Traditional Ryūkyū kumi-odori, karate … 165 prewar Okinawan photographs discovered (1)

165 photographs of people and landscapes of Okinawa before the war were discovered at the headquarter of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Ōsaka City. Previously, a negative of Okinawa in 1935 was found also at the Asahi Shimbun and introduced as “Reviving Okinawa 1935” in print and in a photo exhibition. However, this time the photographs included some from the older Taishō Era (1912–1926), which makes them valuable.

Most of them are printed on photographic paper. As far as could be confirmed the period is from 1921 to 1944. Most of them are from the current city of Naha, but there are also some from Ishigaki Island. The investigation was conducted in collaboration with the Okinawa Times, including for those photos of which the photographer is unknown.  These 165 photographs show the true faces of Okinawans who lived in such an era when the ties with Japan strengthened and the city and lifestyle of Okinawa changed drastically.

The photos below show a reenactment of the “Three Temples Visiting Procession” by the king of Ryūkyū. This was a procession with visits to Engakuji, Tennoji, and Tenkaiji temples. The procession in the photo was reproduced by the staff and students of the Prefectural 1st Middle School in Shuri in 1930 on occasion of the school’s 50th Anniversary Athletic Meet. This is the school where karate was first taken up officially as a regular curriculum. It is said that the baskets and umbrellas in the photo were borrowed from the former royal Shō Family. Participants wear a headgear called “hachimachi” and are dressed as officials of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.

In the procession various weapons are carried such as bō, naginata, and a long sasumata (刺股, spear fork).

Source: Ryūkyū traditional kumi-odori, karate … 165 prewar Okinawan photographs discovered (Ryūkyū dentō no kumiodori, karate… Senzen no Okinawa utsushi shita 165-mai o hakken). Asahi Shimbun, in collaboration with the Okinawa Times: Shiroma Tamotsu, Mano Keita, Shimazaki Mawaru, March 29, 2021.

© 2021, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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