Around the time of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the so-called Yaponesia essays of the Japanese novelist Shimao Toshio (1917–86) became important texts to those concerned with the cultural effects of the reversion on the Okinawan people and the question of Okinawan identity. These essays, part of some 170 essays on Ryukyuan life, history and culture Shimao wrote over a twenty-year span (1954 to mid-1970s), stress an underlying Japanese cultural stratum originating in the South Pacific, and seek to reverse an mainland Asia-centred view of Japanese culture. In doing so, they seek to instil a sense of cultural pride in an historically marginalized people by challenging conventional readings of the relationship between the Ryukyus and Japanese culture and history. In the early Yaponesia writings Shimao explored an underlying cultural bond which links mainland Japan and the Ryukyus, viewing it as a kind of common cultural unconscious; in his later writings, however, he shifted the emphasis from an underlying one-ness of Japanese culture to the uncovering of a plurality of cultures within the confines of the modern Japanese state. In doing so, Shimao reached out beyond the confines of the Ryukyus to discuss northern Japan (Tohoku), and began to explore the notion of cultural and regional autonomy. Shimao’s Yaponesia writings have come under fire as either too inclusive or too exclusive, but, on the whole, Shimao’s writings remain important texts for those concerned not only with Okinawan identity but with the larger question of the possibilities of cultural diversity within Japan.
- Reversion of Okinawa
- Shimao Toshio
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science