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Session B2
Organizational Strategies of Okinawans in Pre- and Post-war Taiwan
Haruna Nakamura
, Nakagusuku Village Education of Board, Japan
Nina Margo Holzschneider
Graduate School of East Asian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Okinawa Prefecture is located to the northeast of Taiwan, at 111 km to Yonaguni and 644 km to Naha on the main island of Okinawa. Deprivation, attraction to the “New (colonial) world” i.e. Taiwan, and the closeness of Okinawa and Taiwan encouraged many Okinawans to migrate to Taiwan soon after its colonization by Japan for work and education. Others commuted between Okinawa and Taiwan on a daily base. To many Okinawans Taiwan became a pivotal space in their lifes and the cultural and economic exchange had a lasting impact on Okinawa to this very day. During WWII, over 10,000 Okinawans were forced to evacuate to Taiwan by the Japanese army. By the end of WWII, almost 30,000 Okinawans were living in Taiwan. When Japan lost the war, the Japanese were repatriated from Taiwan, but the Okinawans were left behind.

In our presentation we focus on the organizational structures the Okinawans used in Taiwan before, during and after WWII. Before and during WWII we look at daily life structures and the interaction between Taiwanese and Okinawans. How did Okinawans build a community in Taiwan and how closed/open was this community? Where were joint spaces and how were they used? After WWII, we look at Okinawan assemblies and organizations in Taiwan and how they interacted with Taiwanese structures. Here we will focus on the Okinawa kyo-min organization、沖縄僑民総隊.

Okinawans themselves founded the Okinawa kyo-min organization spontaneously as a mutual aid organization. Okinawan returnees gathered in readiness for repatriation, but as that was canceled suddenly, they were left without any official guidance. At that time, some only had food for a week while others had nothing. Many no longer had any homes to which to return to, so they had to live communally for a while. The Japanese Management Committee for the Japanese,日僑管理委員会、decided that the Okinawans should live together with the Ryukyu-kanpei which had been left behind in the former Okinawan Japanese army camp in Taipei. The Japanese Management Committee for the Japanese managed the Okinawa kyo-min organization officially, but they had to handle most things by themselves. There were 2,424 members in the Okinawa kyo-min, women exceeding men, and of those 1,398 were under 20 years old. They were categorized as resident immigrants, evacuees, and 80 as orphans. They established six departments (general affairs, public relations, self-support, educations, medical affairs, and accounting), and made their own rules for living together.

The Okinawa kyo-min organization cooperated with other Okinawan organizations and together they appealed to the Taiwan provincial administrative executive office and the American consulate in Taipei for early repatriation. This was the start of the Okinawan returnees’ postwar experience – one of many strategies they employed for survival.

Taiwan and Okinawa are closely linked not only by their shared history but also today due to trade, tourism and cultural exchanges. In order to understand that shared history it is important to have a closer look at interactions between the Taiwanese and Okinawans during the colonial time. We believe that even as historians working on Okinawan history we can contribute to the understanding of the Taiwanese side; as many sources tell us about Taiwanese neighbors, trade partners, families, etc. From the experiences of those Okinawans, who lived in Taiwan, a lot can be learned about daily life in colonized Taiwan. We apply for topic 1. “Contributions of Taiwan studies to the making of truly globalized social sciences and humanities”.