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University of the Ryukyus

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Senbaru Pond, at the center of the University of Ryukyus campus in Nishihara
The University of Ryukyus campus in 1953, on the former site of Shuri castle
  • Established: 1950
  • Japanese: 琉球大学 (Ryûkyû daigaku), 琉大 (Ryûdai)

The University of the Ryukyus, known as Ryûdai for short, is a national university located in Nishihara, Okinawa. Established in 1950 as the first modern university to be established in the Ryukyu Islands, it remains the foremost institution of higher education in the prefecture.

History

The University of the Ryukyus was established in 1950 by the United States Civil Administration for the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR), i.e. the American Occupation government which administered the Ryukyu Islands from 1945 to 1972. This came after suggestions and pushes in the late 1940s both from within the Occupation government / US military and from figures such as Wakukawa Seiei, a prominent figure in the Okinawan diaspora community in Hawai'i. Wakukawa and others wanted an education for the Okinawan people, seeing a university as key to the revitalization and revival of the islands, and to the building of a brighter more prosperous future. Occupation officials' desires overlapped somewhat, but they also wished to use such a university to teach Okinawans to value democracy and democratic ideals, to instill in them certain American notions of freedom, civics, and so forth, to inspire in them a love of the United States and a feeling of distance from political loyalty or ethnic/cultural/national identification with Japan, such that Okinawa might never seek reincorporation into Japan and the US Occupation - the US use of Okinawan land for strategic military purposes - might continue indefinitely.

Though initial versions of the core Code of Education of the university indicated that the university was dedicated to "furthering, as far as is consistent with the military occupation, … the liberties of democratic peoples; including freedom of speech, the right of assembly, the right of petition, freedom of religion, and freedom of the responsible press," the phrase "as far as is consistent with the military occupation" was removed in 1953.

The University of the Ryukyus was initially founded on a model akin to, or inspired by, the US pattern of land-grant universities, with a notion - whether stated explicitly or not - that it was to be a public university established to serve not just Okinawa Island but all the Ryukyus. As Okinawa was devastated in World War II, financial support for the university from Okinawan sources was not forthcoming, at least not initially in 1950, and so the US military funded the university entirely from the beginning. Michigan State College (today, Michigan State University) helped oversee and guide the university from 1951 until 1968. Occupation authorities initially attempted to establish that the language of instruction would be English, but the Japanese and Okinawan instructors eventually got their way and the university opened with the language of instruction being primarily Japanese.

In conjunction with the "reversion" of Okinawa to Japanese administration in 1972, the university was made a "national university" (kokuritsu daigaku), alongside Kyoto University, the University of Tokyo, Hokkaido University, Kyushu University, and others. Though originally established on the former site of Shuri castle, the university was relocated to Nishihara (a suburb of Naha, a short distance to the northeast of Shuri) in 1982 in preparation for the 1989-1992 restoration of Shuri castle. Most of the buildings on campus today, as a result, date to that time.

Teaching and Collections

Ryûdai has long been one of the primary centers of Okinawan Studies in the world. Current or former faculty members include leading scholars of Okinawan history such as Tomiyama Kazuyuki, Akamine Mamoru, Maehira Fusaaki, Nishizato Kikô, and Takara Kurayoshi.

While the University does not hold any National Treasures in its collections, the university library boasts easily one of the leading library collections for Okinawan Studies in the world, both in terms of books and journals, and primary sources. A considerable number of materials from the Miyara-dunchi collection, and from the personal collections of Ifa Fuyu and Nakahara Zenchû, are held at the university library. In collaboration with the University of Hawai'i, much of these materials have been digitized and are available online.

References

  • Katsunori Yamazato, “The Birth of a University: The Background and Some Problems Concerning the Establishment of the University of the Ryukyus,” Okinawan Journal of American Studies 1 (2004), 10-18.
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