Taiwan Okinawans as Creole Japanese

From Liminality of the Japanese Empire: Border Crossings from Okinawa to Colonial Taiwan, by Hiroko Matsuda (U. Hawaii Press, 2018), Kindle loc. ~3336:

Okinawan migrants in Taiwan came from diverse and mixed backgrounds; some were descendants of Chinese immigrants, and others were of Okinawan and Japanese ancestry. Furthermore, increasing numbers of second- and third-generation Okinawans grew up in the Japanese settler community in Taiwan as more and more Okinawan immigrants settled in the colony. They were creole Japanese who did not really possess a strong Okinawan ethnic identity. Some of these second- and third-generation immigrants had never visited their parents’ home islands, while others moved frequently between Taiwan and Okinawa. Nevertheless, they were collectively identified as “Okinawans” and had to endure negative racial stereotyping and prejudice in Taiwan. To survive discrimination, many Okinawan migrants sought to pass for Japanese by changing their names and transferring their registered addresses to other prefectures. The majority of Okinawan migrants considered assimilation mandatory for success in their imperial careers in Taiwan.

Yet there was also a conscious effort to recover Okinawan pride in Taipei. In the 1940s, the journal Nantō was published through the collaborative efforts of Japanese and Okinawan residents in both Okinawa and Taiwan. The Taihoku Broadcasting Station broadcast a roundtable in which prominent scholars and Okinawan migrants discussed Okinawan history and culture. Kabira Chōshin, a proud Okinawan and one of the editors of Nantō, conceived the idea for this radio program after his Okinawan classical music program met with disapprobation from fellow Okinawan migrants. The Okinawan cultural movement in Taipei, which was supported by some Japanese, did not find many adherents among Okinawan migrants, but it did provide the impetus for another movement that developed after World War II.

The link for Kabira goes to Japanese Wikipedia, whose name Google Translate automatically butchers into ‘Kabira morning monkey’. (His name has no entry in English Wikipedia.) The name 川平 ‘river plain/flat’ is read Kawahira in several Japanese placenames, but in Okinawa it is more commonly reduced to Kabira, where it is also the name of a bay on Ishigaki Island. Kabira’s given name 朝申 shares its first syllable Chō with his younger brother’s given name 朝清. It’s the same character found in the old name for unified Korea, 朝鮮, often translated ‘Morning Calm’. The second syllable 申 Shin does not literally mean ‘monkey’, but it marks one of the Earthly Branches in Chinese numerology that often coincides with the position of the monkey in the zodiac. So 申 can be read Saru ‘monkey’ in the female name 申代 Saruyo (far more commonly read Nobuyo or Shinyo) or in the literary term 申楽 Sarugaku to describe a style of ridiculous impersonation in Noh.

The Kabira brothers in Taiwan assembled a large set of Okinawan cultural artifacts that later helped replace some of the key cultural legacies destroyed in the horrendous Battle of Okinawa.

Leave a comment

Filed under Japan, language, migration, nationalism, Taiwan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.