The Legendary Okinawa, Japan

Hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands comprise the southernmost prefecture of Japan, Okinawa. The Ryukyus extend southwest from Ky?sh? to Taiwan.  Naha, the capital of Okinawa is in the southern part of Okinawa Island.

How Okinawa Started?

Okinawa started as the Ryukyu Kingdom in the 15th century.  Due to its location which is close to China, Taiwan, and Japan, it then developed into a prosperous trading nation. During this time, many Gusukus or castles were constructed.  Also in this period, the Ryukyu Kingdom had a tributary relationship with China.  Despite Satsuma’s strong influence over the islands, the Ry?ky? Kingdom was able to maintain a reasonable degree of political freedom for more than two hundred years.

Later in 1868 after the Meiji Restoration, Japan, officially annexed the kingdom after military incursions and changed the name of the island as Ryukyu han. At the time, the Ta-tsing Empire demanded sovereignty over the isllands of the Ry?ky? Kingdom, considering that it was also a tributary nation of China. In 1878, Ryukyu han became Okinawa Prefecture of Japan while all other hans had become prefectures of Japan earlier in 1872. Hans are Ethnic groups of natives to East Asia and constitute 92% of China’s population and 98% of Taiwan’s.  Okinawans first obtained the right to vote for representatives to the national Diet in 1912. Japan’s Diet is its bicameral legislature with lower and upper houses.

What is Current?

As of March 31, 2008, Okinawa got its designation for its Natural Parks with19% of its total land area. These parks include the Okinawa Kaigan, the  Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park;  and Okinawa Senseki Quasi-National Parks.  Added to this list are the Kumejima, Irabu, and Tonaki Prefectural Natural Parks.  Iriomote is home to one of the most endangered and rare cat species, the Iriomote Cat. The region is also a home to Trimeresuruselegans, pit vipers. Coral reefs found in this part of Japan are habitats for a diverse marine fauna. Yearly, the sea turtles return to Okinawa’s southern islands to lay eggs.  Warnings are provided to swimmers during summer months regarding poisonous jellyfish.  There are other dangerous sea creatures too..

The Nippon Gallery in New York held the“Okinawa Art in NY” Exhibition from June 20 to July 27th, 2012. Artists included renowned,Yoshiharu Higa (photography), SeikichiTamanaha (painting), Michiko Uehara (weaving), and other Okinawan talents. There hasn’t been an exhibition like this in the United States before. The Okinawan Art is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

For Tourists:

Aside from the Natural Parks, which tourists love to explore tourists can learn so many things from the Japanese culture.  One can notice the hospitality of the Japanese people. There are homes that welcome visitors and treat them like they are part of their families.  The Japanese women are trained to take care of things inside their homes.  From cooking fresh and nutritious foods, the ingredients of which come from the mountains and the seas to setting the meals on the tables with plating so well arranged including matching colors and forms with the food these plates will hold. These foods are mostly placed in small bowls or plates like sushi, ramen, teriyaki, tempura and many others. When you visit  families, you have to take off your shoes first to get inside and observe how they work around their well maintained homes. Isn’t that wonderful?

Photo by ricardo_manuel on Flickr

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