The Fate of a Island Nation,
450 Years of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
The Fate of an Island Nation: 450 Years of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
It could be said that the story of the small island country that was the great Ryukyu Kingdom has been substituted for another island nation: Japan.
The Ryukyu Kingdom, a vassal state of China, arose in the 15th century. The power and influence of the Chinese helped them to establish themselves as a center of economic trade. With the power and reputation of the Chinese behind them, they would sail to all parts of East and Southeast Asia. In the 17th century, however, they were confronted by another powerhouse country when the Satsuma Regime of mainland Japan invaded the islands.
The Ryukyu Kingdom was ambushed by the samurai and was forced into subordination under the Satsuma Regime. The Satsuma’s aim was to gain the economic authority of China: on the outside the Ryukyu kingdom would maintain its vassal state with China, while behind the scenes the Satsuma Regime would be pulling all the strings.
Ryukyu was in a difficult situation. However, it was because of this that the culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom truly came to fruition. While stuck between a rock and a hard place, simultaneously engaging with Japanese and Chinese cultures, the kingdom was also able to take in aspects of both and incorporate them into their own.
However, in the 19th century, the islands were once again invaded by the forces of Japan, putting an end to a Regime which had lasted 450 years and giving birth to the modern Okinawa prefecture.
The Shuri-jo Castle you see today is a recreation of how it existed before the war. Shuri-jo Castle was the birthplace of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the home of the royal family, the center of political and economic power, the stage for diplomacy, the origin of cultural heritage.
Let’s gather the stories and the sleeping memories that lay hidden below the surface one story at a time.