The Land...

The Ryukyus have been called "Galapagos of the East"
because of their abundance of fauna, flora and pristine rain forest.
The island also happens to be the home of the longest-lived people in the world.

"At seventy you are a child,
at eighty you are merely a youth,
and at ninety if the ancestors invite you into heaven,
ask them to wait until you are one hundred....
and then you might consider it."

Old island proverb

Several of the following photos were taken during the early to mid-1950s, while I lived on the island.

Rice Paddies 1955

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When I was there, the island was dotted with villages of thatched roof houses, rice paddies, and small farms. The photo on the left above links to a huge one, which will give you a really good feeling for the place.

Click images to enlarge.

Today, farming is more industrialized, with larger farms.
Major export crops are pineapple and sugarcane.

Much of the island's natural beauty has been preserved, especially in the north,
a good deal of which is a grand, national park, shown in red above.

Click images to enlarge.

The northwest coast is also a Nature Preserve.

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From the coast, one can head into the park.
When I was there, it was just a natural area, not yet a park.

Click images to enlarge.

Click images to enlarge.

On the Urauchi River, on nearby Iriomote Island, is
the largest waterfall of the area.

Click image to enlarge.

Other parts of the islands are like jungles. In my day, the jungles ran right up to the rice paddies. There were rice paddies very close to where I lived, with farmers in their cooly hats always hard at work. During one typhoon, when the calm of the eye was upon us, myfriend Donna and I went down to the nearby rice paddie, following a narrow path bordered by jungle. Suddenly I saw the biggest spider I've ever seen! Her huge web (c. 4 ft. or 1.2 meters) was strung across our path, glilstening with large "diamonds" of dew drops from the heavy rains of the storm.
How the web held during the 140 mph winds, I'll never know! The black spider was about 7 in. or 18 cm. in diameter and bore a large red spot... meaning poison!

What an amazing sight to see!


Sefa-utaki, the island's most important sacred place,
is seated overlooking the Chinen peninsula. The site is said to have been made by the legendary creator, Amamikiyo. It is known as a sacred grove for prayer facing the island of gods, Kudaka. At time of inauguration of the Ryukyu supreme priestess, the Kikoe Ogimi, she came here to offer her first prayers in a ceremony called Oaraori. Two giant pieces of stone forming a reverse V form the entrance of the prayer site that faces Kudaka Island.

Sefa-utaki was named one of my island's
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000.
(Ref. Convention & Visitors Bureau)

For photos of the island's other UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Click here


Colorful essays about life on the island in the 1940s and '50s
by a former schoolmate of mine who is a professional writer
Click here

Photos of the 1940s and '50s ...
including some from the years I lived there, 1953-56.
Click here and then click on any links.
(Click cancel for each of the language pop-ups.)
English text on photo pages

Continue... the capital city,
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