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Ryukyu Islands
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Ryukyu Islands

Ryūkyū Islands or Lūchū Islands (南西諸島【なんせいしょとう】 or 琉球列島【りゅうきゅうれっとう】) is the name of the island group between the islands of Kyūshū and Taiwan. Ryūkyū Islands in Japanese is Nansei Shotō or less frequently Ryūkyū Rettō. The northern half is known as Satsunan Shotō, belonging to Kagoshima prefecture, Japan, while the southern half is known as Ryūkyū Shotō, belonging to Okinawa prefecture, Japan. The archipelago is home to the Ryūkyūan languages; family.

The Ryūkyū Kingdom was once an independent kingdom. In the 1600s, it obtained tributary status to the Chinese emperor (and therefore theoretically should come to their aid if necessary). A 1609 expedition from Satsuma on Kyūshū captured the Kingdom. After that, the kings of the Ryūkyūs paid tribute to the Japanese emperor as well as the Chinese emperor.

In 1879, the Meiji government announced the annexation of the Ryūkyūs;. China objected and the ex-President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant was asked to arbitrate. He decided that Japan's claim to the islands was stronger and ruled in Japan's favor.

Today, there are a host of problems arising from the Ryūkyūs' less-than-Japanese history. Some Ryūkyūans (and some Japanese as well) feel that people from the Ryūkyūs are not "real" Japanese. Also, some natives of the Ryūkyūs claim that the central government is discriminating against them by allowing so many American soldiers to be stationed in Okinawa, a far higher percentage than are stationed anywhere else in Japan.

Many popular singers and musical groups come from the Ryūkyūs. These include (among many others) singer Amuro Namie and the group Da Pump. See also Ryūkyūan songs;.