As we come to the end of 2008 and look forward to a better year in 2009, we will be also marking the 400th anniversary of the overthrow of the LooChoo Kingdom in 1609, by the military forces of the Satsuma clan. This was a very significant turning point after LooChoo had enjoyed over 300 years of peace and independence. During the peaceful years, LooChoo enjoyed unlimited trade in the Southeast Asian countries, as well as refining and creating art and entertainment which took on unique LooChoo features.
The Satsuma had tried to take on LooChoo before, but were unsuccessful due to the martial art of “ti” in which the people of LooChoo devised weapons made from simple farm tools, along with the ancient forms of kung fu. To be able to take on the “barbarian” people of LooChoo, the Satsuma came in with guns and canons. (Sounds all to familiar to those of you knowledgeable in Hawaiian history.) They first violently took over the northern islands of Amami, then approached through the main island’s area of Nakijin, and finally entering Naha. King Sho Nei witnessed towns being torched and heard the sounds of rifles as he read the message of Satsuma demanding surrender, or risk sacrificing more lives and razing the castle to the ground. The king could not imagine risking more lives and property of his people, and immediately surrendered, only to be taken as an involuntary “guest” to the Satsuma headquarters in Kagoshima. At that time, threats of making the LooChoo people slaves, were made to the king, if he did not give control of trade to them. After conceding, the king was returned to the thrown, under Satuma control, in 1701. (*The Journal Of Asian Studies, Robert K. Sakai, The Great LooChoo, Commodore Perry, Chuzan Journals, Sho Family Texts.)
As we have stated before, these events in history helped to strengthen the Okinawan people in their culture and in some ways, helped to attain higher levels of the arts, due to the heavy demands of Satsuma. The people suffered greatly, but still held fast to their arts and culture. This is one big reason why we should feel a greater obligation to preserve and pass on our arts in the closest traditional forms possible. The overthrow also was a beginning to the slow dilution of identity, and eventually forced regulation of language, music, and history. It seems like the times of suffering for Okinawa is passed, especially with the surge of interest in things Okinawan by the Japanese. However, like the popularity of things Hawaiian after the cruise ships made Hawaii a popular tourist spot, and cellophane skirts and coconut bras appeared, Okinawa is enjoying its commercialized culture, and quickly forgetting its traditions, protocols, and culture. We should take this time to reflect and go out and research our traditions which are our identity that runs through our veins. It is the identity that our ancestors have died for during the overthrow, and have suffered through even to this day, to preserve and pass on. This is not politics, but our history which gives us a greater understanding of who we are, and which help us to understand and appreciate other cultures and histories. Even if there is less than 1/16th of that LooChoo blood in us, We Are LooChoo nu Kwa. Wouldn’t it be great to have an event at the Shuri Castle, like the one held here at Iolani Palace which marked the 100th anniversary of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s overthrow? Speeches, chants, dances, and a re-enactment of the surrender of the throne and castle would be very educational, and an emotional burst to cultural pride and identity. Or would the Japanese government suppress this kind of event due to the fact that the current castle and surrounding property belongs to the Japanese government and not the Okinawan government or people? Hmm..Something to think about.