At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Independent Okinawa?

On July 5th, the New York Times published an article, "In Okinawa, Talk of Break from Japan Turns Serious," that declared the significance of an independence movement in Okinawa prefecture.  I have noticed that Okinawans are becoming staunchly proud of their unique language, which only a small percentage of them speak fluently anymore.  When I walk through the halls of my school, often I hear a cacophony of "konnichiwa's" peppered with a few "haisai's", which is is the Uchinaaguchi equivalent to konnichiwa.  There has been a push towards Okinawa being culturally independent, but with the influence of Japanese media from mainland, the national education system, and the use of Japanese, I doubt the Okinawan youth will be able to locate an collective identity in the near future that is non-Japanese, at least not unless there is a complete revolution on this island.  In which case, there will be a vacuum and another master will probably fill that place instead of Okinawa being independent.

While I do think that mainland Japan and the US government should take the Okinawan requests regarding the reduction of US military bases seriously, I don't think this independence movement is politically viable.  But it may lead to a stronger collective identity embracing Ryukyuan heritage rather than the current acceptance of being thought of by the Yamato as those islands that are "not really Japan".  Of course, what about all the mainland transplants living on these islands who have settled down and married Okinawan people?  What about those who have just moved here?  What about Okinawans who live in mainland Japan, who identify more with mainland Japanese culture?

It's a complicated situation.  I do think the embrace of Uchinaaguchi and Uchinaa culture will benefit the people here, but I can't imagine an independent Okinawa.  What do you think?  



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