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Oyake Akahachi

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  • Japanese: 遠弥計赤蜂/オヤケアカハチ (Oyake Akahachi)

Oyake Akahachi was a Ryukyuan local chief (anji) of Ishigaki Island who led a rebellion against Okinawan authorities in 1500. Though the most famous or oft-discussed of the local leaders in the Sakishima Islands at this time, in fact Akahachi (and his rebellion) was just one part of a broader period of conflict in the area, as various factions and individuals vied for power in the islands.[1]

It is said that Akahachi was born on Hateruma Island, and that he was large and physically strong even as a child. He moved to Ishigaki Island as a young adult, and became the chief of Ôhama Village (today part of Ishigaki City) soon afterward. His influence soon extended over all of Ishigaki Island, and beyond, to other islands in the Yaeyama Islands group. At some point late in the 15th century, the nearby Miyako Islands were divided between two influential families, the Nakasone and Kaneshigawa, who were fighting one another for dominance of the area. Seeking to take advantage of the chaos and disunity, Akahachi proposed an invasion of the Miyako Islands. However, Nakasone Toyomiya led a counterattack against Akahachi, overwhelming his forces and moving on to attack Yonaguni Island as well.

At this time, the Kingdom of Ryûkyû, based at Shuri on Okinawa Island, did not yet have direct control over the Yaeyama or Miyako Islands, but merely expected tribute to be paid. Akahachi led the people of Ishigaki and the surrounding islands in revolt against the kingdom, refusing to pay taxes or tribute. A force of roughly 3000 troops was sent from Shuri by King Shô Shin in 1500, and the rebellion was suppressed.

While official records and histories produced by the Ryûkyû Kingdom label Oyake Akahachi as a rebel and a traitor, locally on Ishigaki and the surrounding islands he is known as a hero who sought to secure their freedom and independence. A stele in his honor can be found today in the Ôhama area of Ishigaki City.

References

  • George Kerr, Okinawa: the History of an Island People. (revised ed.) Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2000. p121.
  • "Oyake Akahachi." Okinawa rekishi jinmei jiten (沖縄歴史人名事典, "Encyclopedia of People of Okinawan History"). Naha: Okinawa Bunka-sha, 1996. p18.
  • Shinzato, Keiji et al. Okinawa-ken no rekishi (History of Okinawa Prefecture). Tokyo: Yamakawa Publishing, 1996. p57.
  1. Gregory Smits, "Rethinking Ryukyu," International Journal of Okinawan Studies 6:1 (2015), 5.
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