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Fate of Amami

 
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Jaak
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:50 am    Post subject: Fate of Amami Reply with quote
The Amami Islands were annexed by Satsuma after conquest of Ryukyu. They had never before 1609 been subject to Satsuma, or Yamato.

Did Satsuma Domain, between 1611 and 1871, run Amami islands as an ordinary and equal part of Satsuma domain, or were there any special arrangements?

Also, what became of the aji of Amami Islands?

Exiled to Okinawa of the rump Ryukyu Kingdom? Deposed and dispossessed? Or recognized as retainers of Satsuma domain?
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lordameth
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I've been wondering these kinds of things for a while.

Though I don't think I've ever come across any detailed description of precisely how they were administered, I do get the impression that Amami and the other northern islands were, to a considerable degree, left alone in terms of their customs and culture. They may have been given samurai administrators, or given out as sub-fiefs or something, I'm not sure, but, I get the impression, they were not in any significant way transformed into resembling mainland Japan in terms of cultural practices and social structures. And, I do not think that Tokugawa or Shimazu laws were applied the same way - sumptuary laws or whathaveyou.

A 1952 article by Douglas Haring entitled "Amami Gunto: Forgotten Islands" speaks chiefly about the then-contemporary situation in the Amamis, in the immediate post-war. But, it touches very briefly on earlier history, saying that Satsuma purposefully limited Japanese influence upon the islands, and that Satsuma's chief interest in the islands was to have a monopoly on sugar production.

I'll poke around and see what more I can find about the administration of the Amamis, and what happened to the aji, etc.

One thing I have come across, though I can't quite remember where, was that while trade and travel between Ryukyu and mainland Japan was heavily controlled & restricted, on a small, local level, individual fishermen and the like continued to travel between Okinawa and Amami as they had before, with little or no restrictions. Amami was in this respect something of a fuzzy border zone, not so completely "Japanese" (or "Satsuma") in the sense of political borders that Ryukyuans would have been banned from entering, or that Amami people would have been banned from going to Okinawa.
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Nerroth
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Could the distinction have been part of the broader deception efforts which Satsuma were trying to pursue on the shogunate's behalf with regards to China?

I'm not sure if the efforts to convince the Ming and Qing dynasts that Ryukyu remained free of Japanese influence extended as far as making it seem that the Amami islands were still at least nominally under the writ of Shuri Castle. But if the islands were held under a relatively light touch in this time period, perhaps it might have helped maintain the illusion in case any Chinese diplomats were to ask questions at the Ryukyuan court.
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lordameth
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Certainly a possibility. I think it also points to the fuzziness of "national" boundaries in general at the time. As I understand it, it was only in the mid-to-late Edo period (or, even, Bakumatsu into Meiji) that the idea of hard-and-fast national borders really became a concept and a concern within the minds of Japanese authorities.

Ronald Toby and David Howell in particular, among others, have written about a concept of foreignness defined more by concentric circles, or by continual gradual increase of foreignness, of Otherness, as one moved away from Edo (or Kyoto). The Amamis are a great example of how "borders" were fuzzy in the south, much as the ever-changing boundaries between Ezochi & Wajinchi represent it in the north.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Saigo was exiled there in 1859, and Ravina talks about it in his biography. Below quotes him.
Amami Islands were after 1609 were not given the autonomy tha Ryukyu had. Instad they were ordered to pay taxes to the Satsuma domain.
They were culturally part of the Ryukyu culture, and even older, but Satsuma did little to change the culture. Natives handled most of the island's governance. But therre was crushing poverty. So savage was Satsuma rule that islanders still spoke of it in the 1950's. Much of the poverty was due to sugar cane production, which the domain started encouraging, even collection all taxes in sugar from 1746. Sugarcane production, more than rice production, was most efficient on a large scale. Sugar cane farming brought about chattel slaverry.
Saigo married a woman from Amami, but the marriage was only valid while he was living there. She could not leave with him, and he did not need to get a divorce to marry again.
So Amami was definately not considered a true part of Satsuma.
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