Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Ryukyu Kingdom (Second Sho Dynasty)

Sho Hashi’s descendants ruled successfully until 1461 when a young king by the name of Toku came to the throne. Prosperity diminished from the foolish spending of Toku’s father, Sho Taikyu, whose policies had improved the lifestyles of the royal family and the upper class, while the rest of the island lived a life of poverty. Toku was too young to recognize the chaos his father had caused, creating discontent among the pheasants that were not eager to see their taxes spent on lavish parties for the royal family. Even worse, he isolated himself from the royal court when he led an expedition to conquer a small meaningless island to the north that lay enroute to Kyushu.

Toku’s actions set the stage for a rebellion upon his death. Kanemaru, who had served as treasurer to previous kings, led the successful coup and declared himself king in the year 1470. He took the name Sho En and began a second dynasty that would see four hundred years of rule by the Sho En royal bloodline.

Upon receiving confirmation of his authority from the Emperor of China, Sho en enjoyed a brief but successful reign on the throne. Sho En changed the way future kings would make decisions by giving the high priestess of Shuri court a level of authority his ancestors had never seen before. His decision enabled noro high priestesses to play pivotal roles in political decisions that affected the entire kingdom.

King Sho En, 1415-1476
When Sho En’s son, Sho Shin, came to the throne in 1477, he was just 14 years old. Despite his young age, he maintained power with the help of his mother during the early years of his rule. Eventually, Sho Shin showed natural leadership, and his wisdom guided the Ryukyu Kingdom through 50 years of prosperity.

A document sent by the Ming Emperor Xiao Zong to the Ryukyuan Chuzan King Sho Shin.
Under Sho Shin’s rule, Shuri Castle and its surrounding area saw a boom in construction while Shuri Port bustled with economic activity as Ryukyuan ships continued to expand trade. The increase in overseas trade helped to stimulate the economy and kept the warlords happy. Later, Sho Shin persuaded the warlords to leave their castles and live near Shuri castle, enabling him to exercise power throughout the kingdom.

King Sho Shin, 1465-1526

Sho Shin’s reign ended upon his death in 1526. The years that followed saw rising tensions in Southeast Asia, and began keeping a watchful eye on European expansion into the Asian region. For centuries, Japan had viewed the Ryukyu Kingdom as an unimportant neighbor, but world events began to force some leaders in Edo to think differently.

King Sho Hashi and the Ryukyu Kingdom Era

 One of the things I learned while in Okinawa last year was the history of how a a man called Sho Hashi brought the three regions of Okinawa (Hokuzan to the North, Chuzan in the central area and Nanzan in the South) together by overtaking the lords who ruled the regions. Sho Hashi in fact brought the island together essentially beginning the Ryukyu Kingdom. Here is the story:

Ryukyu Kingdom Era (The First Sho Dynasty)

Early in the 15th century, a great warrior by the name of Hashi began to gain power within the Chuzan Kingdom. Together with his father, Shisho, they led a successful revolt against the unpopular King Bunei of Urasoe. Shisho declared himself as king and moved the seat of the Chuzan Kingdom from Urasoe to Shun. With the power of Chuzan increasing, Hashi made and impressive show of skill as a diplomat by gaining the allegiance of Lord Gosamaru — one of the island’s most powerful aji (a chieftain). He proceeded to win the favor of three aji in Hokuzan. Hashi’s political maneuvering provided him with enough strength to launch an attack on Nakijin Castle in the north and in 1416, a fierce battle ensued between the powerful Hokuzan army and the forces loyal to Hashi. Despite being protected by great natural barriers and a strong military, Nakijin Castle fell, and Hashi returned to Shuri a hero.

In 1422, Hashi’s father passed away. The Chinese Emperor officially recognized Hashi as the new Chuzan King and gave him the name “Sho.” This move by China signified that it saw Chuzan as the main seat of government within Okinawa.

Sho Hashi then began to make plans to sieze Nanzan (the southern kingdom). He knew that trouble within King Taromai's Nanzan administration had already begun to greatly undermine Taromai’s power. In 1429 he took advantage of Taromai’s weakened authority and quickly moved to attack the Nanzan forces at Ozato. The Nanzan army was no match against Sho Hashi's forces, and the southern kingdom fell. Okinawa was finally unified under one rule, and the name “Ryukyu Kingdom” was bestowed upon the islands by the Chinese Emperor.

During his reign Sho Hashi again proved his skills as a diplomat by greatly expanding trade and then using the increase in wealth to control the island’s other warlords. Under his guidance, the Ryukyu Kingdom began engaging in commerce with many other nations, such as Korea, the Kingdom of Siam, and Java. With the help of his trusted adviser, Kaiki, the new king implemented many new changes that quickly won him the adoration of his people. His greatest accomplishment, however, was keeping his potential enemies preoccupied with their newly found wealth, for it was the first time that Okinawans saw prolonged peace throughout the islands.

While Attending the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu festival I was lucky enough to attend a theater performance by Junior High School and High School students which depicted the life and times of King Sho Hashi. Here is a playlist of video I took of the performance. These kids did a tremendously great job and their ability was very close to professional in my opinion. The video is 2 hours and 28 minutes long so give yourself plenty of time when you start watching. Don't forget to comment!