On Friday, February 11, 2011, NJAHS had an in-service training for Nuchi du Takara: Lessons from the battle of Okinawa with the guest curator and San Francisco State University professor, Wesley Ueunten Wesley Ueunten. Dr. Ueunten began the session with the historical background of Okinawa and the facts of the battle of Okinawa.
Okinawa (Ryukyu) was a kingdom in late 1400. In 1603, the Satusma clan from Japan invaded Okinawa; It was their feudal domain and they accomplished it with a military invasion. Thus, Okinawa came under Japanese rule. In addition, the invasion of Okinawa was beneficial to Satusma because Okinawa was a place for trase between neighboring countries. The trade between Ryukyu (Okinawa) and China was already taking place. Thus, Satusma became wealthy due to the economic benefit from trade. When the Meiji restoration happened in 1868-1689, Japan began forcing a Japanese mentality on Okinawans. This was accomplished by sending all the children of Okinawa to Japanese school, to have a Japanese education; which was part of the Japanese mentality of emperor worship, at that time. Also, Satsuma prohibited all traditional Okinawan music, dance, and language. In terms of government structure, the high levels of the government were Japanese and the lower level was Okinawan. During Japan’s invasion, Okinawans were seen as 2nd class citizens. Thus, the Okinawans were being oppressed by the Japanese.
The battle of Okinawa happened in April to June, 1945 between the United States and Japan. The reason that Okinawa was place for the battle was because Okinawa was a great army base, and strategically important for both Japan and America because of its location. Also, Okinawa was close to all the other Asian countries. Thus, it was a great place for trade. The battle resulted in over 100,000 Japanese troops killed, and over 12,000 American troops killed. Also, it has been estimated that 150,000 civilians were also killed. In addition, Japanese soldiers are alleged to have ordered civilians to commit mass suicides to show their loyalty to the emperor and to the country. During the battle, the Japanese military created many tunnels for the hospitality of the soldiers and the tunnels benefited Japanese military as part of their defense mechanism. The war resulted in the United States’ victory. From 1945- 1972, the U.S controlled Okinawa. After 1972, Okinawa was returned back to Japan which controls it as part of Japan till the present day.
Overall, it was a great session! I learned a lot more in detail about Okinawa. Personally, oppression should not happen to anyone. I feel extremely sorry for the people of Okinawa and have sympathy for the victims of the battle.
Come visit NJAHS' Peace Gallery in San Francisco Japantown, and talk to us!