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Okinawa: The History of an Island People [Paperback]

George H. Kerr
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 18.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; New edition edition (18 Oct 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804820872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804820875
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 320,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

Revised and updated - The most fascinating history resource on Okinawa - now available in English - Written by noted Eastern affairs specialist George Kerr - Contains dozens of fabulous drawings, photographs and maps - Features a new introduction and appendix by Okinawa historian and authority Mitsugu Sakihara - Celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the Okinawan immigration to Hawaii and the continental U.S.A

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
At some remote time in the past, primitive men and women transported children, meager household gear, and simple weapons from continental Asia to the offshore islands lying on the edge of the great sea. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Okinawa: The History of an Island People. 12 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback
George H Kerr (1911-1992), started work on a history of Okinawa in 1953, at the request of the United States military occupying authorities, of post World War Two. That initial paper entitled 'Ryukyu: Kingdom and Province Before 1945'. eventually evolved into 'Okinawa: The History of an Island People' (published in 1958). The original intention of this compilation of historical documents and interpretation was to provide the Okinawan people themselves with clear history of their own island nation, distinct from Japanese domination, and was translated into Japanese for distribution amongst the Okinawan population. The 2000 Tuttle (paperback) edition numbers some 573 pages and is separated into four parts:

Part One. Chuzan: Independent Kingdom in the Eastern Seas.
Part Two. Isolation: "Lonely Islands in a Distant Sea".
Part Three. Between Two Worlds.
Part Four. Okinawa-Ken: Frontier Province.

Kerr's historical narrative covers the time period from around the 2nd century BC to 1945. Okinawa, as part of a number of small islands (collectively known as Liuchiu in Chinese, Ryukyu in Japanese), is portrayed as an independent kingdom caught between two competing powrers, namely China and Japan. As a political culture, the Okinawan ruling house chose to perpetuate a Confucian governmental system, very close to, if not identical to the imperial Chinese model. As a consequence, the Okinawans routinely sent tribute to the Chinese court in Beijing, and was officially recognised as a tributory state by the Chinese emporer. In effect, this meant that Okinawas could use the numerous tributary expeditions to China as de facto trade delegations at a time when China strictly controlled trade with the outside world.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
My goodness! When this tome of a book crashed on to my doormat, my immediate thoughts were, 'Oh no! Text book; too demanding, too wordy, too much to bother with today and put it on the coffee table because if nothing else it actually looks pretty impressive. Not that I'm desperate to impress. HONESLTLY!

I've been researching Okinawa and in particular the 1609 Satsuma invasion and had already read the excellent "The Samurai Capture A King" which at times became quite a chore to study with the huge amount of dates, names etc etc etc.

When I finally picked up this book I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that it was written in an extremely simple and understandable way and not at all in the high faluting fashion I had been expecting. I've only read-up what I've needed so far and have discovered some wonderful facts about the Ryukus, their people and in particular their mythical beliefs and deities; The Dragon Castle, The Sun Goddess to name but two, which I found fascinating.

I'm greatly looking to working further into the book to read about another historical event that has always fascinated me: The Battle for Okinawa in 1945. WhenI get to it I'll tell you all about it but it could take a long and very interesting while

If you, like me are a Karateka interested in discovering more about the place of your arts origin; or if you just have an interest in the amazing history between, Okinawa and it's great influences, China and Japan, this book is simply a MUST HAVE.

EXCELLENT!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Okinawa 4 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent complete explanation of Okinawa. Nothing else like it. I never realised it had such a rich history. The ancient history is particularly noteworthy.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good niche book 1 Oct 2005
By Declan Hayes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Just as Gibbon's classic history of the Roman Empire tells us that Armenia has been a center of conflict since time immemorial, so also does Kerr's classic work remind us of the centuries of conflict Okinawa has witnessed. Just like Armenia, so also does Okinawa deserves something better.

Okinawa's early history was pockmarked by a series of kings struggling to maintain control over fighting warlords. Although Shunten established his kingdom in the 13th Century by defeating his rivals, the entire island was not totally unified until a century later when Sho Hashi conquered the three kingdoms, which made up the island. Peace, of a sort, reigned until 1609, when the Shimazu clan from Satsuma, in southern Japan, invaded Okinawa.

For the next 270 years, Okinawa was, in effect, a Satsuma colony. Satsuma demanded taxes from the Okinawans and controlled trade in exchange for island protection. Commodore Perry's black ships, as chapter seven explains, also paid an unwelcome visit during 1853 and 1854. Perry, who established a small military base there, clearly had plans to bring the entire Ryukuyu Islands into the American ambit.

Napoleon Bonaparte had similar plans. He regarded Okinawa as being central to France's vital interests. Anglo-Chinese tensions brought Okinawa further unwanted attention from both Britain and China. Because Britain, France and the United States were all making efforts to colonize the island chain, an increasingly apprehensive Japan tightened its grip on the island by sending a military detachment there in 1868. Later in 1879, Japan abolished the royal government and annexed Okinawa as a prefecture.

Okinawa was then left in relative peace until 1944, when the Japanese Army arrived in force to counter the impending American attack. The Battle of Okinawa was one of World War II's longest, bloodiest and hardest fought campaigns. Total American casualties were 49,151, including 12,500 killed or missing in action. Japanese Imperial Army losses totaled over 75,000. Nearly one-third of Okinawa's civilian population-100,000 people-also perished during those nightmare months. The battle ended on June 22, 1945, when Old Glory fluttered unchallenged from Okinawa's mountains and towns.

The Stars and Stripes have been flying there ever since. The area stayed under American military control until May 15, 1972, when Richard Nixon transferred administrative authority of the Ryukyu Islands back to Japan. The islands resumed the status they held prior to 1945 - the 47th prefecture of Japan.

Ryukyu means Beautiful Country of the Southern Ocean. Like Armenia, it is indeed a beautiful and haunted land. However, just like Armenia, it is in an unfortunate position. Because it straddles the seaways between China and Japan and because it is near to Korea, the Spratly Islands and a host of other strategically important sites, it remains one of the most militarized places on earth. As the author makes plain, China and the Philippines periodically claim the island chain as their own. When we read the book, we see how truly unfortunate this is.

Kerr paints the golden days of Okinawa before these outside pressures came to dominate the island. He describes how an impoverished people living on barren islands with no metals and little forest wealth were able to construct and preserve for many centuries a complex, progressive and stable government and society. Unlike some of the world's more endowed areas, the Okinawans, like the Armenians, had a toy state, with dignified kings, sententious and learned prime ministers, as well as an abundance of temples and shrines. Okinawa's whole fragile, minuscule structure was developed in a faithful effort to emulate great China, Asia's fabled Middle Kingdom.

Although Kerr paints this beautiful experiment with enchantingly melancholic hues, he makes it plain that there can be no return to those golden days. Maybe with peace pending on the Korean peninsula, a new and equally beautiful experiment in social engineering can begin. The people of Okinawa richly deserve it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the heart of Okinawan culture 7 Jun 2007
By Stephen Mcclary - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Researched and written by George H. Kerr, I believe that this book is accepted as the premiere text of authority with regard to the history of pre-war Okinawa.

I've read and re-read this book and have a much greater understanding of the people of the Ryukyu Islands - and I also have a much deeper regret for having not known this history while living among the Okinawans.

"...this is the history of a little-known people whom events have made it necessary to know well. It is also one of those all-too-rare books that happily combine solid scholarship and detailed accuracy with a forthright, enjoyable literary style that does justice to the storybook quality of many of the episodes. It will long remain the standard history of Okinawa and the Ryukyus."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looks Like A Text Book - Reads Like A Novel - Sort of! 20 July 2010
By Andrew O. Brien - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My goodness! When this tome of a book crashed on to my doormat, my immediate thoughts were, 'Oh no! Text book; too demanding, too wordy, too much to bother with today and put it on the coffee table because if nothing else it actually looks pretty impressive. Not that I'm desperate to impress. HONESLTLY!

I've been researching Okinawa and in particular the 1609 Satsuma invasion and had already read the excellent "The Samurai Capture A King" which at times became quite a chore to study with the huge amount of dates, names etc etc etc.

When I finally picked up this book I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that it was written in an extremely simple and understandable way and not at all in the high faluting fashion I had been expecting. I've only read-up what I've needed so far and have discovered some wonderful facts about the Ryukus, their people and in particular their mythical beliefs and deities; The Dragon Castle, The Sun Goddess to name but two, which I found fascinating.

I'm greatly looking to working further into the book to read about another historical event that has always fascinated me: The Battle for Okinawa in 1945. WhenI get to it I'll tell you all about it but it could take a long and very interesting while

If you, like me are a Karateka interested in discovering more about the place of your arts origin; or if you just have an interest in the amazing history between, Okinawa and it's great influences, China and Japan, this book is simply a MUST HAVE.

EXCELLENT!!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Resource for Starters 22 July 2013
By michael lynch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Touted as the most comprehensive English language history of the Ryukyu Islands and, used as a resource by many universities, I wish this book contained more information. While I agree, it does help one understand some of the sacrifices made by Okinawans under military regimes of both the USA and Imperial Japan, it barely scratches the surface for someone trying to understand traditional Ryukyu culture. More than likely, heavily edited during the US administration of the Ryukyu Islands, some details may have been omitted. I use the book for reference and it is a good start-off-point for some details. The author, did a fine job, teaching me what a pompous character Commodore Perry must have been. And, I think the book should be read by every military member before sending them to serve on the Ryukyu Islands. More on the cultural aspects of Okinawa history would go a long way in helping a reader understand the sensitivities between local citizens and the rest of Japan.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting 16 Jan 2013
By Teresa H. Garcia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am very pleased to see a whole, very thick, book dedicated to Okinawa's fascinating history. This would be another one that I would say is a requirement for someone interested in Japan, as the former Ryukyu nation's history ties in so tightly with their Japanese conqueror's.
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