Yamazato Eikichi

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  • Born: 1902
  • Died: 1989
  • Japanese: 山里 永吉 (Yamazato Eikichi)

Yamazato Eikichi was an Okinawan playwright, writer, painter, and political commentator and activist known for his works celebrating the history and culture of the Ryûkyû Kingdom and essays opposing loyalty to Japan.

Born in 1902, he attended the Nihon Bijutsu Gakkô (Japan Art School), and while in Tokyo became a member of Mavo, a now-famous 1920s radical performance art group. He returned to Okinawa in 1927, at the age of 25, and became a playwright and novelist, publishing the latter serially in newspapers.

His plays include Ikkô-shû hônan-ki (一向宗法難記), Naha yomachi mukashi kishitsu (那覇四町昔気質), and Giwan Chôho no shi (宜湾朝保の死, "Death of Giwan Chôho"). Perhaps his most famous play, Shurijô akewatashi (The Surrender of Shuri castle) portrays the forced turn-over of Shuri castle to Meiji government authorities in 1879 in concert with the dissolution and annexation of the kingdom. Originally written in 1916, it premiered in 1930, and has been staged numerous times since then.

In the postwar period, he became head of the Ryukyu Museum established by USCAR (the US military occupation authorities), and of the Ryukyu Performing Arts Federation (Ryûkyû geinô renmeikai). He also came to serve as chairman of the Ryukyu Government Cultural Property Protection Commission and as vice president of the "Okinawa for the Okinawans" Association.

In 1969, as the US Occupation of Okinawa approached its 25th year and as calls for Reversion to Japanese administration were growing stronger, Yamazato penned a series of columns for the China Post which were later translated and published by Joe Hung under the title "Japan is Not Our Fatherland." In this short piece (14 pages in English translation), Yamazato argues for Okinawan independence and against false notions of Okinawans as being Japanese or as belonging to Japan, highlighting the colonial oppression and violence committed by Japan against Okinawa and its people.

He died in 1989 at the age of 87.

References

  • "Yamazato Eikichi," 20 seiki Nihon jinmei jiten 20世紀日本人名事典. Nichigai Assoc., 2004.
  • "Shurijo Castle and Performing Arts," exhibition pamphlet, National Theater Okinawa, October-December 2020.
  • Yamazato Eikichi, Joe Hung (trans.), Japan is Not Our Fatherland, 1969.