Japan’s Prince and Princess Hitachi Visit Okinawa (Bolivia)

  June 20, 2009 at 1:08 pm by

View the full image at Daylife

Following their visit to Peru, Japan’s Prince and Princess Hitachi have continued their Latin American tour by travelling to Bolivia. After arriving in the Bolivian capital La Paz on Monday night, the royal couple headed to the rural district of Colonia Okinawa on Tuesday where they had lunch with Japanese migrants and their descendants. Colonia Okinawa is a prosperous agricultural centre that was founded by Japanese immigrants. The area was named after the Japanese Okinawa islands, where many of the immigrants came from. After World War II, they were relocated from there with aid from the Japanese government.

The Japanese Okinawa islands, one has to now, had, until the end of the 19th century, been the kingdom Liu-chiu under King Shotai. It was a peaceful group of small islands as one of King Shotai’s predecessors, the wise ruler King Shoshin, had in 1507 decided to abolish all weapons and military in his tiny Pacific state, as he said: “We are too weak to win against an inimical attack, the only result would be a tremendous bloodshed without use.” The first Europeans that came into contact with the people of Liu-chiu, Portuguese merchants, were impressed: “They are very honest. They do not buy slaves, and for nothing in the world would they sell one of their people into slavery. They would rather die. The Malayans say that there is no big difference between people from Liu-chiu and from Portugal, except that the Portuguese buy women which the Liu-chiu people refuse to do.”

Japan had been claiming Liu-chiu as their possession already for a long time, but by diplomacy and by tribute-paying to China as well as to Japan, Liu-chiu managed to remain practically independent until the late 19th century. But then, during the complicated political negotiations that were taking place at the time between China and Japan, China finally signalled that it would not protect the little island state if Japan should choose to occupy it. And so, Japanese military entered the royal castle of Shuri and King Shotai had to abdicate in favour of Japanese governor Narahara Kogoro who, in the following, was to become famous for his cruelty. He and his successors tried to force the people of Liu-chiu, now Okinawa, to forget their native language, they imposed land reforms on them that led to the impoverishment of local farmers, and they persecuted, tortured and killed those who tried to resist. Later, at the end of World War II, Okinawa became the only prefecture in Japan where ground battle was fought. Japanese military used the Okinawan civilian population as human shields to protect the lives of the soldiers. As a result, one third of the Okinawan people perished.

In spite of all that was done to them, the people of Okinawa never seem to have fully forgotten their anti-war traditions. To this day, Okinawa is one of the most important centres of Japan’s peace and environment movement. But maybe for some of even the peaceful Okinawa-people this last experience at the end of the war had been too much to bear. And so they left and found a new home across the sea, in Colonia Okinawa, Bolivia.

View the full image at Daylife

Unlike some of their compatriots who staid behind in Okinawa (Japan) and who received in 1975 then-Crown Prince Akihito and his wife by throwing bottle grenades at them, the inhabitants of Okinawa (Bolivia) seem to hold no grudges against Japanese royals. They gave Prince Hitachi, the only brother of Japan’s Emperor Akihito, a warm welcome. Prince Hitachi said he hopes that the celebration of the immigration anniversary, which is the cause for his visit to the country, will bring more progress: “I hope this year in which we celebrate the 110th anniversary of Japanese migration to Bolivia is a year that kicks off more development in Okinawa. I vote for the health and happiness of all of you.” It is to be supposed that the prince’s wish will be granted. Okinawa mayor Dionicio Condori Mamani said that the Japanese immigrants are already fully integrated into the Bolivian community. “My top official in the city government is Don Shugio Higa. He’s Japanese,” he said.

After their return from the rural village, Prince and Princess Hitachi were received by Bolivian President Evo Morales for dinner on Tuesday evening.

To read more about Prince and Princess Hitachi, see this thread.

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