Yesterday, we traveled to the Okinawa Prefectural Archives and had a meeting with an archivist named Kaz Nakamoto. During this meeting, he told us a brief history of Okinawa, more specifically, the Battle of Okinawa, and spoke about the views of American military bases on Okinawa and what the Okinawa Prefectural Archives does. Then, we had a lecture with Dr. Jenkins at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts, who spoke about the transcribing and editing historical records such as those written by Bernard Bettelheim.
In the meeting with Nakamoto, we learned that two of the huge, everlasting consequences that came about due to the battle were death of soldiers and civilians and the destruction of historical papers and records. The number of casualties in the Battle of Okinawa is, for lack of a better word, crazy. As previously stated in previous blogs, the Battle of Okinawa was and is known for the huge number of civilian casualties. Well over 705,000 people died, with 100,000 or so being local civilians.
Now as for the destruction of historical records, since many were lost during the battle, photos are considered to be precious historical articles to the Okinawa Prefectural Archives. There is an book shelf lined in the center of a room that was filled to capacity with neatly organized binders that held pictures in them dating as early as the 1950s (and I’m saying this number because I did see 1950’s binder there, but I don’t remember seeing any other dating before that time.) But something that was amazing and sad to here from Nakamoto was that no one can understand post war history unless they view the full history of Okinawa, and that history is practically gone forever.
Something that was interesting was what Dr. Jenkins said regarding about the identity of Okinawa. Since Okinawa’s records were destroyed, they don’t have their historical records. However, since Okinawa was a tribute state to China, China was able to record their interactions with Okinawa, and the same goes to Japan (Okinawa was not a tribute state to Japan, but mainly had relations with trading before it was brought under Japans control in 1609). But Dr. Jenkins mentioned to us that there is a sort of ambivalent attitude towards mainland Japan. Such as if an Okinawan was in America, and you ask for their nationality or ethnicity, they will most likely say Japanese, but if they are in mainland Japan, then they would say Okinawan instead of Japanese. There are also times were Okinawans give Japan natives cold shoulders.
However, Dr. Jenkins comment about the identity of Okinawa kind of relates to another reading we had on heritage tourism in Okinawa. Okinawans wants to preserve the historical landmarks and the memory of the past since it has moral, emotional, and cultural value, but Gerald Figal, writer of Heritage Tourism in Postwar Okinawa, makes the argument that the Okinawans, who live in “Japan’s poorest prefecture also have to eat.”
To just give a little information about Okinawa as a tourist spot, today we spoke to some representatives from the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau about Okinawa as a tourist spot and how they promote tourism and their achievements in tourism. From them, we learned that Okinawa is a popular area for tourism with its “splendid beaches…World Heritage sites…and deep forest and eco-tours,” and it is their goal (as stated above) is to promote Okinawa’s tourism and improve Okinawa’s economy. They have been able to obtain air routes from 22 domestic areas and 6 international areas such as Hong Kong, Beijing and Guam. They have achieved up to 5.52 million visitors from 201, with 79.4% of those being repeat tourists. They have four major markets with Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and U.S./Europe. As of now, they consider their obstacles to be public transportation and the “night-life” since they need to attract more young adult tourists.
However, since there is the need to improve tourism and to improve the economy in Okinawa, it seems that the historical aspect of Okinawa, although important, will not remain as a top priority for Okinawa to preserve. Already it seems that Okinawa’s identity is manifesting into what Figal calls “Tourist Okinawa”. It’s kind of sad to see that Okinawa lost most of its history, and now it is sort of being forced to embrace a new identity than to embrace their past. I mean, even heading to the aquarium after kayaking in a hidden lake in the mountains, one of our professors stated that the development of the coast is considered to be much more beautiful than the natural, breath-taking, non-man made areas of the mountains. I shall end my blog here, but here is a url link to a video that we saw in our meeting with OCVB.