This is my family migration book made for the Globalization and Art Education class at the University of Florida. The artwork I created represents who I am and what brought me where I am now. The design on the tree underwater is inspired by the traditional Ryukyu textile. This is a digital drawing.
I currently live in Gainesville Florida, and I’m originally from Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa is now a part of Japan, but it used to be an independent kingdom called the Ryukyu Kingdom. Because of this, Okinawa took a different pathway than that of Japan. I will first talk about my personal migration history of what led to where I am now, followed by a brief history of Okinawa which was the Ryukyu Kingdom. (In the e-book, the history of Okinawa comes first.)
My Migration History
When I was a child, I lived with my family, grandparents, and great-grandparents. I have been close to my great-grandfather. As I mention in Okinawan/Ryukyu history, the path was not easy for Okinawans. The Ryukyu Kingdom flourished its culture and the trades from nearby countries, but it diminished as the kingdom was unified to Japan. My great-grandparents and grandparents lived through WWII, and I, as a descendant of the survivor of the Battle of Okinawa, I grew up listing to real stories about how horrifying the ground battle was. Okinawans lived in the cave, run away from fires and guns, walked over the dead bodies, and ate dirt, bugs, grass, anything to starve off their hunger. The Japanese military suggested civilians to go suicide instead of helping them. Japan triggered the War, but the civilian had no control of the decision and did not receive the right information about the war. Despite all that they had to go through, my grandparents and great-grandparents were nothing but caring personal. Okinawans have overcome the pain of their past through sprit of helping one another. My great-grand parents never blamed anyone for anything that they had to go through; instead, they were appreciative of everything in life. They knew that nobody wanted to hurt each other but the war forced people to do so. They taught me to focus on positivity and things to appreciate instead of hating, blaming, or accusing of something uncontrollable in life. Life is a treasure, and we are all worth just by being alive, and just as who we are. This precious mindset I inherited from my great-grandparents lead me to enjoy art as much as I wish, without any judgment. Their deep love made me feel I was worth as a person just by living, and I truly enjoyed my life doing what I loved instead of worrying about getting good grades or being a perfect child as socially expected. As a result, I found a love of drawing, and my middle school teacher suggested that I take the entrance exam for specialized art high school, which became the turning point in my life. In high school, I met a teacher who taught me to gain the skills to find my way and encouraged autonomy to move forward on my own, even when I face the walls. By the end of high school, I decided to study abroad to see the broader world. People around me were worried about me going to the U.S because of the gun law and that I did not speak any English at that time. I knew it was not going to be easy, but I trusted myself that I could do it. This self-trust came from the unconditional love and trust I received from my great-grandparents and support from my family. It was challenging at first, but I enjoyed every minute of U.S life; every single day was an adventure and an opportunity to new findings. I did not study English in high school because I did not feel the need for it; however, living in the U.S, I started to study so hard because I truly enjoyed communicating with people in English. Listening and learning about different cultures, thinking, opinions, and ethics was just so eye-opening for me, coming from a tiny island. After studying abroad, I went back to Okinawa, and I had an opportunity to work on an American base located in Okinawa. I enjoyed meeting and learning with children from a variety of backgrounds. I was working on the base, and then I met my husband, a Marine stationed in Okinawa. After we got married, my husband wanted to stay in Okinawa, but he also wanted to finish college as he was leaving the Military. And we decided that it would be better for him to do so in the U.S. We moved to the U.S, my husband graduated from UF, and upon his graduation, he was offered a job here in Gainesville. By that time, we had three children, and also, it was the time when Covid19 hit the world. We decided to stay where we are for now, and it was hard for me to go back to work with three small children when their schools shut down with Covid19, so I decided to go for a Master’s at UF for the field of what I love while I raise children. We want to go back to Okinawa eventually, but we are enjoying here and learning a lot, so we will go with the flow and look forward to any future that awaits us.
Okinawa prefecture in Japan was used to be an independent kingdom called “The Ryukyu Kingdom.” Okinawa is part of Japan now, but Okinawa took a different pathway than mainland Japan. Thus, people who originated in Okinawa are often referred to as “Okinawan” rather than “Japanese.” The Ryukyu Kingdom developed its unique culture through trade with China and the countries nearby. Post 12th century Okinawa, it was called Sanzan (Three Principalities) period. The Island had three kingdoms based on area, and they fought over the control of the island. The king of the southern principality, King Sho Hashi, unified the three kingdoms at the beginning of the 15th century, becoming the Ryukyu Kingdom. Sho Hashi established his government in Shuri. The Ryukyuan trade during the Sho Dynasties revolved around tributary trade with China begun during the Sanzan Period. This era was commonly known as “The Age of Great Trade” or “Golden Age.” (“Ryukyu Dynasty” n.d.) The Ryukyu island became a center of trade and served as the center of economic and cultural interchange between south-east Asia, China, Korea, and Japan for several centuries. The culture of the Ryukyuan Kingdom evolved and flourished in a unique political and economic environment, which gave its culture a unique quality. (“Gusuku Sites” n.d.)
The invasion of Satsuma happened in 1690, the Shimazu clan from Satsuma, in southern Japan, invaded Okinawa. For the next 270 years, Satsuma demanded taxes from the Okinawans and controlled trade in exchange for island protection. Okinawa assumed status as a Satsuma colony. (“U.S Air Force Fact Sheet” n.d.)
After the invasion of Satsuma in 1609, Ryukyu became a part of Japan’s shogunate system, named “Ryukyu Han.” In 1879, Okinawa was officially established as a prefecture of Japan, due to the abolition of the Han system and the establishment of the prefecture system. This ended the 450 years of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Around this time, many of the unique cultures and traditions of the Ryukyu were suppressed by the Japanese government, and the Ryukyu language was banned. From the beginning of the 20th century, children were forced to wear dialect cards as punishment if they spoke the Ryukyu language.
During World War II, Okinawa became fierce, and the only land battle in Japan that involved civilians. It is said about one-third of the Okinawan population was killed in the War. The Battle of Okinawa proved to be one of World War II’s hardest ground field battles. After the war, Okinawa was placed under the administration of the United States. During this time, Okinawa developed a further unique culture influenced by American culture. In 1972, Okinawa was returned to the Japanese administration. Okinawa remains under the Japanese administration today. (“Introduction of Okinawa”2013)
History Timetable of Japan and Okinawa
Okinawa Prefecture. (2021, April 15). Rekishi Gaiyo [Introduction of Okinawa ]https://www.pref.okinawa.jp/site/kodomo/land/koryu/gaiyo.html
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. (n.d.). Ryukyu Dynasty. https://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/summit/2000/outline/eng/okinawa/oki0301.html
Suntory Museum of Art. (2018, July 18). The Ryukyu Kingdom: A Treasure Chest of Beauty. https://www.suntory.com/sma/exhibition/2018_3/display.html#:~:text=Ryukyu%20weaving%20and%20dyeing%20established,royal%20family%20and%20the%20aristocracy
The Japan Times. (2009, May 12). Between a rock and a hard place. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2009/05/12/reference/between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/
UNESCO. (n.d.). Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/972/
U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet OKINAWA HISTORY. (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.kadena.af.mil/Portals/40/documents/About_Us/AFD-120507-057.pdf