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Okinawa Island

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This article is about the main island of Okinawa. For other uses of the term Okinawa, please see Okinawa (disambiguation).

Okinawa Island (沖縄本島 Okinawa-hontoo) is the largest island of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands (南西諸島 Nansai Shotoo 'Southwest Islands') chain. It is therefore also the largest of the Okinawa Islands (沖縄諸島 Okinawa-shotoo) and Okinawa prefecture (沖縄県 Okinawa-ken), with Naha (那覇市 Naha-shi) the capital. Previously, the capital was Shuri (首里), now the site of Okinawa's reconstructed castle.

Okinawa Island was the site of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, during the U.S. invasion of Japan during World War II. The castle was destroyed by the U.S. bombardment of the island. Over 33,000 U.S. troops, plus dependants, remain on the Okinawa Islands, mostly at bases on Okinawa Island. In 2009, the U.S. agreed to relocate 8,000 troops to Guam by 2014, with the move majority-financed by Japan. This followed increasingly rocky relations with the Okinawan people, who have protested at a number of high-profile sexual offences committed by U.S. personnel.[1] Tensions mounted on the island after the election of the Democratic Party of Japan to government in 2009, as they and their coalition partner the Social Democratic Party were elected on a pledge to renegotiate a deal to relocate a United States Forces Japan base on the island; moves to situate the base away from Okinawa Island or outside Japan altogether proved unsuccessful, to the consternation of many local people.[2]

Okinawa and the other Ryukyu Islands are home to the Ryukyuan languages (琉球語 Ryuukyugo) and people (ウチナンチュ Uchinanchu, written in the Japanese script), who are a separate ethnic group within Japan. The eleven languages of this group are not mutually comprehensible with modern Japanese.[3]

Footnotes

  1. Japan Times: 'U.S. imposes curfew on Okinawa forces.' February 21, 2008.
  2. Japan Times: 'New accord stokes Okinawan ire'. 29th May 2010.
  3. Ethnologue: 'Ethnologue Report for Ryukyuan' and 'Ethnologue Report for Japan'.

See also