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Treatment of Okinawans on the Mainland and Overseas

Poor treatment of Okinawans continued to persist outside of the prefecture, as evidenced by treatment of Okinawans when traveling to other parts of Japan to work or receive education. When traveling to other prefectures, the local Japanese populations often acted antagonistically to these Okinawan "foreigners," who spoke a different language and practiced different "alien" customs. Many Okinawans were forced to settle in the Buraku "outcast" districts due to poverty and discrimination from the general population. Thus, for a great deal of time, Okinawans suffered discrimination on a par with that experienced by Burakumin or Koreans in moving to the mainland of Japan. Yet many were also able to integrate easily into the general population, though to do so they had to drop any cultural referents to their Okinawan heritage, and wholeheartedly embrace Japanification. In many ways, the end of the Sino-Japanese War and the winning of control over Formosa (now Taiwan), brought some alleviation to the Okinawans' plight, both by ending Okinawa's place as a "frontier area" and also by demonstrating, by comparison, how similar Okinawans were to Japanese. Clearly, in terms of the Okinawan people and the people of Formosa, the cultural similarities between the Okinawans and the Japanese people far outnumbered the cultural differences that Japan needed to overcome with the people of Formosa.

Discriminatory treatment towards Okinawans even occurred overseas, after the first migratory wave of Okinawans in the late 1800's and early 1900's. With massive industrialization being augmented in Okinawa and Japan, the peasant class throughout Okinawa and Japan paid for many of these programs, and many peasant revolts occurred during this period of time in resistance to these burdens. Additionally, many Okinawans not only went to other parts of Japan to find work, but also went to other countries, such as the then-Territory of Hawai'i, Peru, or Brazil. Often, these expatriates would send home wages to support families in Okinawa, and these funds contributed significantly towards bolstering the faltering Okinawan economy. Yet, even when Okinawans worked overseas in places like Hawai'i, for example, there existed an ethnically segregated wage system, where Okinawans found themselves earning less than other Japanese in the same industries.







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