I have long wanted to start a series of notes about Okinawa, in connection with the organization of our new summer program in Okinawa. I already wrote about my short trip to this subtropical Japanese paradise here. Now I want to tell you a little about what kind of wonderful island it is and a little about its history.
So, Okinawa Prefecture is the southernmost and warmest prefecture in Japan. It is the only prefecture in Japan located in the subtropics. There is never a sub-zero temperature and snow. Due to the fact that Okinawa is located in a subtropical climate, it makes the islands attractive for recreation all year round.
The average temperature in the year is about 23 degrees. And even in the coldest season, in January, the average temperature is as much as 17 degrees. Well, isn’t it a beauty? Great climate! No need for fur coats, hats and boots. Just my dream 🙂
And although in the summer, of course, the sun is scorching, but there is an amazing blue, clear sea nearby, in which you can plunge into at any moment. No matter what anyone says, in my opinion, it is much easier to survive the summer near the sea than in a stuffy metropolis. Moreover, the inhabitants of Okinawa told me that, for example, when in August the temperature in Tokyo reached 37 degrees of heat, in Okinawa it did not rise above 33 degrees. So where is hotter? Controversial question.
If you take a closer look at the characters 沖縄, we will find that in translation into Russian “Okinawa” means “rope on the high seas.” You may ask why such an image? The fact is that if you look at a geographical map, you will see a ridge of small and medium-sized islands that stretches for more than a thousand kilometers between the Japanese island of Kyushu and Chinese Taiwan. This reminds us of a rope immersed in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, which in some places protrudes on the surface of the ocean, and in some places passes under water.
Okinawa Prefecture consists of 160 islands, 49 of which are inhabited, the rest, that is, more than 100, are uninhabited islands. This is the Ryukyu archipelago – an island arc of coral origin. The total length of the islands from west to east is 100 km, from south to north – 400 km.
The largest and most significant among the islands of the Ryukyu archipelago is the island of Okinawa, in Japanese 沖縄本島 (Okinawa-honto:). Therefore, the prefecture is also called Okinawa. The area of the main island is 1207 km². A. Okinawa is the largest island in Okinawa Prefecture. The administrative center of the largest island is the city of Naha.
During the Middle Ages, Naha was the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The restored Shurijo Royal Palace, one of the most famous sights of both Okinawa itself and the city of Naha, recalls the former greatness of the Ryukyu kingdom.
Shuri Castle was the royal residence during the Ryukyu dynasty for 450 years. The city grew around the castle and became a major commercial and cultural center. The castle burned down and rebuilt several times. It was the most beautiful and majestic building in the entire Ryukyu archipelago.
As part of our program, we planned an excursion to this magnificent Shuri castle and the park of the same name around it. See below for more information about Shuri Castle.
Initially, Okinawa was not part of Japan. During the Middle Ages, it was an independent state, the Ryukyu Kingdom, which was established in 1429. Until then, the main island of Okinawa was divided into 3 provinces: North, Middle and South. They constantly fought for supremacy, and in the end, the Middle proved to be the strongest.
The de facto ruler of the principality of Khasi, who came from the Middle Province, united the entire island. He also built Shuri Castle and Naha Port. Sho Hashi ruled Ryukyu until 1439. The state gradually expanded to neighboring islands, and by the end of the 15th century, the Sho wans ruled the entire southern part of the Ryukyu archipelago.
The period of prosperity of Ryuku fell on the era of great geographical discoveries. The Ryukyu state was engaged in transit trade between China, the countries of East Asia and Japan.
In 1609, the Japanese feudal principality of Satsuma, located in southern Kyushu, attacked Ryukyu. Ryukyu became a dependent country of Satsuma. Ryukyu was used by the Satsuma domain for trade with China.
After the Meiji Restoration, the central government of Japan incorporated Ryuku into the prefectures of Japan and renamed it Okinawa.
If you drive around the island of Okinawa, you can see the ruins of medieval fortifications – gusuku, which are scattered around the perimeter of the island. They are World Heritage Sites.
In 1945, during World War II, American troops occupied Okinawa. Okinawa Prefecture turned out to be Japan’s only place of fighting on land. As a result of fierce but hopeless fighting, more than 100 thousand people died, almost half of whom were civilians.
After the war, Okinawa was under the control of the American administration. In 1972, it was finally returned to Japan.