It was not until the tail end of the 19th century that Okinawa formally became part of Japan and Okinawans have long felt distinct from the rest of Japan. Sentiments of neglect and abandonment from Tokyo — and, by extension, Japan — still rage to this day. Historically, Okinawa was its own kingdom, and although it was heavily influenced by its powerful neighbors it enjoyed a great degree of sovereignty over internal affairs. Since that time, the island chain has endured comprehensive political, economic and social transformations in order to be recognized as being just as authentically “Japanese.”
“The Limits of Okinawa” explores this transformation from the angle of both the Okinawan elite and peasant classes. The premise of the book is that the once rigidly segregated class-based society was unified during this time to create a single identity. The elite’s battle to retain their status during a time of transition is analyzed, but the main focus of the book is the clash between local mainland capitalists over drastic changes to Okinawa’s island economy.