The past two decades have witnessed growing obsession over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in both China and Japan. This trend has been especially pronounced in Japan since September 2010. To outsiders this dispute is especially striking given that these islands appear to be essentially barren rocks. The current obsession is an aberration, given that since the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations in 1972 both sides took steps to avoid having this territorial conflict harm the larger bilateral relationship. Looking at the longer history of the islands, through much of history China and Japan, and to a lesser extent the Kingdom of Ryukyu, were often barely conscious of these small rocky islands’ very existence. Within the Sinocentric tributary system these islands were essentially an undefined borderland (Suganuma 2000, pp. 102-29).