Interesting Factoids

did you know...?
Reference:  University of Hawaii at Manoa Outreach College
Summer Sessions 2000 Course catalog


The ship carrying the first 26 immigrants from Okinawa arrived at Honolulu Harbor on January 8, 1900.  The second group of 40 arrived in 1903, and 262 came the next year.  Filling the persistent need for plantation labor, the numbers increased.  In 1906, 4,467 arrived and by one account there were 10,000 Okinawans working on the plantations from 1907 to 1915.


Okinawan immigrants to Hawaii maintained their traditional culture, a culture which had been colored by historical contact with Japan and China.  Indigenous Okinawan music, dance, textiles, clothing and cuisine reflected the country's unique traditions.


Although the US Military occupation of Japan ended in 1952, six years after Japan's surrender, Okinawa was the exception and didn't revert to Japan until May 15, 1972, 27 years after the end of World War II.  Until then, US currency was used in Okinawa.  To this day the US maintains a large military presence in Okinawa.


Karate originated in Okinawa, combining indigenous with Chinese forms of martial arts.  Karate as a form of self-defense became widespread when Japanese officials banned native Okinawan commoners from bearing weapons.  Karate was taught in schools beginning the latter-19th century; today it is practiced throughout the world.


Okinawa's awamori is considered a premier beverage among Japanese.  Made from Thai rice, fermented and distilled, it originated over 500 years ago through trade connections with Thailand.  Its alcohol content of 30% or more is much higher than that of Japanese sake (about 16%).


Okinawan cuisine differs from Japanese cuisine in its emphasis on pork.  On the "main islands" of Japan, pork cutlet, or tonkatsu, has become a popular mainstream dish only recently.  Chinese dishes were an important part of royal feasts in the Okinawan kingdom.


Throughout history, Okinawa was colonized, influenced, and occupied by various world powers, but attempted to maintain its independence.  In 1879, the Meiji Imperial Government decreed that Okinawa - the Ryukyu archipelago - was a prefecture of Japan.


The battle for Okinawa, which began when American troops invaded the island group on April 1, 1945, has been called the bloodiest of World War II.  Pressured to fight for the Japanese and caught between two warring sides, Okinawans suffered massive casualties.  Estimates vary, but upwards of 100,000 people, somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of Okinawa's civilian population, perished as a result.


Although people on the main island of Okinawa speak standard Okinawan, the local dialects of the other Ryukyu islands differ considerably.  Thus it is not quite accurate to refer to "the" Okinawan dialect.


The Ryukyu kingdom prospered due to trade with China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia.  Shuri, on Okinawa island, became the capital of the kingdom.  The second Sho dynasty ruled the Ryukyus for 409 years.  In 1879, Okinawa became a prefecture of Japan when the new Meiji Government established itself.