chapter  4
23 Pages

Schooling and identity in Okinawa: Okinawans and Amerasians in Okinawa


Okinawa is currently one of Japan’s 42 prefectures and consists of numerous small islands located in the southernmost part of the country. Prior to their annexation by Meiji Japan in the late nineteenth century, the islands formed an independent kingdom, the Ryūkyū kingdom, which had its own language and culture and an independent trading relationship with China. Okinawa was thus internally colonised by modern Japan and shared its plight with another indigenous people, the Ainu of northern Japan. The indigenous people of Okinawa were forced to assimilate to mainland Japan under the pre-Second World War government. The area suffered greatly in the Battle of Okinawa at the end of that war, and, even after Japan regained sovereignty, remained under the rule of the US occupation, which developed extensive military bases on the islands. Even after Okinawa’s return to Japan in 1972, its people remained marginalised in Japanese society and have maintained a strong Okinawan identity, as distinct from Japanese. Okinawans are thus a minority group in Japan. Within this minority group, however, there exists a further minority group, Amerasians, who are children of American soldiers (including ex-soldiers) and local women – a direct consequence of the US bases that are disproportionately concentrated in Okinawa. This chapter focuses on these two minorities: Okinawans and Amerasians in Okinawa.