It's Mokie's Blog

11 Sep 2020

Modern Japanese Commemoratives - Okinawa

Coins-World | It's Mokie

I was born on the island of Okinawa while it was still under the administration of the U.S. Military, but I have no memory of it since I left the island at the age of 5 months. I have lived on the main Japanese island of Honshu and have also visited there since leaving for the United States. But despite my very short and very forgotten memories of Okinawa, I still have a real feeling of kinship with the people of that island.

As most of you are aware, the battle for Okinawa was the last great campaign of World War II. Almost 50,000 U.S. military personnel were killed or wounded, and Japanese casualties were well over 100,000. It was a bloody affair and unlike Iwo Jima, it was a conflict fought in and around the large Okinawan civilian population. It would be hard to imagine the horrors that must have been seen by soldiers and civilians during that brutal campaign.

Oddly enough, Okinawan people, then and even now, do not think of themselves as Japanese. The Kingdom of the Ryukyus with Okinawa as its center was a vassal state of the Chinese formed in the early 1400's. About 200 years later, Japanese invaders from Kyushu, the southernmost of the 4 main Japanese islands, attacked the Kingdom and forced it to become a vassal state of a Kyushu-based Japanese Warlord. They still had to pay tribute to China though, so Okinawa was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. This rather unpleasant state existed until 1879 when the Meiji Emperor annexed the Kingdom in a shotgun wedding that included losing part of the Kingdom to the Chinese. So, memories remain and Okinawans were not the most satisfied campers in the Japanese Empire.

The aftermath of World War II included the occupation of Japan by allied forces from 1945 to 1952. Although the U.S. maintains major military bases in Japan to this day, the formal occupation of the main 4 islands ended in 1952. but poor little Okinawa was excluded from this agreement and continued to be occupied (governed) by the U.S. until 1972. When I was born in 1958, my U.S. Army Father was the Military Fire Chief for the island. I still have a beautifully framed certificate given to my Dad by the Okinawans, Japanese on one side, English on the other, thanking him for his service in keeping Okinawa safe during his 2 years as Fire Chief. As an aside, once my Dad got stationed at Camp Zama on the main island, the Camp Zama Fire Chiefs 4-year-old son (mokie) started a grass fire in our base housing units backyard. My Dad always used to tell that story to anyone who would listen, I guess he was amused by the irony.

Japan has minted 4 coins that honor Okinawa in some way.

1. The 1975 Okinawa Ocean Expo 100 Yen coin was issued to promote and commemorate a large exposition in Okinawa meant to stimulate the economy and create tourism. This Expo was also meant to continue the economic redevelopment of Okinawa in the aftermath of the 27-year U.S. occupation, and a means to reintroduce Okinawa to the main Japanese population. It has worked well as now Okinawa is an extremely popular resort destination for many Korean, Chinese, and Japanese tourists.

2. The 1992 20th anniversary of the Return of Okinawa to Japanese control 500 Yen featuring Shuri Castle, the original home of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

3. The 2012 Okinawa Prefecture (statehood) 500 Yen coin with an image of Okinawans engaging in their annual tug of war.

4. The 2012 Okinawa Prefecture 1000 Yen with an image of a native dancer in front of the same Shuri Castle that was once the center of the Ryukyus Kingdom.

I hope you enjoyed this little journey into the history of Okinawa, it is a place I would love to visit someday


Long Beard

Level 5

Yet another interesting and fascinating subject.


Level 7

This is a blog I can appreciate. I knew some of the history but never saw the coins and the politics between the U.S. and the Empire of Japan. Very interesting. I'm very happy I got up nearly today. I have some time to read blogs. I always like yours. The coins are great. So is the blog.


Level 6

Nice blog. A lot of thought went into it.


Level 5

Sounds like your family had a great experience as a military family. Thanks for sharing your life adventures with us. Like hearing about how collectors got interested in certain areas of coin collecting. Nice Okinawa coins. The more foreign coins i see, the more i cant wait to go to a coin show and look at foreign coins.

Sounds like you've had some great memories there! It truly is a place of beauty, culture, and wonder. The 1992 500 yen piece is my favorite, I love the building on it. Thanks for sharing!


Level 5

I will just bet your Dad got a kick out of telling that story over and over and over. Yeah, it seems parents can sometimes really get a kick outa stuff that we as kids would rather forget. lol. The history of Okinawa is fascinating and the coins are just beautiful. Others sharing and displaying the coins they enjoy is just one of the things I love about this group. Now these coins just seem to be a part of me, I will not turn away if I see one for sale in the future. Thank you for expanding my knowledge and appreciation.


Level 5

WOW Mokie ! What a fantastic story. I also had a uncle who was a POW over there. He still had a Japanese sword that hung over his couch as a souvenir. He indicated that the Japanese had the BEST diet in the world if you wanted to loose weight. They fed you a steady diet of rice!! LOL My question is if your father was in the Army, what happened to you? Just kiddin' ya! Great post buddy, thanks for sharing! BTW I'm partial to the coin that has the tug of war on it!

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Nice! I learned more about history and more about you. I see you survived the wrath of the Fire Chief! Bet you felt chagrined every time Dad told it. I have a thing for fire, but contain it in the grill and the campfire.... Douse, stir, douse, stir and douse again, the way they taught me in the boy scouts!


Level 6

Si Little Mokie was a fire bug. Interesting. Fantastic blog. I have another friend that was born their. He too does not consider himself Japanese. He is Okinawan. Also a proud man. Beautiful coins and medals. Thanks for sharing your personal story. I hope you get there some day. Thanks.


Level 5

Thanks for sharing. I really like your story and related coins.

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