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Ryukyu name stirs international interest

Date Posted: 2006-07-22

Until World War II, Okinawa was simply The Ryukyus.

Okinawa, tracing back to the 1400’s, was The Ryukyu Kingdom, an independent country not a part of Japan. Although Ryukyu is not a part of the official Okinawa name, it remains as Bank of Ryukyu, Ryukyu Broadcasting, Ryukyu Islands, etc.

And across the waters to nearby Taiwan, the name Ryukyu is still being embraced by the Taiwanese.

Taiwan has five official offices and agencies in Japan, each bearing the name Ryukyuan Cultural Economic Association Ryukyu Office.

Taiwan wants to change that now, switching to Ryukyu Cultural Economic Association Ryukyu Office in Japan. Taiwanese officials insist they’re not questioning Okinawa’s role as a Japanese prefecture, noting “now the important turning point has come up for the matter of Okinawa’s belonging to Japan.” A major Taiwan newspaper is suing the government over the name change, charging that the independent Chinese island state should remember “it is nothing good to bring up the historical past. We have to both think about good relationships and develop together.”

The concern stems to the end of World War II, when the U.S. unilaterally decided to turn Okinawa back to Japan. The Americans had Japan take over the Okinawa infrastructure and civil service. Taiwanese were angry it was done without their being consulted.

Taiwan’s belief was that its role as a key trading partner with Ryukyu put it in the position of being asked about what to do with Okinawa’s future.

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