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"I Must Pass the Stories of Okinawan Immigrants in Micronesia to the Next Generation"

Read the interview in Japanese.

Portrait of Akiko Mori

As a research fellow at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Professor Mori is affiliated with the Amami-Okinawa-Ryukyu Research Center at the Doshisha Graduate School of Global Studies in Kyoto, Japan.  She is also an active member of the Okinawa Oral History Research Society, and at the Kansai University Faculty of Letters, she administers a course called, “Okinawa and Ryukyu Cultural Theory.”  Last year, she donated two of her published books to the Okinawa Collection, which included Hearing the Voices in Polyphony: The lives of Okinawans who lived in South Sea Mandates from the 1920s to 1945 (2016) and Begnnings: The traces of Okinawans who migrated to South Sea Mandates in the 1930s (2017), summarizing the war and repatriation experiences of 100 Okinawans who lived in the former South Sea Islands.   Her other published papers include “Listen to the Polyphony:  The Existence of Others Reflected in the Narratives of Okinawans Living on Saipan” (2020) and “A History of the Excluded:  Rethinking the Sugar Industry in the Northern Mariana Islands under Japanese Rule” (2019).   Also, in Sixty Chapters to Know the History of the Pacific Islands, she was in charge of a column about Okinawan-South Sea immigrant war and immigration experiences,  and in the same book, contributed a review of popular comic Perilyu-Gernika of Paradise. She is currently writing her doctoral dissertation at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Comparative Agriculture.

Interview Date: September 26, 2020
Recording Venue: via Zoom
Original Language: Japanese
Interviewer & Transcript: Mitsuyo Sato [MS]
English Translation: Kristen Luck

Immigrants from Okinawa to Micronesia are talked about less than those who went to Hawaii or Brazil

[MS]     Is anyone else publishing oral histories about Okinawan people who immigrated to Micronesia?  

[Mori]     No, there are no individuals. However, there are a number of volumes on immigration or war experiences published by the Okinawan municipalities include testimonies of those repatriated from not only Micronesia, but also the second and third generations of immigrants from Okinawa to Hawaii, Brazil, and Philippines.  As far as I’ve investigated, there are around 1000 stories about repatriated people from Micronesia in those volumes. Especially the former Gushikawa City, which is now Uruma City, published the most testimonies of those repatriated from Micronesia. Other than collected testimonies by Okinawan municipalities, it is rare for an individual to publish a collection of oral history like I do.

[MS]     When I hear about Okinawan immigrants, I think of Hawaii or Brazil, but when I see immigration numbers from the 1940s, those who immigrated to Brazil were less than 20,000, but those to Hawaii and Micronesia were more than 50,000 people.  A large number of Okinawans immigrated. I was surprised with the number. 

[Mori]     Right. There are many and the offspring also remain in those places.  I think they are third- or fourth-generation, but they have a considerable impact when coming to the World Uchinanchu Festival of Okinawa.  However, those who went to the Japanese colonies of Micronesia, the Philippines, Manchuria, and Taiwan, they immigrated to places that were under the control of the Empire of Japan. Therefore, they were forcibly withdrawn to Okinawa at the same time as Japan’s defeat.  So, there were none left except children who were born between local women and Okinawan men. Immigration to Japan’s former overseas territories, such as to Micronesia, is only the experience of a particular generation. I think it’s a big difference between them and those who immigrated to foreign lands.

[MS]     Is this why it is not receiving much attention? 

[Mori]     

Statue surrounded by palm trees

Okinawans who immigrated to Micronesia haven’t received as much attention as immigrants to other foreign countries. I think the colony problem is difficult to talk about. Basically, this is because Japanese society has been oblivious of the colonies. For example, there are many people who went to Manchuria as pioneers in Japan. Recently, you hear that those people were treated coldly when they came back to Japan, as if they went to Manchuria like a tool of the colony. After the war, those people’s experiences were separated from the history of Japan, altogether with the existence of the repatriates. Those facts have not been revealed as an inconvenient history. In the case of the history of Okinawa, it’s considered as a history of victimization. That makes it awkward to talk about the experience of Okinawans who were in the position of dominating local people in Micronesia. The mass media in the Okinawa prefecture often mentions the experience of war in Micronesia, including group suicide in Saipan and Tinian. On the other hand, however, what has not been properly discussed and revealed is what kind of life Okinawans lived in Micronesia before the war, and what kind of relationships the Okinawan had with immigrants from other prefectures, Koreans and the locals.

Chatting With the Elderly Women I Met At Henoko

[MS]     What inspired you to enter this field forgotten by history?

[Mori]     My master’s thesis.  I never knew that there were a lot of Okinawans in Micronesia, what Micronesia was like, and that Japan dominated these places, but when I had to write my master’s thesis, I went on a trip to Okinawa without any specific goals.  Previously, I went to Okinawa on a high school trip, and other times, for scuba diving.  

[MS]     So for leisure, not research?

[Mori]     For leisure. With my university’s social club. There was a scuba diving club at my university in Kyoto. We went to places like Kume Island and Zamami Island.  But when I went to Okinawa on the high school trip, I heard stories about the Battle of Okinawa in a cave. To understand the U.S.military base issues, we visited Kadena Air Base. I started to feel something wrong with my way of getting involved in Okinawa, just having fun in scuba diving and without doing anything else. So I started to visit more meaningful things, like visiting the battle ruins in the southern part of Okinawa Island on my own when I was an undergraduate student.  

After that, when I went to Okinawa during my master’s degree, I wondered what on earth I was going to do.  I did something completely different for my undergraduate thesis and went to Toyama Prefecture, but I thought I wanted to do something about Okinawa for my master’s degree.  But what should the theme be?  It had been a few years since the Henoko sit-in started. My friend told me that Okinawa had this and that sort of problems, and old men and women were doing the sit-in, so if I’m interested, I should visit Okinawa.  Then, Henoko was not often mentioned in the newspapers, and not much about the Henoko issue was known.  I went to Henoko with no specific goal. There were a lot of people like me (laughs).  I was young, felt like backpacking and thought Henoko that has some issues. Then I saw other people who come from all over to sit-in. Those who are cooperating welcome young people like me!  So I ended up to staying in Henoko for about a month.

[MS]     That’s quite long!

[Mori]     It is long!  Now, a U.S.military base has been constructed to be partially on land, but at that time, the plan was to build it on the sea. When I visited there, the base was planned to be completely built on the sea. So the anti-base protesters set up a scaffold and I rode a canoe or a boat every morning to get to the scaffold. Then, there were no heavy protesting activities like nowadays.  Anyway, the important thing that we needed to do was to protect the scaffold. I went to sit-in and at noon, lunch was delivered. I ate it and went snorkeling there.

[MS]     Did you meet anyone returning from Micronesia when you were staying in Henoko?

[Mori]     Yes.  So when there was no sit-in on the sea and we sat down on land--that was a time when the scaffold disappeared due to a typhoon or something--a group of older women who came from the central part of the Okinawa Island to Henoko were chatting.  

I told them I was interested in the Battle of Okinawa and the old days in Okinawa, that this was something I wanted to study further for my master’s thesis. Eight out of those ten elderly women there were repatriated from Micronesia. They all were visiting Henoko from Ishikawa, a place in Uruma City that is located in the middle of Okinawa Island. 

Ishikawa is said to be the place where the largest civilian camp was placed after the war, and the group of the representatives of the residents formed the Okinawa Advisory Council there. It’s also said to be the place where politics was first established after the war and where the postwar history of Okinawa began. Many people immigrated from this city to Micronesia before the war. Thus, there were many people who were repatriated from there.

Those women spoke with emotion about their hard time during the Battle of Okinawa, and had similarly tough times in Saipan and Tinian. People who experienced the Battle of Okinawa talked a lot about their experiences.  I feel like the older women did most of the talking, not me.  For the first time, I realized that those terrible things happened to them. I only had it in my mind that they were against the construction of a new base just because they experienced the Battle of Okinawa, so when I heard their stories in Micronesia, I felt like a new map had spread to my head. 

I wondered why their experiences had not been included in this history, even though so many people experienced it.  That made me want to pursue the topic.  I was thinking I would write my master’s thesis about Henoko, but it’s still an ongoing problem, and I am from the “mainland” with no previous networking in the area. That made it difficult to get people to talk to me. So I felt like I might be able to understand more Henoko issues through speaking to people who came back from Micronesia, which is a slightly different angle/perspective.

Moving to Okinawa to collect oral histories in earnest

Blurry photo of people looking at something

[MS]     You aren’t from Okinawa, are you?

[Mori]     I’m from Hiroshima.

[MS]     Do you mean that it was difficult for people from so-called “mainland” to hear stories about Micronesia?

[Mori]     Actually, no. I meant it was difficult to ask for their opinions about Henoko.  Henoko is a contemporary problem and most of all, it’s an issue on the ‘mainland.’ That’s why I felt it difficult to ask about their experiences regarding Henoko. So I decided to interview people who were living in Micronesia. They talked about their past, about the war, and about their lives in Micronesia. I moved my territory from Henoko to the central part of Okinawa Island, and I started interviewing people who used to live in Micronesia.

[MS]     You mentioned that you stayed in Okinawa for about a month while traveling around the Southern part of Okinawa Island.  Your two published books contain 150 to 200 interviews, correct?  Did you travel to Okinawa repeatedly to do those interviews?

[Mori]     Well, the encounters at Henoko occurred during the summer of 2006. Most of the repatriated individuals from Micronesia I was going to interview were already elderly. So I stayed in Okinawa every year for about a month twice a year and visited everywhere including Motobu Town and Miyako Island. The reason why many Okinawans immigrated from Motobu Town andMiyako Island among others to Micronesia was because they went to Palau as fishermen. While I was based in the central part of Okinawa Island, I went around by motorcycle to interview people. Up until 2009, I stayed in Okinawa for about two months a year during summer and spring. But I realized that I wouldn’t make the paper deadline, so I stayed for the whole year in 2010.

[MS]     Where in Okinawa?

[Mori]     In Ishikawa.  My main task was to confirm the interview content and to get permission to publish them in my book.

[MS]     The book was completed after a lot of work.  Different from the Battle of Okinawa testimonials, the oral histories of those returning from Micronesia paints a picture of normal lives with things like salaries and educational backgrounds.  I am able to understand the family structures well.  There were stories that made me sad and stories that ended up making me laugh.  How many oral histories did the book contain?  

[Mori]     There are 50 people in the first book and 50 people in the second book, so there are 100 people total. I interviewed a little over 150 people.

[MS]     There isn’t a place to include them all and some people may not want their stories to be included in the book.

[Mori]     Well, most of them were okay to include and I was rarely refused.  I really wanted to interview the generation that went over there as babies, but that was challenging. Initially, they told me, “You can come. I’ll talk.”  When they started talking, however, there were quite a few times that they were just crying during the interview.  The reason was that they have experienced only the war. They don’t remember what they did and where.  In most cases, their parents have died, so they didn’t learn anything from the parents about the experience in Micronesia. They have experiences, but they don’t know what the experiences mean to them: why they were there, how they escaped, and how they are here now.  Even if I ask, they can’t answer, so many of them were unwilling to talk.

[MS]     Probably the connections of each experience are already broken in their memories.

[Mori]     I agree.  They cannot place their memories in the whole. This would not happen to the survivors of the Battle of Okinawa.  Many people experienced the Battle of Okinawa as babies, but in front of them, there are sites where their families fled physically.  They can visit the places, people and listen to stories from other people. Many books about the Battle of Okinawa have been published, so they can read and understand what it was like. But in the case of Micronesia, this isn’t the case.  Even if they join the memorial service gathering in Micronesia and visit the places where they run about trying to escape in Saipan or Tinian among other islands, they don’t know exactly where to go because their memories are ambiguous. There are few books on the history of Micronesia, so they don’t have anything to check against their own experiences.

We often talked about the war in Micronesia. Babies are the weakest in a family and tended to get killed because they encumbered the rest of the family while escaping to Japan. So because of that terrible situation, some family relationships may have been broken. Instead of killing a baby brother or a baby sister, parents might have killed those who are my interviewees.  There are actually cases that other younger brothers were killed or only my interviewees were spared under those circumstances. Even if they pulled through after the war, some families totally became dysfunctional. Later, I started figuring out that there were probably so many cases like this. Their only experiences were in the war, so flashbacks occur. The flashbacks related to the problem of the current U.S. military base, and my interviews were interrupted quite a few times in the central part of Okinawa Island because of the noise caused by U.S.military aircrafts. While I visited them to ask for the interview and when the military planes turned around and around in the sky, the loud noises pulled the interviewees back in time.  One person refused my interview in front of the house because all of his experiences in Micronesia were of the terrible war.  I insisted that I want to hear his experience, even such fragments of memories, but this man strongly refused.

[MS]     When I read your books, I encounter the descriptions of children being killed. That was breathtaking.  Professor Mori, when you interviewed people, you often used Shimakutuba. What was 'prisoners of war camp' in Shimakutuba?

[Mori]     Ah, Innumiyâdui?

[MS]     One interviewees asked “Who taught you these words?” Other interviewees asked “Are you an Okinawan? Did you come to Okinawa after you married an Okinawan?”

[Mori]     Yes, yes, yes, at the beginning of each meeting, I did my self-introduction but as we went on, they ended up forgetting where I’m from, so there were times I reminded them of it and they realized that I wasn’t from Okinawan.

Mr. Kimeichi who could not wash his face in a washbasin

[MS]     They were in their late 80s or 90s, but when they started talking, I was drawn into their talking.  Was there anyone who left a strong impression on you? [Mori]     Honestly, there were many people who left a strong impression. For repatriates from Micronesia, there is no list of them. So I relied on various people in the area to find interviewees.

[MS]     There is no list?

[Mori]     There isn’t.  If they are overseas immigrants, they have a passport, so you can tell who went.

[MS]     No list even at the Okinawan municipalities?

[Mori]     There are municipalities that disclose the repatriates’ names and others that do not.  In Gushikawa City, as I mentioned earlier, repatriates in the city were able to receive government benefits, and based on those records, the city has disclosed a list of who returned from which overseas territories.

[MS]     That means you cannot find those lists of repatriated Okinawan in other municipalities.

[Mori]     I don’t know how to find other repatriated Okinawans in other municipalities. I had to completely rely on my networking.  So I went to the community  centers, listened to people at the guest house, and went to the museum, et cetera. Usually there were older men who are very knowledgeable about their areas, so I would get along with them and they would take me to their homes.  The whole process of interviewing is like a series of encounters. It’s hard to pick people who left a strong impression on me, but if I have to pick, there are two people.

The first one is an individual introduced to me at the guest house in Ishikawa.  They said, “In that house, there is an elderly man, Kameichi, who returned from a place called Truk Atoll in Micronesia.  I haven’t heard any details myself, so why don’t you go there?”  So I went to his house. He told me “Yeah, I returned from Micronesia” and pulled out what I thought was a passcase, like a driver’s license holder, and showed me a picture of two babies.  He told me it was a 100-day picture which is the one taken on the 100th days after birth.

People looking at the ocean

Kameichi continued with saying that the babies in the photo were on a ship evacuated from Truk Atoll, but the ship was sunk by the U.S. military.  The ones who got killed were not only the two babies, but his wife and one more kid. He remained in Truck Atoll, and later came back alone with only the photos of the two babies.

He lived close to the guest house, so every time I passed him, I greeted him and asked if it was okay to interview him. We met when he was about 90 years old. It must have been a sad experience to the degree he was not able to forget. But his story itself was very interesting.  

I moved into Okinawa because more and more elderly people who can tell their experiences died. Kameichi passed away right before I moved in. I was so sad. After he was repatriated, he adopted his son, and his son was taking care of Kameichi-san. His son told me that his father couldn’t wash his face in the washbasin for a while.  When he saw pooled water, it reminded him of his wife and kids who drowned right before his eyes. He felt guilty that they could have come back home together if he had not put them on that boat.  

He never talked to me about that, but I assume that his family heard his various stories.  He just showed me the photo of his babies, and didn’t express his sadness so much. He usually talked about things like his salary and way of living, but now I understood what he was thinking.  After he died, I heard these stories from his family for the first time. He left a strong impression on me. 

If you don’t interview them now their existence will be forgotten

[Mori]     Another person was the one who had a really tough experience in the middle of the battles in Saipan. She lost her mother during the bombardment by the U.S. ships. She also was forced to leave her older sister behind who couldn't walk anymore during the escape, and lost other older sister due to a group suicide. This sister worked hard to lead all the siblings. Her two young sisters were pulled into the group suicide, but were saved miraculously, and she herself left the place where the group suicide occurred because she didn’t want to die.  After that, she took his siblings with her to a camp in Saipan and then repatriated to Okinawa.  She really wanted to talk and was very supportive to my interview. I was able to use only a fraction of his interview in my master thesis, so I summarized in a booklet and presented it to her later along with my thesis. She was pleased, but then she started to feel like writing her story by herself. She tried, but started to have a headache, and couldn’t complete writing her story after all.  

[MS]     Writing your own history must be very complicated.

[Mori]     That’s right.  They returned to Okinawa from difficult situations with no opportunity for education or writing, so there was a very high bar for her to write her own story. I thought I did a good job summarizing her story. But eventually, I reached a conclusion that her experience was something so intense that she couldn’t put to an end, no matter how much she told me. It’s been 15 years since I first met that person. I occasionally visit her to see how she is doing.  Her family told me that it may be useless for me to go see her because she can’t hear or talk any more due to dementia, but I went anyway.   When she saw me, I was told that I lost weight and she couldn’t tell who I was.  So I showed her my book and photo of us together, saying, “This is me, Mori. This is me! This is me!!”  Then she recognized me saying “Ah!.” She looked hard at me and told me it’s like a dream. 

[MS]     Did she mean that the fact you came back to see her again is like a dream?

[Mori]     Yes, the fact she was able to see me again.  About two more years passed and  I went to see her and her family. She immediately recognized me, although she couldn’t speak anymore. Two years ago when she told me it’s like a dream was the very last time when I was able to communicate with her. I feel it was a miracle that I got to know her who, with fierce determination of surviving, lived in Saipan and came back to Okinawa. Also, I realized again that it was irreplaceably valuable that I got to hear about her life in Saipan so intensely when I first met her. I felt that all kinds of feelings were summarized in her phrase “it’s like a dream.”

[MS]     You said in your books, "If we don't talk now, those people's existence will be forgotten." You also mentioned somewhere in the book that  you could have interviewed more people if you had started the project 10 years earlier. Were you eventually determined to carry this interview project through? 

[Mori]     Yes, that’s right.  

People in front of a japanese banner

[MS]     Are you the only one interviewing Okinawans who came back from Micronesia?

[Mori]     There are other researchers who collect oral histories, but I know only a few. I was working really hard trying to find people for interviews and to catch every single word from their stories.  Now I finally realize how important those experiences are. You said I’m determined to complete this project. Actually, the determination that I have to pass it onto the next generation has gradually come to me through a number of farewells to my interviewees.

[MS]     The interviewees were divided into generations. The oldest generation is the generation whose stories can no longer be heard.

[Mori]     Yes, that’s right.

[MS]     And when it comes to the younger cohort, as you said, they can’t remember.

[Mori]     Right.  Because they were babies.  

[MS]     That means you interviewed a very precious generation because you wouldn’t be able to ask them for their stories again.   

[Mori]     If I hadn’t had such encounters, I wouldn’t have been a researcher.

The significance of young people today studying the Ryukyus and Okinawa

[MS]     Now you teach at a university, so do you teach your students about Micronesia?

[Mori]     Yes, as part of the class. 

[MS]     What is the reaction from the students?

[Mori]     Many people don’t know about it at all.  They may know about Banzai Cliff, but most of them do not know about the lives of immigrants.  What was amazing is that there was a student whose grandfather was born in Saipan.  

[MS]     Wow, was the student from Okinawa?

[Mori]     He wasn’t from Okinawa. Immigrants who went to Micronesia came from all the prefectures in Japan other than Okinawa, although it is a small number--about 60 percent were from Okinawa, and 40 percent from other than Okinawa. In my class, I talk about different generations of people who went to Micronesia as well as the fact that the baby generation - it’s an invisible generation- is not regarded in the oral history accounts.  The grandfather of that student was from the baby generation. In his class report, he said that his grandfather seemed to gradually learn his past from his sister and people around him. The student was taking a seminar on history, and learned in the class that most of the students believe that oral history is based on memory, so it’s not reliable. After taking my class, however, he said he realized that it’s wrong to place oral history alongside historical materials and decide whether oral history is reliable or not. The real thrill of studying oral history is to learn what kinds of experience they have and how they feel directly from parties concerned. He wants to tell at his history seminar that that’s what we value for oral history.

When I hear such a reaction from my students, I feel like what I wanted them to know communicated itself to them. Usually, people who went to Micronesia from Okinawa might be considered unusual. I further divided those immigrants into generations, and discussed how their experiences were different from others, and how they were mentally wounded by the war. I know it’s a complicated topic.

[MS]     Your students are now among the generation of the immigrants' grandchildren and may have started to think about what kinds of stories they have heard from their grandfathers, and how they can contribute in this field. [Mori]     That makes me very happy.

[MS]     You showed me your syllabus, and it covers from Lewchew to all the way to the present. It must be challenging to cover everything.  

[Mori]     Very much so.

[MS]     Your students would write their papers on eras they are interested in. Can you think of any topics they chose that interested you?

[Mori]     The topic that my students reacted to the most was the very beginning of the course. The topic was about how the Ryukyu Islands were created, that is, since the time when the Chinese mainland and Asia were all connected, the earth’s crustal movement occurred, things that looked like the Ryukyu Islands were created, stuck together and separated, and deer and elephants moved in there, things like that. They say, "I never thought about that!" (laugh) They thought that the Okinawa Islands have been where they are now from the beginning, and never thought that there was a connection between living things and also between people. Once I started to talk about trade with China, they realized it’s funny to find out that Ryukyu Islands was connected to a big continent. Many of my students have learned about The Great Trading Era of Lewchew from research by Dr. Kurayoshi Takara. When you realize that the originally-connected continent separated and later reconnected through trading, you can position the world of Lewchew in reaction to the previous era and realize the dynamics of people’s movement.

The importance of seeing history from the perspective of the people of Okinawa

[Mori]     Additionally, the story of the awamori (an alcoholic beverage) was also popular. We looked at the history of the early modern Okinawa through

Professor Mori on Zoom

awamori. Until then, we talked about political aspects on how the Ryukyu Kingdom was formed, or trades in China and Southeast Asia. But during one specific class, we reviewed the history of politics and trades through awamori. For example, we talked that it’s still unknown whether awamori came from the south or the north through Thailand, how the manufacturing method of the Ryukyus original awamori was established, and the political significance of awamori in trade with the mainland of Japan.  

I also talked about the time when the Ryukyu Kingdom was placed under the control of both China and Japan, especially dominated by Satsuma Domain. I also told my students that it would be interesting to see how Ryukyuan people demonstrated their uniqueness and independence through the history of awamori. This discussion was particularly popular among my students. Some of them were saying that they had heard that awamori is a delicious alcoholic drink that has high alcohol content, but didn’t even think about how the ‘Ryukyu Awamori’ was historically created while tossed by environmental factors including political situations and trading relations with other countries.

Because this is a university located in Osaka, I hear that some students work part-time in an Okinawan restaurant, and quite a few students have grandparents from Okinawa, Amami, and Taiwan. Besides, many have been to Okinawa by low-cost airlines these days. Many of them are familiar with things Ryukyuan and Okinawan.

[MS]     It means that students who have some interest in Okinawa are taking your courses. Is there anything you would like your students to know through the class? [Mori]     In the first place, it would be very rare for my students to learn the entire Okinawan history from the formation of the Ryukyu Islands up to present. They usually have only patchy knowledge about the Battle of Okinawa, the U.S. military base issues and a bit about the trade in medieval and early modern Ryukyuan history, even up to high school. Some students don’t even know that there was a Ryukyu Kingdom. The students have no opportunity to think in a long span about how people in Okinawa have interacted with nature, how they have woven history while buffeted by big powers, how they build a relationship with their neighbors like Taiwan, Philippines, small islands in Micronesia.

I want the students to experience, from the perspectives of Okinawans, how different they can see historical views and current situations that they have taken for granted. That’s one of the messages I want to convey through the class. Usually you learn the history of Ryukyu and Okinawa as a part  of histories of Japan, of East Asia, of the United States or of Pacific Ocean. However, if you observe anew from the Okinawans’ perspectives, you would learn the difference. The classroom would give them a chance to experience the learning.

[MS]     I believe that studying by connecting the points through the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom and Okinawa would be one of the learning processes for them.

[Mori]     By looking at the history in that way, I think, for example, that the perspective of what the current base issue looks like and what Okinawans are saying about it will change.  You have to look at it over a long span like that.  Some students would interpret that the U.S. military base issues are just a problem only in Okinawa, and only a small fraction of anti-base protesters are complaining about building a new base. But you carefully need to follow what has happened in the past and why the base issue is so persistent. That makes you realize how people in Okinawa think about the new base issue at Henoko and Takae, why they have complex and inexpressible emotions and the issue in Okinawa is not entirely someone else’s problem. When I design my classes, I’m particularly careful about positioning the current issues within a long historical span so that my students can understand.

[MS]     Also, by looking at Okinawan history, you would start understanding not only Okinawa but also its relationships with various regions in the world.  That’s also what you see in the oral histories, right?  We can see the connections between Okinawans and people from Korea, Taiwan, or other islands in Micronesia.  [Mori]     Yes, that is the part that interests me. I think that’s the source of power that was cultivated in Okinawan people’s lives. While making relationships with people from other areas, they created this concept of “Okinawa.”  This is what I want to convey to the students.  

[MS]     I also go to Japanese language classes and talk about Okinawa.  There are students from China and they say they have heard of the Ryukyu Kingdom, so they come to look at the books about Okinawa.  I’m not a specialist who can teach the overview of Okinawa history, but I strongly believe that it would be meaningful enough to make those students aware of the past connection between China and Ryukyu, and how it is now.  We have a collection to help them look into these topics deeper.

[Mori]     If you look at the collection site, there are all the books on various topics, for example, on Okinawan textiles, which is convenient. Regarding the testimony of the Battle of Okinawa, I didn't know that I could find the oral history collection at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum and the NHK Archives. I found it very helpful. I'm planning to introduce it in class because I'll soon talk about the Battle of Okinawa and the postwar period in the class. I think it is very interesting that there is such a place as the GW Okinawa Collection in the United States.  That tells you the history and current situation of Okinawa.  I also wish there was a website to disseminate information on the Okinawa research in the United States.

[MS]     Certainly.  Thank you for your responses!