Episode 23: Writing from Okinawa

Check out Episode 23 of the Read Literature podcast.

Transcript available.

In this episode, we’re talking about writing from Okinawa.

The history of the Ryukyu Islands, especially the Battle of Okinawa. The evolution of writing from Okinawa. And the life and work of author and activist Shun Medoruma, especially his Akutagawa-winning story “Droplets”.

CW: forced suicide (historical), violence (historical and fictional), historical rape

Correction: This episode claims Hokkaido is Japan’s largest island. I know better and misspoke. My apologies. Honshu is Japan’s largest island. Thank you to Dory Rand for bringing the mistake to my attention.

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More Writing from Okinawa:

More Writing by Shun Medoruma:

“Stories from the Streets of Koza” (translated by Sam Malissa; read for free at Words without Borders)

Find Out More

Isaac Meyer’s History of Japan Podcast on Japan and Okinawa, parts one (20 minutes) and two (twenty minutes). Episode two in particular is pretty grim because it digs into the history of the Battle of Okinawa.

Meyer covers Okinawa in several other episodes you might find useful:

  • “All in the Family” parts one (26 minutes), two (31 minutes), and three (27 minutes). The Satsuma Clan invaded the Ryukyu Islands during Japan’s Warring States Period.
  • “The American Outpost” (part one; 36 minutes) and “The American Interlude” (part two; 38 minutes)
  • “Fist of Legend”, parts one (26 minutes), two (29 minutes), three (28 minutes), and four (29 minutes). As Meyer discusses in this series, karate originates in the Ryukyu Islands.

The Ryukyu-Okinawa History and Culture Website. This site includes a document archive of useful primary sources like the Nimiz Proclamation that declared Okinawa under American control in the aftermath of WWII and the 1955 Melvin Price Report to the US Congress.

“Shattering Jewels: 110,000 Okinawans Protest Japanese State Censorship of Compulsory Group Suicides” by Kamata Satoshi in The Asia-Pacific Journal, 2008.

“Compulsory Mass Suicide, the Battle of Okinawa, and Japan’s Textbook Controversy” by Aniya Masaaki in The Asia-Pacific Journal, 2008.

A Ryukyu Shimpo obituary for Tatsuhio Oshiro, Okinawa’s first Akutagawa Prize winning author, 2020.

“We Cannot Allow Governor Nakaima to Falsify the History of the Battle of Okinawa” by Medoruma Shun in The Asia-Pacific Journal, 2012. Translated by Rumi Sakamoto and Matthew Allen.

An introduction to Medoruma’s novel In the Woods of Memory, including the first chapter, translated by Takuma Sminkey via The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Medoruma talks about his activism in “From the Deep Forests and Seas of Yambaru” at The Baffler. Translated by Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda.

Science on the US military base and the Okinawa dugong.

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun on Okinawa’s loss before Japan’s Supreme Court in December 2022.

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Japanese Literature at Goodreads

Other RJL Episodes of Interest:


Bhowmik, Davinder L. and Steve Rabson. “Introduction” in Islands of Protest: Japanese Literature from Okinawa. U of HI, 2016.

Bouterey, Susan. “Okinawa’s Fictional Landscapes: A Reading of Medoruma Shun’s ‘Suiteki’ (Droplets)” presented at Overseas Symposium 2016 in Otago, 2016. (free)

Faris, Wendy B. “The Question of Other: Cultural Critiques of Magical Realism” in Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Vanderbilt UP, 2004.

–. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke UP, 1995.

Ikeda, Kyle. “Writing and Remembering the Battle of Okinawa: War Memory and Literature” in Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature, ed. Rachael Hutchinson and Leith Morton, 2016. 

“Japan’s Population Drops in Every Prefecture Except Okinawa” at Nippon.com, 2022. (free)

Kamerer, Tamara. “Fantastic Realities: Magical Realism in Contemporary Okinawan Fiction” in Vienna Journal of East Asian Studies, 2014.

Medoruma Shun. “Even Cats Are Disgusted by the Media’s Support-the-Emperor Broadcasts, Refusing to Be Moved by Its Brainwashing Propaganda”. Translated by Steve Rabson. Appears in the article “Reflections on the Remaking of the Imperial Image in the Reiwa Era and Japanese Democracy” in The Asia-Pacific Journal, 2019. (free) 

–. “From the Deep Forest and Seas of Yambaru” Against the US Military Presence in Japan”. Translated by Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda at The Baffler, 2023. (free)

–. “We Cannot Allow Governor Nakaima to Falsify the History of the Battle of Okinawa”. Translated by Rumi Sakamoto and Matthew Allen at The Asia-Pacific Journal, 2012. (free)

Molasky, Michael and Steve Rabson. “Introduction” in Southern Exposure: Modern Japanese Literature from Okinawa. U of HI, 2000.

Muñoz, Jordi Serrano. “Droplets, by Medoruma Shun: Personal Guilt as Collective Responsibility” in Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, 2015. (free) 

Wang, Xiaoyu. “Constructing of the Image of Okinawa in Literature” (graduate paper posted by PhD candidate) at Academia.edu. (free)

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