Ryūkyū Islands

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The location of the Ryūkyū Islands between Japan, China and Taiwan

The Ryūkyū Islands (outdated: Riukiu Islands or Liukiu Islands ; Japanese. 琉球 諸島 , Ryūkyū-shotō , dt. "Ryūkyū Islands") are an island group belonging to Japan in the East China Sea ( Pacific Ocean ) southwest of Japan, the extends over 1200 km between Kyushu and Taiwan . The Ryūkyū Islands are to be equated with the Nansei Islands , which have only existed as a political region since 1970. All islands without the remote Daitō and Senkaku Islands are referred to as the Ryūkyū chain of islands ( 琉球 列島 , Ryūkyū-rettō ).


The Ryūkyū Islands have about 1.5 million inhabitants, with almost 90 percent living on Okinawa Hontō alone . Naha is also located here, as the capital and economic center of the Ryūkyū Islands with three universities .

Most of the residents belong to the Ryūkyū peoples . There are also Japanese from the main islands, Chinese and a small Indonesian minority. The autochthonous Ryūkyū languages , which are related to Japanese, are rarely used in everyday life and are dominated by fewer and fewer people. Language Days have been held on the islands since 2006 as a kind of festival to promote the use of the autochthonous languages ​​and, above all, to pass on the history and culture of Ryūkyū to younger people.


The islands cover a total of 4700 km². The larger islands are mostly hilly to mountainous and of volcanic origin . The smaller ones, on the other hand, are usually rather flat and made from hard corals . Numerous volcanoes are still active in the northern part ; the last major eruption occurred in 1991.

East of the Ryūkyū Islands, the bottom of the Pacific Ocean falls into the Ryūkyū Trench, which is up to 7507 m deep .

Administrative division

Named the largest islands in the Ryūkyū chain of islands

The main island groups are:

The northern island group of Amami belongs to the Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima and is therefore also included in the Satsunan Islands . B. from the National Land Surveyor's Office . The other part together forms Okinawa Prefecture. Likewise, the Daitō Islands are not included in the Ryūkyū Islands.


The Ryūkyū Islands, which are roughly between 24 and 31 degrees north latitude , have a subtropical and humid climate with average annual temperatures of around 21 ° C. The winters are very mild with values ​​of 20 to 22 ° C.


The languages ​​and dialects of the inhabitants of the Ryūkyū Islands are counted as Ryūkyū languages. Together with the Japanese language and its dialects, the Ryūkyū languages ​​form the family of Japanese languages . Some Yamato-Japanese linguists do not see the Ryūkyū languages ​​as individual languages ​​and instead classify them as "Okinawa dialects" of Japanese, which was not well received by residents.


In agriculture , sweet potatoes , sugar cane and tropical fruits dominate , especially pineapples , and textiles and handicrafts are also exported . After agriculture, the second most important branch of the economy is fishing . In the past few decades, tourism in Okinawa Prefecture has become increasingly important.


The oldest traces of settlement date back to 32,000 BC. Dated. Neolithic cultures were predominant until around 1000 AD, in some parts even into the 14th century . Around 1200 AD the sovereigns were united and around 1400 the kingdom of Ryūkyū was established . The second Shō dynasty formally lasted until 1879. Meanwhile, the kingdom was influenced by China and Japan and in 1609 became dependent on the daimyat Satsuma .

Okinawa Prefecture was established in 1879 and attempts were made in the following decades to integrate the residents of the Ryūkyū Islands into the Japanese state through a policy of assimilation.

Okinawa Hontō was the site of the Battle of Okinawa , the only major land battle on Japanese territory during World War II . The archipelago was under US military administration from 1945 to 1972 until it was returned to Japan.

Even today, the relationship between the residents of the Ryūkyū Islands, both with the temporary occupation power USA , which maintains military bases on the Ryūkyū Islands, and with Japan is problematic. There is an independence movement that has as its declared goal the creation of an independent ryūkyū. The movement claims to want to form a determined, free East Asian state . The movement is supported by China . According to some reports, in the unlikely event of independence, the interim government could be a Chinese protectorate, which will then re-establish the Ryūkyū Kingdom . This newly established kingdom would be under the protection of China and would resume its old role as a free “tribute state”.

See also

Web links

Commons : Ryūkyū Islands  - collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ajiro Tatsuhiko and Warita Ikuo, Waga kuni no kōiki na chimei oyobi sono han'i ni tsuite no chōsa kenkyū (The geographical names and those extents of the wide areas in Japan), Kaiyō Jōhōbu Gihō, Vol. 27, 2009.
  2. ○ し ま く と ぅ ば の 日 に 関 す る 条例. Retrieved July 28, 2018 .
  3. Tatsuhiko Ajiro, Ikuo Warita: 我が国の広域な地名及びその範囲についての調査研究( Waga kuni no Koiki na chimei oyobi sono han'i ni tsuite no Chosa Kenkyu ) / The geographical names and Those extents of the wide areas in Japan . Vol. 27. Kaiyō Jōhōbu Gihō, 2009, p. 15 ( PDF ).
  4. ^ Eiichiro Ishiyama: Ryukyu pro-independence group quietly gathering momentum . In: The Japan Times Online . January 26, 2015, ISSN  0447-5763 ( japantimes.co.jp [accessed July 28, 2018]).
  5. Matsushima 2010, pp. 192-194.
  6. Japan's claim to Okinawa disputed by influential Chinese commentators. Retrieved July 28, 2018 .
  7. Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com): Japan angered by China's claim to all of Okinawa | DW | 05/10/2013. Retrieved July 28, 2018 .
  8. ^ Martin Fackler: In Okinawa, Talk of Break From Japan Turns Serious . ( nytimes.com [accessed July 28, 2018]).
  9. Japan See's Chinese Groups Backing Okinawa Independence Activists . In: Bloomberg.com . ( bloomberg.com [accessed July 28, 2018]).
  10. Public Security Intelligence Agency's report claims Ryukyu-China programs aim to divide country . In: Ryukyu Shimpo - Okinawa, Japanese newspaper, local news . ( ryukyushimpo.jp [accessed July 28, 2018]).
  11. ^ Sputnik: Okinawan Separatists Might Get 'Chinese Protectorate' Instead of Independence. Retrieved July 28, 2018 .

Coordinates: 26 °  N , 128 °  E