Sunday, January 25, 2009

An Old Buddhist Proverb

An old Buddhist proverb goes "The nail that sticks up will be hammered down." Japan is a nation of conformists. The average Japanese person doesn't aspire to greatness but rather to just fit in and be one of the number. They tend to be on the shy side and because of national honor, do their best in everything.

Okinawa is now one of Japan's 47 prefectures. Once upon a time, it was once its own independent kingdom and was known as Ryukyu. Commodore Perry once visited and toasted the king of Lew-Chew. They are proud of the fact that they were once great sailors and traders who embarked on successful commerce throughout Far East Asia.

They mastered the Kuroshio (black current) similar to America's Gulf Stream and traded with present day Malaysia, Indonesia Vietnam, Thailand, China, Korea and Japan. When Japan was closed off to the rest of the world, tiny Ryukyu was prospering economically. This prosperity didn't go unnoticed.

The Daimyo of Satsuma, present day Kagoshima Prefecture, without the consent of the Shogun, invaded and subjected Ryukyu and made it a puppet state. The King was for a brief time deposed and onerous taxes imposed on the general population. Ryukyu as an independent kingdom existed in name only.

Ryukyu was formally annexed to Japan shortly after the Meiji Restoration when the Shogun abdicated and the Emperor assumed supreme power. The name changed to Okinawa which in Japanese translates into "middle of the ocean rope." A look at a map of the region and you can see why.

A plan was put into place to Japanize the people of Ryukyu. Japanese became the official language and people were publicly ridiculed for speaking the Ryukyu Hogen language. When WWII visited their island in the spring and summer of 1945, the tiny island was sacrificed to save the mainland. For years the island fell under American control and only reverted back to Japanese control in 1972.

So you can say that Okinawa is Japan but the people of Okinawa remember their glory days. They love freedom and to have a good time. Throughout the year they hold many festivals and each one of them is a celebration of life. So even though they are legally Japanese, unlike many of their mainland Japanese brethren, Okinawan's tend to be a bit more independent. They have a tendency to stick out in a crowd

Every year in Late October and early November, the people of Okinawa celebrate their heritage. They call it the Ryukyu Kingdom Festival and it is a extravaganza of pomp and circumstance. During the ten day festival, three main events take place. They are the royal procession and coronation ceremony at the old castle and the grand royal procession down the main street of Okinawa's capitol city.

This year my friend Mike and I ventured downtown to get a few photos of the hoopla. A couple hours and 800 photos later we came home and downloaded on our computers. What you'll see here is from the grand royal procession which was held on Sunday October 26th. Please click on the individual photos for detailed descriptions of the action.

This is from a photo essay originally posted 28 October, 2008 on the JPG Magazine website which is linked (Here) and may be viewed for as long as the JPG site remains up and running.

The pictures from top to bottom are: 1) a member of the court poses with a tourist. 2) the Queen, isn't she lovely. 3) the King, both the king and queen were selected from local college students and made repeat performances at several celebrations throughout the year. 4) Traditional Ryukyu dancers in their Ryukyu style kimonos.

If you like you can order these post cards that feature the famous Shuri Jo Mon Gate. It was through this gate that American Commodore Perry entered the castle during his historic visit with the black ships fleet.

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