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2. Early Modern and Modern Ryukyu-Okinawa (近世・近代琉球・沖縄)

2-1. Satsuma Takes Control of Ryukyu

Satsuma forces were well-organized, well-commanded, hardened soldiers that had been through many a campaign. They were also as adept with firearms as with swords and spears and would use the former to devastating effect in Okinawa. The imposing walls of the gusuku at Nakijin, Urasoe and Shuri proved limited obstacles. Okinawa's military defense system was based on being attacked at Naha by sea. It was effective when Satsuma forces bluffed a sea assault and were beaten back. Troops had been dropped ashore at two locations on the west coast, however, and they made light work of what stood in their path to the capture of Shuri. From start to finish the Ryukyu conquest took a month.

Ryukyu was now a vassal state of Tokugawa Japan via Satsuma. Satsuma seized the northern Ryukyu islands, took control of Ryukyuan foreign affairs to control foreign trade and began a cadastral survey with a view to making Ryukyu a Satsuma tax unit. Edicts were issued telling the aristocracy that resources would henceforth be controlled but explaining to the common people that there would be no slavery and that weights and measures for agricultural produce would be standardized and cheating monitored. Ryukyuans would also be obliged to send missions to Edo to congratulate an incoming shogun or to offer thanks. These were known as Edo nobori (Edo-tachi).

Life Under Satsuma

“校註羽地仕置” in 東恩納寛惇、東恩納寛惇全集第2巻 (Higashionna Onna zenshu. The Collected Works of Higashionna Kanjun. Volume 2). 東京 : 第一書房、1978-82.

高良倉吉、”向象賢の論理” in 琉球新報社編、新琉球史 - 近世編 (上). 那覇:琉球新報社, pages 159-180. 1990.


豊見山和行、琉球王国の外交と王権 (Ryuukyuu oukoku no gaikou to ouken. The Diplomacy and Royal Authority of the Kingdom of Ryukyu). 東京:吉川弘文館, 2004.

沖縄県の歴史: Chapter 5 - “東アジアの変動と琉球” - pages 125--165.

Gregory Smits, Visions of Ryukyu: Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. Chapter 2, pages 50-70.

Mitsugu Matsuda, The Government of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, 1609-1872. Gushikawa: Yui Publishing Co., 2001.

Mitsugu Sakihara, The significance of Ryukyu in Satsuma finances during the Tokugawa period. Ann Arbor, Michigan: U.M.I. (University Microfilms International), 1971. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation from the University of Hawaii.


Masato Matsui, Shimazu Shigehide, 1745-1833: A Case Study of Daimyo Leadership. Unpublished Thesis (Ph. D.) - University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1975.


Robert K. Sakai, ‘The Ryukyu (Liu-Ch’iu) Islands as a Fief of Satsuma,’ in John Fairbank (Ed.), The Chinese World Order: Traditional China’s Foreign Relations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1968.

Robert K. Sakai, ‘The Satsuma-Ryukyu Trade and the Tokugawa Seclusion Policy,’ Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3, May 1964.

Haraguchi, T., Sakai, R., Sakihara, M., Yamada, K., and M. Matsui. (1975). The Status System and Social Organisation of Satsuma: A Translation of the Shumon Tefuda Aratame Jomoku. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.

WWW resources:

The legend of Tametomo

The Pechin: the Okinawan/Ryukyuan equivalent of the Japanese Samurai [external Wikipedia website - English - retrieved 16th October 2007]

The Structure of the Royal Government of Ryukyu [external Wikipedia website - Japanese - retrieved 16th October 2007]





2-2. State-to-State Trade Replaced by Private Trade

In reality, The Ryukyuan economy based on transit trade had been shrinking since the arrival of the Portuguese in Malacca in 1511 and the Spanish conquest of the Philippines in the 1570's. Trade in Asia now had also shifted from official state-to-state trade that Ryukyu conducted on behalf of China to private trade and the exchange of silver. Ryukyu did not have ready access to silver. Japan was a silver producer but by far most of the world's supply (perhaps 70-75%) was coming out of the Philippines via Bolivia. Add to this the end of Ming China's self-imposed maritime bans which allowed Chinese sailors to do their own trading and rely significantly less on Ryukyu.

Ryukyuan trade relations with China alone were still well worth continuing, of course, and both Satsuma and the Tokugawa feudal government were careful to try to limit their involvement in the process and allow things to continue as per usual. Satsuma actually contributed funds to Ryukyu so that Chinese missions to the kingdom could still be entertained in the accustomed manner. Ryukyuan tributary relations with China would persist until its annexation by Japan in 1879.

2-3. Life Under Satsuma: Sensibly Managing Resources

The initial post-conquest phase was largely directed towards educating the Ryukyu Government that spending be curtailed and all forms of resources better monitored and managed. There was an explosion in government department creation covering all the key areas of salaries, land distribution and, of course, taxes. The Lord of Satsuma had selfish motives in wanting Ryukyu to control its resources but it must also be said that it was a practical necessity for Ryukyu to follow this path. The story of most of Japan's regional lords (daimyou) is one of debt and bankruptcy as the lowly merchant class in only a few centuries vastly improved their social ranking (it used to run, from top to bottom, aristocrat, farmer, craftsman, merchant). Satsuma was one of the few daimyou to not just survive the Tokugawa era (beginning it as an opponent of Ieyasu) but to be leading the development of modern Japan in the post-feudal Meiji era. This was very much down to resource management and financial savvy. Ryukyu needed Satsuma steel in this area, at least.


Readings on Portugal in Asia

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 1500-1700: A Political and Economic History (London: Longman, 1993).

上里 隆史、 琉日戦争一六〇九―島津氏の琉球侵攻。 出版社: ボーダーインク (2009/12)
ISBN-10: 4899821700  ISBN-13: 978-4899821700

メンデス・ピント著 (岡村多希子訳), 東洋遍歴記 (トウヨウ ヘンレキキ) Peregrinação. 東京 : 平凡社 , 1979-1980




2-4. Modernization, Conservation and ‘The Second Golden Age’

The first great architect of post-conquest Ryukyu was the Japan-educated royal prince Haneji Choushuu. He was a powerful advocate of Satsuma-style (Japan-style) modernization and he actively pushed Ryukyu in this direction. His most significant role in economic development was expanding the area of cultivated land to feed the ever-growing population and to meet Satsuma tax demands. He was also an historian, compiling the nation's first history in 1650. It needed a powerful figure to shift the country in the direction of greater economic self-sufficiency and it is this that is perhaps his greatest legacy. Resource conservation and effective management, in this case self-sufficiency in timber, was the objective of Sai On, the Chinese-educated 18th century statesman. His success in implementing this policy is easy to see even today.

If anything can be said to characterize this latter period in the history of Ryukyu it is the coming together of Chinese and Japanese influences with a little twist of Ryukyu in the development of crafts and the performing arts that persist today. Whereas the 14th-16th century is known as a golden age of economic growth and technological advancement, this period is a golden age of Ryukyuan culture. Dance, music, theater, karate, sericulture, pottery, lacquerware, textiles, cloth dyeing and both history and literature were all developed or significantly advanced during this period.

Later Kings of the Second Shou Dynasty (1621-1879)

Shou Hou 尚豊 (1621-1640)
Shou Ken 尚賢 (1641-1647)
Shou Shitsu 尚質 (1648-1668)
Shou Tei 尚貞 (1669-1709)
Shou Eki 尚益 (1710-1712)
Shou Kei 尚敬 (1713-1751)
Shou Boku 尚穆 (1752-1795)
Shou On 尚温 (1796-1802)
Shou Sei 尚成 (1803)
Shou Kou 尚灝 (1804-1828)
Shou Iku 尚育 (1829-1848)
Shou Tai 尚泰 (1849-1879)



(程順則) Tei Junsoku-related:





'An Outline of Okinawan History,' in Higaonna Kanjun zenshu (1). Ryukyu Shimpo Sha, 1978.

Mitsugu Matsuda, The Ryukyuan Government scholarship students to China 1392-1868. Monumenta Nipponica: Studies in Japanese Culture, volume 21, Nos. 3-4, 1962.







(蔡温) Sai On-Related:

沖縄県の歴史: Chapter 6 - “琉球における身分制社会の成立” - pages 165-206.

Mitsugu Matsuda, The Government of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, 1609-1872. Gushikawa: Yui Publishing Co., 2001.

Mitsugu Sakihara, The significance of Ryukyu in Satsuma finances during the Tokugawa period. Ann Arbor, Michigan: U.M.I. (University Microfilms International), 1971. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation from the University of Hawaii.


Gregory Smits, Visions of Ryukyu: Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

真栄田義見、蔡温: 伝記と思想 (Sai On: denki to shisou. Sai On: His Life and Ideas). 那覇:月刊沖縄社、1976).

沖縄歴史研究会、蔡温選集 (Sai On senshuu. The Analects of Sai On). 那覇:星印刷出版部、1967.

Edward Bollinger, Saion, Okinawa’s Sage Reformer: An Introduction to His Life and Selected Works, Naha: Ryukyu Shimpo Sha, 1975.

Specific Forest-related Readings

Chapter IV - “Sai On’s Administrative Policies: Managing the Wild Horse” in Edward E. Bollinger, Saion, Okinawa’s Sage Reformer: An Introduction to His Life and Selected Works, Naha: Ryukyu Shimpo Sha, 1975.

仲間 勇栄、杣山と村落共同体 (Somayama to sonraku kyoudoutai - Timber Forests and Village Communities) in 新琉球史ー近世編. 那覇:琉球新報社、1990.

Nakama Yuuei’s Okinawa rinya seido riyoushi kenkyuu: yama ni gizamareta rekishizou o motomete (Naha: Hirugi Sha, 1984).

林政八書 (東京: 土井林学振興会、1976) Includes two parts: the first is a collection of the original eight volumes - 旧琉球藩編 『林政八書』(昭和9年刊), and the second is Tatetsu Shunpou’s modern Japanese interpretation of the difficult originals - 立津春方著 『林政八書』(昭和12年刊).

John Michael Purves, Bixia Chen, Yuei Nakama, The Secrets of Forestry: An English Translation of the Sanrin Shinpi (山林真秘)of Sai on, 琉球大学農学部学術報告 (The Science Bulletin of the Faculty of Agriculture). University of the Ryukyus no. 56 p. 11-21, Dec-2009.

John Michael Purves (translator). Introduction to the English Translation of the Sanrin Shinpi by Professor Nakama Yuei, Department of Subtropical Agriculture, Faculty of Agriculture, the University of the Ryukyus. The Ryukyuanist: A Newsletter on Ryukyu/Okinawa Studies, Number 86, Winter 2009-10.

Yuei Nakama, John Michael Purves, Bixia Chen, Tree Growing Methods: Revised Japanese and English Translations of Sai On’s Jumoku Hasshoku Houhou (樹木播殖方法), 琉球大学農学部学術報告 (The Science Bulletin of the Faculty of Agriculture). University of the Ryukyus no. 57, Dec-2010.


Bixia Chen, A Comparative Study on the Feng Shui Village Landscape and Feng Shui Trees in East Asia-A Case Study of Ryukyu and Sakishima Islands (東アジアにおける風水集落の景観構造及び風水樹に関する比較研究―琉球諸島及び先島諸島を事例として) Issue Date : 2008.

(Kyushu Journal of Forest Research) 九州森林研究 No.57, 2004. Bixia Chen and Yuuei Nakama, A summary of research history on Chinese Feng-shui and application of Feng-shui principles to environmental issues (陳碧霞・仲間勇栄:中国における風水研究史とその環境論的応用に関する総説)

Look for other articles at the Kyushu Journal of Forest Research

Daisuke Miwa (2008), Saion’s resource management policies - A search in Ryukyu’s environmental economic history based on Noumucho and “Seven books of forestry policy”. SD Governance Discussion Paper. (三輪大介、[蔡温の資源管理政策 - 琉球環境経済史の試み:農務帳と林政7書を中心に])

For background on forestry in Japan (not Ryukyu) through history you can do no better than Conrad Totman’s The Green Archipelago: Forestry in Pre-Industrial Japan (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1989). This book is also available in Japanese. コンラッド・タットマン著: 熊崎実訳、日本人はどのように森をつくってきたのか. 東京 : 築地書館、1998.

Other WWW resources:

Heiji kanai monogatari 平時家内物語: An essay on household management issued to the residents of Gushichan district (magiri) by Sai On - Translated by Gregory Smits and available from his website.

Jijoden 自叙伝, Sai On's Autobiography. Original title: Sai-uji Gushichan ueekata Bunjaku anbun 蔡氏具志頭親方文若案文 - Translated by Gregory Smits and available from his website.

高良 倉吉、総説・蔡温と国土経営、しまたてい、No.36

Feng shui (風水)Geomancy





2-5. Imperialism, Colonialism and the Rise of Modern Japan

If the Portuguese and Spanish had given Asians a little taste of Christianity and colonialism, the second wave of Europeans provided a full meal. China's dominance of the region came under serious threat from European pressure for more trade and greater access to markets. What began as simple supply depots became fortified bases and later fortified towns with locally-built armies. Playing nice to access trade goods gradually gave way to forced acquisition and full control of production. Britain did precisely this in India and set its sights on the rest of Asia. The European industrial revolution not only gave these countries (and the United States of America) vastly superior ships and weapons but wealth production on a massive scale. They had goods to trade and sought relations of equality with China but the middle kingdom resisted this and regarded outsiders as little more than barbarians. With slim justification England went to war with China and, in the peace settlement, imposed its unequal treaties and got the trade access it desired. Other states did the same and soon Qing China was being carved up.



Josef Kreiner, ‘Notes on the History of European-Ryukyuan Contacts,’ in Josef Kreiner (Ed.) Sources of Ryukyuan History and Culture in European Collections. Munich: Iudicium, 1996.

上里 隆史、 琉日戦争一六〇九―島津氏の琉球侵攻。 出版社: ボーダーインク (2009/12)
ISBN-10: 4899821700  ISBN-13: 978-4899821700

Patrick Beillevaire, Ryukyu studies since 1854: Western Encounters Part 1 and 2 (10 volumes in total). Tokyo: Edition Synapse, 2000 and 2002, respectively.

山口栄鉄編訳・解説、 外国人来琉記 (Gaikokujin Ryuuraiki. A Record of Foreigners Visiting Ryukyu). 那覇:琉球新報社、2000.

山口栄鉄、 異国と琉球 (Ikoku to Ryuukyuu. Foreign Countries and Ryukyu).宜野湾:榕樹書林、1999.

Yamaguchi Eitetsu & Arakawa Yuko (Editors), The Demise of the Ryukyu Kingdom: Western Accounts and Controversy (琉球王国の崩壊:大動乱期の日中外交戦). Ginowan: Yojushorin, 2002.

Yamaguchi Eitetsu & Arakawa Yuko (Editors), The Loochoo Islands Two Versions (琉球の島々二編 - The Loochoo Islands by Charles S. Leavenworth and The Loo Choo Islands : a Chapter of Missionary History). Hamden, Ct.: English Institute of Japanese Studies, 2005.

Yamaguchi Eitetsu & Arakawa Yuko (Editors), Lewchew and the Lewchewans: Being a Narrative of a Visit to Lewchew, or Loo Choo, in October,1850 by George Smith. 那覇:欧文日本学研究所、2003.

Edwin Pak-Wah Leung's China's Quasi-War with Japan: The Dispute over the Ryukyu (Liu Ch'iu) Islands, 1871-1881. University of California Santa Barbara, unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, 1978.

Hokama, Seisho., editor (1975). Commodore Perry's Visit to Okinawa: Selections From Narratives of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. Naha: Kyuyodo Shobo.

ラブ・オーシュリ (Rob Oechsle), 上原正稔編著, 青い目が見た「大琉球」: Great Lewchew discovered : 19th century Ryukyu in western art and illustration 那覇: ニライ社/下関: 新日本教育図書(発売), 2000.

Hall, B. (1975). Voyage of Discovery to the West Coast of Corea and the Great Loo-Choo Island. Seoul: Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch, Reprint Series.

Charles Leavenworth (チャールズ・S.レブンウォース); 山口栄鉄, 新川右好訳 (Translators)、The Loochoo Islands 1905 - 琉球の島々1905年 (Ryuukyuu no shimajima 1905 nen). 那覇: 沖縄タイムス社, 2005.









2-6. Empire-Building and Japan’s Road to World War II

Japan had the advantage of a little distance from these events but knew that the Europeans would come knocking on its door for the same access soon enough. Japan decided to spare itself the warfare and instead end its feudal era and reemerge as a modern nation state along European lines. Its progress in this direction after 1868 was quite remarkable and soon Japan was knocking at China's door and demanding the same kind of unequal treaty as Britain or America. Its transformation into the preeminent power in Asia was complete after the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War. Thereafter, Japanese empire-building moved forward rapidly. Ryukyu had been the first piece of this empire when incorporated into Japan in 1872 and finally annexed and designated a prefecture in 1879. Several European countries, as well as a US naval expedition, had visited the Ryukyus and had even dropped off missionaries. Japan saw annexation as the best solution to dissuade unwanted interest and potential territorial challenge. Taiwan, Korea, a number of Pacific islands and then Manchuria were added to the empire before the attack on Pearl Harbor and advance into Southeast Asia took it into war with the US, Britain and, eventually, Soviet Russia.

The start of the period saw Okinawa incorporated into Japan and forced to undergo complete assimilation. Such change itself was traumatic enough, but at the same time difficult economic conditions forced Okinawans to emigrate to mainland Japan, to other parts of the expanding colonial empire as well as abroad, principally to Hawaii and South America. The conclusion of this period was the horrific Battle for Okinawa from April to June 1945. This was the only case of land war between US and Japanese forces on homeland Japanese territory. The death toll was high for America (13,000), Japan (90,000) and, particularly, Okinawa, with more than 200,000 civilians killed. It wrought utter devastation on the main island of Okinawa, a fact that would to a good extent determine the subsequent US economic reconstruction strategy.



(PDF document downloadable from the "publications" section of the following link) "Jahana Noboru: Okinawan Activist and Scholar" written by Gregory Smits [external - the personal website of Gregory James Smits - English/Japanese]

比屋根照夫、自由民権思想と沖繩 (Jiyuu minken shisou to Okinawa. The Freedom and Democratic Rights Ideology and Okinawa). 東京:研文出版、1982.

比屋根照夫、 近代日本と伊波普猷 (Kindai nihon to Iha Fuyuu. Modern Japan and Iha Fuyu). 東京:三一書房、1981.

比屋根照夫、 近代沖縄の精神史 (Kindai Okinawa no seishinshi. An Intellectual History of Modern Okinawa). 東京:社会評論社、1996.

太田朝敷、沖縄県政五十年 (Okinawa-kensei gojuunen. 50 Years of Okinawa’s Prefectural Administration) 那覇: リューオン企画, 1976.

大里康永、 謝花昇伝 : 沖縄解放の先駆者 (Jahana Noboruden: Okinawa kaihou no senkusha. Jahana Noboru: A Pioneer in the Emancipation of Okinawa). 東京:太平出版社、1970.

Chinen, Zenei., editor (1983). Shiryo: nogakushi Jahana Noboru. Haebaru: Naha Shuppansha.



The Battle for Okinawa

Appleman, Burns, Gugeler, and Stevens (Ed.), Okinawa: The Last Battle. Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, Department of the Army, 1948. [external - the entire book text online - retrieved 31st January 2008]

Ota, Masahide. (1981). This Was the Battle of Okinawa, Naha: Naha Publishing.



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