If you live in Hawaii, you probably have more exposure to things Okinawan than most Americans. According to the University of Hawaii Center for Okinawan Studies, an estimated 45,000-50,000 Hawaii residents, including Gov. David Ige, have Okinawan roots. Local festivals and community events provide the chance to experience the culture of this once independent kingdom formerly known as Ryukyu.
Before it was annexed by Japan in 1879, Ryukyu played a unique role between its powerful and almost equally distant neighbors, China and Japan.
Today Okinawa prefecture includes dozens of inhabited and many more smaller uninhabited islands, yet in total it occupies only about one-seventh the area of the Hawaiian Islands. Okinawa island (by far the largest), is about 20 percent smaller (466 sq. miles) than Kauai but has a population over 20 times greater (1.4 million).