan. Note the water buffalo in the sugar cane field below.
Related Japanese Tours:
Back to Tour 5: Hiroshima, Miyajima Park, and Shikoku
On to Tour 1: Nara and Kyoto
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