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(ō'kĭnä`wä), island (1990 pop. 1,222,458), 454 sq mi (1,176 sq km), W Pacific Ocean, SW of Kyushu; a part of Okinawa prefecture, Japan. It is the largest of the Okinawa Islands in the Ryukyu IslandsRyukyu Islands
, Jap. Ryukyu-retto or Nansei-shoto [southwest group], archipelago (1990 est. pop. 1,500,000), c.1,850 sq mi (4,790 sq km), SW Japan, in the W Pacific Ocean.
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 archipelago. NahaNaha
, city (1990 pop. 304,836), on Okinawa island, in the Ryukyu Islands, Japan. A port on the southwest coast, it is also the chief manufacturing center of the island. In 1853, Commodore Perry chose Naha as his first base for the penetration of Japan.
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 is the largest city and chief port. Okinawa is a long, narrow, irregularly shaped island of volcanic origin with coral formations in the southern part. The northern part is mountainous, rising to 1,657 ft (505 m), and has dense vegetation. Most of the island's population is in the south. Okinawa has a humid subtropical climate. Sugarcane, sweet potatoes, and rice are grown, sugar is refined, cattle are raised, and fishing and tourism are important. There is some light industry in Naha.

Okinawa was the scene of the last great U.S. amphibious campaign in World War II. U.S. army and marine forces landed there on Apr. 1, 1945, and fought one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war, while the navy offshore suffered heavy damage in resisting attacks by suicide planes (see kamikazekamikaze
[Jap.,=divine wind], the typhoon that destroyed Kublai Khan's fleet, foiling his invasion of Japan in 1281. In World War II the term was used for a Japanese suicide air force composed of fliers who crashed their bomb-laden planes into their targets, usually ships.
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). The Japanese garrison, having lost 103,000 of its 120,000 men, ended organized resistance on June 21, 1945. U.S. casualties were 48,000, one fourth listed as dead. Okinawa was placed in Aug., 1945, under a U.S. military governor and remained under U.S. control until May, 1972, when it was returned to Japan. U.S. military bases were allowed to remain on the island; about three quarters of the American forces based in Japan are in Okinawa. Opposition to the bases from local residents grew in the mid-1990s, and in 2006 the United States and Japan agreed to redeploy 8,000 U.S. marines to Guam and relocate other U.S. forces from the greater Naha area to another part of Okinawa. In 2009 a new Japanese government reconsidered the plan but ultimately accepted (2010) it, and a revised agreement was reached in 2012. Progress on the relocation agreement was slow, however, due to local opposition.


See J. Belote and W. Belote, Typhoon of Steel: The Battle for Okinawa (1970).



a prefecture in Japan, encompassing several of the Ryukyu Islands. The largest island, Okinawa, accounts for more than 50 percent of the prefecture’s total area of 2,200 sq km. The population was 1 million in 1975, with about 59 percent of the inhabitants living in urban areas. The central and southern parts of Okinawa are the most densely settled. The administrative and economic center is Naha.

Okinawa’s economy is based on agriculture. About 53,000 hectares (ha) were under cultivation in 1970, and the chief crops were rice (10,000 tons harvested; about 90,000 tons imported), vegetables (50,000–60,000 tons harvested), sugarcane (about 2 million tons), and pineapples (70,000 tons). Tobacco and tea are also raised. There is some livestock raising (28,000 head of cattle). Fishing is important (annual tuna catch, 36,000 tons), as well as the production of cultured pearls. The principal industries are food processing (sugar refining and fruit canning), woodworking, and the production of textiles and cement. There is also a petrochemical plant. Cottage industries produce garments, as well as lacquer ware and other art objects. The Iri-omote National Park is in the prefecture, and tourism is an important source of revenue.

Until the end of World War II, the Ryukyu Islands belonged to Japan, forming the prefecture of Okinawa. In June 1945 the Ryukyu Islands were occupied by the USA. Under the San Francisco peace treaty, concluded with Japan in 1951, the USA obtained full administrative, legislative, and judicial authority over the islands and subsequently established air force, navy, and missile bases there. During the 1960’s the movement to regain the Ryukyu Islands spread throughout Japan. Negotiations between the USA and Japan, begun in December 1969, concluded with the signing of an agreement on June 17, 1971, under which all administrative, legislative, and judicial authority in the Ryukyu Islands reverted to Japan. The agreement took effect on May 15, 1972, when the Ryukyu Islands again became the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. The USA retained control of 54 military bases on the islands, as well as military installations at 34 other military sites that were turned over to Japan.




the largest of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. It stretches for 110 km from northeast to southwest and has an area of 1,254 sq km.

Okinawa is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea. Much of its deeply indented coastline is fringed by coral reefs. The northeastern and central parts of the island have a low-mountain relief with a maximum elevation of 498 m; the mountains are composed chiefly of shale, limestone, and sandstone. The remaining territory is a low-lying plain. The island has a tropical, monsoonal climate, with an annual precipitation ranging from 1,300 to 2,000 mm. Typhoons occur frequently in summer and autumn. Much of the humid tropical forests have been cut down and replaced by shrubs, bamboo thickets, rice fields, and plantations of pineapples, sweet potatoes, and sugarcane. The principal city is the port of Naha.


Mekler, G. K. Okinava. Moscow, 1969.


scene of American amphibian operations during WWII (1945). [Am. Hist.: EB, VII: 505]
See: Battle


a coral island of SW Japan, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands in the N Pacific: scene of heavy fighting in World War II; administered by the US (1945--72); agricultural. Chief town: Naha City. Pop.: 1 273 508 (1995). Area: 1176 sq. km (454 sq. miles)
References in periodicals archive ?
is considering shutting down its plants in Hyogo and Okinawa prefectures in fiscal 2003, sources close to the plan said Monday.
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remaining free from regulations on ''dominant'' mobile phone operators despite it having a dominant share in Okinawa Prefecture.
Russia said Thursday its abandoned space station Mir may fly over islands in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture and its vicinity, implying Wednesday's safety notice for Japan only refers to its main islands.
Marine Corps flew two MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft from its Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture for the second straight day Friday, amid mounting local opposition to the deployment of the vertical takeoff and landing planes.
Air China inaugurated a regular flight service between Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, and Beijing on Wednesday, becoming the second Chinese airline to do so.
The new law aims specifically at luring financial and information technology (IT) firms to Okinawa Prefecture.
People of Okinawa Prefecture on Thursday celebrated the addition of a group of ancient monuments and castle ruins in the prefecture including the ruins of Shuri Castle to the World Heritage List, becoming the 11th entry from Japan to make the list.
military's use of an airport to be built in Okinawa Prefecture.