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  • Japanese/Okinawan: 鮫川 (Samekawa / Samegaa)

Samekawa was the father of Shô Shishô (first king of the united Ryûkyû Kingdom in the early 15th c.) and grandfather of Shô Hashi (who is said to have united Okinawa Island into the Ryûkyû Kingdom).[1] Much of what is known about him comes from legends and folklore sources and very little can be confirmed.

While the official histories produced by the Ryûkyû Kingdom in the 17th-18th centuries identify Samekawa as being originally from Iheya Island, many scholars today suggest he may have come from Higo province (Kumamoto prefecture) on Kyushu. The evidence for this is mostly circumstantial, relying on similarity of placenames and folklore, but Gregory Smits argues there is a "preponderance" of such "abundant" evidence.[2] One element of this evidence is the similarity of placenames between Sashiki - the area in southern Okinawa where Samekawa, Shô Shishô and Shô Hashi were said to be local lords - and a site with the same name in Higo.[3]

According to the traditional accounts, Samekawa's father was named Yagura, and was lord of Iheya. Izena gusuku is said to have been built by Samekawa at Yagura's instruction.[4] Samekawa then had two children: a son who grew up to be King Shô Shishô of the united Ryûkyû Kingdom, and a daughter referred to in the official histories as the priestess of Baten.[5]


  1. According to some sources, Samekawa was one generation older, being the grandfather of Shô Shishô.
  2. Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 107.
  3. Smits, 108.
  4. Kitahara Shûichi. A Journey to the Ryukyu Gusuku 琉球城紀行。 Naha: Miura Creative, 2003. p107.
  5. Smits, 110.