Okinawa Islands: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government of the country the Okinawa Islands.

Okinawa Islands


Location--The Okinawa island chain, known in Western writings as the Ryukyu island chain, consists of 143 separate islands, but the term usually refers to the 73 islands which were under American administration until 1972. The entire chain stretches some 700 mi. between Taiwan and the Japanese island of Kyushu, but the U.S. governed only the southern half after 1952. Okinawa Island, at the northern end of the former American territory, is the main island.

How Created--In the past several hundred years the Kingdom of Okinawa has been under Chinese or Japanese domination many times.

During the 1870s the Japanese Meiji regime took control of the Okinawa archipelago, making it a prefecture of Japan. After W.W. II the U.S. military governed the islands. Then, in the 1960s, the Okinawans and the Japanese Government pressed for reversion of the territory to Japan. In 1968 the U.S. returned a few islands and in 1972 it returned the rest, including the Daito Islands. Although Okinawans and the Japanese left supported reversion, they opposed the terms of the agreement, which allowed U.S. military bases to remain.

Size--922 sq. mi. (2,389 sq. km.) total land area. U.S. bases cover about 12% of the land.

Population--1 million: primarily Japanese, with some Americans.

Who Rules--In 1968 the Okinawans elected their 1st chief executive. Neither the chief executive nor the elected legislature has ever had full governing power. In 1972 power passed to the Japanese national Government.

Who REALLY Rules--Though the Japanese Government now governs Okinawa, the U.S. military remains influential.

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