Okinawa Island

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Map of the Battle of Okinawa at Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu
  • Japanese: 沖縄島 (Okinawajima), 沖縄本島 (Okinawa hontou)

Okinawa Island is the largest and most populous island in Okinawa prefecture and in the Ryûkyû Islands. It is home to Naha, the current prefectural capital and former chief port of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, and Shuri, the former royal capital of the Kingdom, today a part of Naha City.

Okinawa has an average annual rainfall of 87.5 inches, with a lush sub-tropical climate year-round, and experiences monsoons and typhoons in summer through autumn.

The island covers a land area of 748 sq miles, and average population density on the island is 2,630 people per square mile.[1] For comparison, the island of O'ahu (home to Honolulu) has a population density around 1500 people per square mile, and a land area of 604 sq miles.[2]

The name "Okinawa" is said to appear for the first time in the historical record in an account of the 753 journey of the Chinese monk Ganjin, who became castaway or shipwrecked on Akonahajima (阿児奈波), or Akonaha Island, on his way from China to Satsuma province (on Kyushu).[3] The term Okinawa itself, however, appears in the Tale of the Heike, and with the characters 「沖縄」appears at least as early as certain 17th century Shimazu family documents. Uruma, another term often used to refer to the islands, is said to have first appeared in Senzai wakashû, a poetry collection by Fujiwara no Kintô (966-1041).


  1. Richard Pearson, Ancient Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2013), 8.
  2. Hawaii, Lonely Planet (2009), 52, 99.
  3. "Akonahajima," Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia, Ryukyu Shimpo, 1 March 2003.; Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 51.; Though this may seem a totally unrelated term, phonetically, there is an obvious connection, however tenuous. The A is like O, kona is quite similar to kina, and ha could alternately be pronounced wa.