THE OKINAWAN POPULATION OF THE RYUKYU ISLANDS

Created: 4/6/1945

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THE OKINAWAN POPULATION OF THE RYUKYU ISLANDS

The Oklnawan population of Japan, concentrated In the strategi-cally important Ryukyu Islands,istinct, somewhat discontented ethnic minority. Since formal Japanese annexation of the Ryukyusokyo's policy of completely assimilating the islands into Japan's governmental, economic, and cultural structure has met with substantial success. Local attitudes on the war and on world affairs have been almost exclusively molded by Japanese press, radio, and school propaganda. However, discrimination against the Okinawans, resulting from asense of cultural and social superiority, has aroused someespecially among the older island natives. Consequently the Okinawans, though unlikely to aid tbe American invasion force, have so far remained somewhat passive and given no evidence of undertaking the fierce civilian resistance which Japanese propagandists harewouldanding In the Japanese Home Empire.

The Ryukyus (also known as the Lluchlu or Nansei Islands)hain between Formosa and Kyushu, southernmost of the Japanese home islands, and command the East China Sea approaches to the coast of China. The archipelago consists of eleven major Island groups, of which the northern five are joined with southwestern Kyushu in tbe Japanese prefecture of Kagoshlma. The southern six groups comprise the Okinawa prefecture,apital in the city of Nana on theIsland of Okinawa. The native Okinawans, densely populating the Ryukyus,ixture of Ainu, Malayan, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese stock. Okinawa itselfopulation of, mostly ethnic Okinawans and concentrated In the southern half of the island.

For many centuries the islands were under Chinese domination. Following conquest by the Japanese Satsuma clan of Kyushuhe Ryukyu monarchy retained its long-standing cultural ties with China and continued for several centuries to pay tribute both to China and Japan. The Satsuma princes encouraged the dual relation because through the Ryukyus they were able to carry on withrofitable Indirect trade otherwise forbidden by treaty. The Okinawans themselves also prospered economically under the arrangement. Only9 did Tokyo put an end to the double status of the Ryukyus. and reorganize the former semi-independent monarchyrefecture of Japan proper known as Okinawa-Ken. China did not formally recognize Japanese sovereignty over the islands until the close of the Slno-Japanese War

The Ryukyus have become firmly Integrated Into the Japanese stateoday standard Japanese is taught in all schools and is used

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as the official and commercial language and use of the Liuchiuan language is discouraged. The governmental structure, from the organs of the prefectural administration down to the township heads andfollows the Japanese pattern, and the educational program conforms to the standard system operative throughout the Empire. Furthermore the bulk of external trade is with Japan, and even1 contact with the occidental world was negligible.

In the highly centralized Japanese governmental system theof Okinawa-Ken and Kagoshirna-Ken, like those of all the other forty-five Japanese prefectures, have the dual function of being the highest local administrative agents of the Imperial Government and at the same time the heads of the prefectures as units of self-government. They are appointed by the Japanese Premier, and are responsible to the Minister for Homeocally elected prefectural assembly advises each governor, but his veto power means that, with the approval of the Minister for Homeovernor can adrninister his prefecture almost without reference to the assembly.

Since thes the Japanese have felt confident enough of their hold over the islanders to extend to them the limitedenjoyed in Japan proper. Ryukyu natives have Japanese citizenship status, but like the Japanese In the main Islands, their civil liberties are severely restricted. Under the Ministry for Home Affairs, the prefectural police supervise Innumerable details of private life, including public health, censorship, licensing of all enterprises, and house cleaning.

Until the summerhe Ryukyus, as an integral part of Japan, had the same political parties as the main Japanese islands. However, with the dissolution of the parties in the summer0 and with their replacement by the government-sponsored totalitarianRule Assistance Association, party politics in the Ryukyus were curtailed as much as In Japan.

Living standards and wage scales in the Ryukyus are lower than those in Japan proper. On the whole the people are inclined to beconcerning the possibility of Improvement. Although the islands are primarily agricultural they do notelf-sufficient food supply and such staples as rice and tea have to be imported. Industrial and even agricultural development is onow level that the Islands' imports consistently exceed their exports, and since Japan has virtually monopolized Ryukyu trade, the Japanese have profited from thebalance. On the other hand, the island sugar industry, which8 was negligible, was greatly expanded under the Japanese until it became the principal commercial crop of the Ryukyus.sugar cane experimental stations have been maintained in both the Kagoshlma and the Okinawa prefectures. But since Worldnd the collapse of the sugar market, economic conditions In the islands have deteriorated and morekinawans have been forced to emigrate to other parts of the Japanese Empire and to foreign countries.

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The Japanese recruited large numbers for labor In their south seas Island mandates.

The culture of the Oklnawans was originally quite distinct, but today has been almost submerged by Chinese and Japanese influences. Local dialects and customs have been most radically affected by the modern Japanese school system. This system Is administered under the prefectural Departments of Education, which In turn are directed by the Ministry of Education in Tokyo. The Japanese Government takes every advantage of the centrally-controlled schools and the almost universal attendance to make the educationalrimary agency of official propaganda. Textbooks and courses are all designed to inculcate national ideals and unquestioning loyalty to the Emperor. The officialpolicy in the Ryukyus is the same as for the rest of the Empire, emphasizing national over local loyalties, and Justifying Japan's "Greater East Asia" aspirations. Advanced educational Institutions in other sections of Japan are open to qualified students from the Ryukyus. but attendance Is limited by distance and expense. The nearestare in Formosa and Kyushu.

Although there have been no active separatist movements In the Ryukyu region in the twentieth century, the Oklnawans resent theof Japanese officials who look down on them as inferiors.ule, Japanese from the main islands of Japan fill all important administrative posts In Okinawa-Ken, and many of the lesser appointive jobs as well. Such favoritism is one of the Inhabitants' chief causes of complaint against the Japanese administration. Furthermore, Japanesewho come to the Islands to exploit them for profit are strongly disliked Almost no lower class Japanese come to the islands.

Japanese efforts toense of racial homogeneity between Japanese and Oklnawans are really successful only with the younger generation whom they control through the schools. Many olderwho take pride in their own former culture have been alienated by the Japanese policy of assimilation and suppression of the Liuchluan vernacular. Those Oklnawans who go to Japan proper are particularly conscious of Japanese social and economic discrimination.

Original document.

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