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  • Japanese: 徳之島 (Tokunoshima)

Tokunoshima is a small island just south of Amami Ôshima. It is today administered as part of Kagoshima prefecture.

Tokunoshima may have been in some kind of official political contact with entities in the Japanese mainland from a very early time; records survive of tribute payments being paid from Tokunoshima and surrounding islands as early as 616 and 699 CE.[1]

The island is known for its prehistoric pottery, known as kamuiyaki.

The Shimazu clan invasion of Ryukyu in 1609 included the seizure of Tokunoshima. Shimazu forces first landed on Tokunoshima on 1609/3/17 or 18, where they are said to have met significant resistance at both Akitoku (Kametoku) and Kametsu harbors from formal Ryukyu guardsmen or warriors, led by Yonabaru peechin Chôchi[2] and from two unnamed brothers, accompanied by locals armed with farming implements, kitchen knives and the like. A second group of Satsuma forces, stuck on Amami Ôshima because of weather, finally arrived on Tokunoshima on 3/20, helping to subdue the island by 3/22.[3]

Following this invasion, the Shimazu appointed a daikan to oversee the administration of Amami Ôshima; in 1616, his authority was extended to include Tokunoshima.[4] As in Amami and elsewhere, the Shimazu imposed an oppressive and extractive program of sugar production, forcing the islanders to focus their efforts on growing sugar cane rather than other crops, and to then sell the sugar to Kagoshima at reduced prices, impoverishing the islanders and creating deep economic and subsistence problems. Some 3,000 people died in a famine on Tokunoshima in 1755.[5]

Political entities in "mainland" Japan often used Tokunoshima as a destination for exile. Saigô Takamori was exiled there for a brief time in 1862.[6] Morimoto Kôken, a court physician who supported the losing side in a factional dispute within the Shimazu house government in 1808, was similarly exiled to Tokunoshima.


  1. 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.
  2. Many sources suggest that Yonabaru was the son-in-law of top royal advisor Tei Dô, in order to tie Tei Dô more strongly into the history, connecting him as a "hero" to the fact that resistance on Tokunoshima was so strong. However, Gregory Smits, citing Uehara Kenzen, suggests that it's unlikely that there was any such relation between Yonabaru and Tei Dô. Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2018), 229.
  3. Miyakonojô to Ryûkyû ôkoku 都城と琉球王国, Miyakonojô Shimazu Residence (2012), 24.
  4. Ono Masako, Tomita Chinatsu, Kanna Keiko, Taguchi Megumi, "Shiryô shôkai Kishi Akimasa bunko Satsuyû kikô," Shiryôhenshûshitsu kiyô 31 (2006), 244.
  5. Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009)., 95.
  6. Plaque at site of Saigô's death, Shiroyama, Kagoshima.[1]