About the Center for Okinawan Studies

The Center for Okinawan Studies (COS) was established on July 1, 2008.  It is the eighth area studies center in the School of Pacific and Asian Studies (SPAS) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, joining the Centers for China, Japan, Korea, Pacific Islands, Philippines, South Asia and Southeast Asia.  It is the first center and the only center of its kind outside of Japan.  COS is a coordinating unit with a mission to promote the study of the Ryukyuan archipelago, Okinawa and the Okinawan diaspora by encouraging the development and offering of both credit and non-credit courses in the performing arts, history and social sciences, language and culture.  We also support the work of our affiliated faculty and students in academic units across the UH system.  We help to locate additional resources to carry out research, share those results, develop teaching resources, as well as expand and deepen this unique, but growing area of academic study.  COS has established and institutionalized educational collaborations with colleges and universities, both in and outside of Okinawa.  Finally, COS works collaboratively with many local community organizations.

About Okinawa

Okinawa is in many ways a paradigm of the Pacific island experience: once a kingdom whose dynamic trade relations throughout East and Southeast Asia helped connect an isolated Japan to the outside world, then a colony that epitomized Japan’s efforts to reshape Asia, then the final, bloody battleground of the Pacific War, and now a Japanese prefecture seeking to define itself even as larger political and economic forces still contest its land. Its language holds the key to understanding the ancient Japanese language. Its diasporic communities throughout the Pacific, and North and South America, have remained remarkably durable. It is now time to focus serious scholarly attention on this place.


Hawai‘i, Our Active Local Okinawan Community, and UH

Hawaii provides a unique locale for this work.  The foundation provided by Native Hawaiians has inspired and informed the foundation for explorations of various facets of Okinawan indigeneity.  Okinawa resonates in Hawaii precisely because of their parallel histories and circumstances.  Hawaii also boasts one of the largest and most actively engaged diasporic Okinawan communities, offering enviable opportunities, such as the annual Okinawan Festival, to share and learn about Okinawa.  Resources at UH have reached critical mass.  Recently developed courses in Okinawan Studies, Okinawan History, and Okinawan Language and Culture build on a tradition begun by the late professor William Lebra in the 1960s.  The UHM Library’s Sakamaki-Hawley Collection is one of the most important Okinawa-related collections in the world.  A steady stream of scholars and students from Okinawa continue to enrich our programs, while at the same time, they learn from our multicultural environment.  Additionally, the University of Hawaii Press has consistently published Okinawa-related works.  In fact it was the success of the Mitsugu Sakihara Okinawan-English Wordbook (UH Press, 2006) which demonstrated to us the viability of establishing a Center for Okinawan Studies at UH.  We continue to strive to build our resources for future generations of students and scholars.

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