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Okinoerabujima

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  • Japanese: 沖永良部島 (Oki no erabu jima)

Okinoerabu Island is one of the Amami Islands, located south of Tokunoshima and north of Yoronjima in the broader Ryukyu Islands chain. One of the island's many claims to fame is a banyan tree said to be the largest in all of Japan.[1]

According to divine songs such as shima watari nu umui, Okinoerabu was the first of the Ryûkyû Islands, forming out of a floating mass in the sea and then multiplying in some fashion to spread islands out to the north, and then to the south. A number of legends, songs, and the like from Okinawa Island and elsewhere suggest an ancestral or legendary origin on Okinoerabu.[2]

Consisting primarily of flatland atop a raised coral reef, Okinoerabu was historically one of the chief islands for pasturing horses. The "lord of Okinoerabu" is strongly associated with horses in the Omoro sôshi, which indicates that he has "a herd of horses ... at his disposal," and that "this remote lord attaches a golden saddle and rides down to Yowa harbor." The Ryukyu Kingdom as well as various wakô groups sourced their horses from Okinoerabu, among other locations.

Okinoerabu was also one of four places where the Tsukishiro form of the deity Hachiman was historically worshipped.

In the early 15th century, the island was home to the wakô chieftain Guraru Magohachi (aka Goran Magohatsu), who is also mentioned in the omoro. Another prominent 15th century leader on the island is known only as Yononushi, a term which literally means "lord of the world" or "lord of the realm"; a shrine dedicated to him and a site said to be his grave can both be found on the island.[1]

Okinoerabu first came under the authority of the daikan appointed by Satsuma domain to oversee Amami Ôshima in 1690.[3]

Saigô Takamori was exiled to Okinoerabu for a brief period, beginning in 1862/8.[4]

References

  • Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 71.
  1. 1.0 1.1 Gallery labels, Amami no Sato, Amami Park.
  2. Smits, 109.
  3. Ono Masako, Tomita Chinatsu, Kanna Keiko, Taguchi Megumi, "Shiryô shôkai Kishi Akimasa bunko Satsuyû kikô," Shiryôhenshûshitsu kiyô 31 (2006), 244.
  4. Plaque at site of Saigô's death, Shiroyama, Kagoshima.[1]
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