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Okinawa (Japan)


Last modified: 2006-08-26 by phil nelson
Keywords: okinawa | japan | ryu-kyu | disc (red) | letter: o | neyagawa | urasoe |
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image by Pascal Gross

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Description of the flag

White O letter in red disc on white field. O is the prefecture initial letter. The inner small red disc stands for progress of Okinawa and outer red circle for sea surrounding Okinawa. Adopted 1972-10-13.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 06 May 1998

History of the prefecture flags

Until early in the 19th century, the ships sailing between China and Okinawa (Ryukyu/LooChu Islands) was a gold or dark yellow triangle with a red sphere in the center, and bordered with red small triangles. The shape : Staff = 1, Base = 2. Seen in Chinese movies and in Okinawan prints seen both there and in Miyako Island.

The governments of the Ryukyu's paid tribute to China, and even tried to placate "Satsuma" from Kyushu in Japan. But they were truly independent, and sailed from the coasts of India and Indonesia and to Korea also.

These were not the flags flown by Chinese ships in the period. Although there is a similarity, the Ryukyu Islands enjoyed a favourable relation with all Chinese governments, and much of their culture was borrowed from them. Japanese influence did not begin to take hold until the kidnapping of the last Okinawan king by the Japanese in 1871. I will point out, however, that as an ensign, it would have been civil. The Islands maintained independence for over 7 centuries without a standing naval or military force.
Bruce Ward, 13 June 2000 to 16 June 2000

For a long time they had a pennant shaped flag, white, with the word "Ryukyu" in red, which was flown in conjunction with the Japanese flag.
James Dignan - 31 January 1996

Post-War Okinawa flag
[Okinawa flag, 1945-1967]
by Antonio Martins

The prefecture of Okinawa was established on 16 May 1972 when Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands, which had been administered by the United States since 1945, were restored to Japan. Immediately after the Second World War the islands' ships wore a flag of yellow over blue over yellow with the blue of double width and a triangle cut of the fly. On 1 July 1967 the Japanese flag was restored, but with a white triangular pennant above it with the name "Ryukyus" in Japanese and English in red lettering. When the islands were once more part of Japan, the present flag, which is like that of Japan, i.e. white with a red sun disc in the centre, was established. In this case, however, the Mon is composed of another disc in white superimposed on the red one, and a third red one superimposed on that. The discs are not concentric, but the two latter are 'stepped up' towards the top. [bar]
Mark Sensen, 3 May 1996

The yellow-blue-yellow flag was certainly the signal flag "delta", here in a usage similar to that of post World War II Germany (Charlie flag) and Japan itself.
Antonio Martins, 11 June 200

The signal flag delta was used June 1950-July 1st 1967. According to Flags of Paradise the flag was in the proportions 76:91. The flag chart also shows US Administration High Commissioner's yellow bordered blue flag with yellow eagle and letters of the high commissioner ot the Ryukyu Islands in light blue disc with 26:33 proportion which was used from 1959-1976.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 12 June 2000

The Symbolism

The symbol on the Okinawan flag of today brought out a great deal of discussion and even threats of law suits while it was being formulated. The initial colors used blue as the outer disk. As such, if placed on its side, disks towards the hoist, it would have been identical with the the Mon used by the most prominent Okinawan martial arts organization. This quite possibly reflects that that organization was really the only native organization which received equal status with organizations throughout Japan.

From 1879 until 1945, the Japanese had strived to squelch the Okinawan culture, and to impose their own. This was especially true through education, where children would be severely punished if they used the Okinawan language in school, even among themselves. The colors were changed to Red on White on Red, but the significance to the Okinawans remains clear -- if they are to be a part of Japan, then they are equal to any other prefecture in the nation.
Bruce Ward - 06 May 1996

Original Okinawa flag design
[Okinawa - initial design]
by Antonio Martins

It seemed that this was to be the preferred logo on the prefecture flag just prior to "reversion" to Japan. However, a threatened lawsuit by a martial arts organization over the design forced the selected logo to be only in red and white.

Martial Arts logo
[Okinawa - martial arts]
by Antonio Martins

Logo of the premier martial arts organization in Okinawa, and indeed all of Japan, in the early 1970s. The organization threatened suit to prevent the new prefecture government from using the red-white-blue logo for itself. The government backed down and used red-white-red.
Bruce Ward - 1996-12-07