Amami Islands International Research Network (AIIRN)

IMG_2722.jpeg

Kikaijima, Amami Islands (photo by Evangelia Papoutsaki, 2017)

The Amami Islands context

"The Amami Islands communicative ecology has been shaped by their distinctive and diverse geographical and socio-cultural environment that has conditioned their inhabitants’ communicative sociality. Although these islands are seen as one group comprising of eight inhabited islands (Amami Ōshima, Kakeromajima, Yorojima, Ukejima, Kikaijima, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabujima and Yoronjima), each of them consists of a unique microcosm with distinctive identities.

Situated to the south of the Japanese archipelago, the Amami islands are part of Kagoshima Prefecture. They consist of one city, nine municipal towns and two municipal villages with a total population of about 110,000, more than half of which lives in the main island of Amami Ōshima. Amami city has a population of about 43,000. The islands have been experiencing depopulation and similarly to the mainland Japan, they are faced with an increasing aging population. The total population of the Amami Islands has decreased since 1955. In 60 years between 1955 and 2015, the population was reduced by 95,216 people (Kagoshima Prefectural Office 2018: 6). Infrastructure plays a significant role in communicative ecology as it enables information flows. In general, these Japanese islands are well supported infrastructure wise, with frequent flight and ferry connections and subsidized fares that enable not only connections with the mainland but inter and intra-island ones. The origins of this infrastructural development lie in the “Special Measures Law for the Reconstruction of the Amami islands” put in place by the Japanese government in 1954 to address the economic devastation of the Amami Islands after they reversed to Japan in 1953. This law has been revised and has had its term extended every five years until today. Since then, more than 2 trillion yen for operating expenses have been poured into the islands for the task. Projects entailing large scale modifications of the natural landscape such as roads and harbours occupy almost eighty percent of the entire budget (Kuwahara 2012: 42).

Amami Ōshima’s infrastructure system contains 37 tunnels and 20 ports that facilitate intra and inter-island communication. The tunnels have enabled land connection with communities that could have been reached only by boat in the past. The physical morphology of Amami Ōshima meant that several communities had developed distinctive cultures with their own dialects and forms of cultural expression that are still practiced today. Today, the tunnels along with the island’s FM radios are playing a significant role in not only connecting these communities across the island but also contributing to a pan island identity.

It has been argued that the collective Amami identity, resulting from Amami’s reversion to Japanese administration in 1953 - following eight years of US occupation - and Japanese modernization, has now shifted from “One Amami” to “Many Amamis” (Kuwahara 2016). Along with this distinctiveness, there are multiple overlapping layers, including the historical and cultural connections with Okinawa that are evidenced today in Yoron and Okinoerabu and to some degree in the other islands too.

Social reciprocity and horizontal and egalitarian relationships form an integral part of the islands’ communicative sociality. Unlike mainland Japan, Amami’s bilateral society is based on an ego-centered bilateral kin group called haroji that lacks a specific discriminatory ideology, and the membership could be traced bilaterally. Brothers and sisters were equally positioned. There was no hierarchy among the people in the same generation. Haroji functioned as a joint labor organization (Yui or Yuitaba) in agriculture. For example, they voluntarily united and worked together in sugarcane cultivation, re-thatching of straw roofs, and rituals and festivals (Nakatani 2013: 54). Yui is a manifestation of reciprocal relationships and is interwoven into the island communities’ social organization seen in such expressions as “lend yui” and “return yui” (Yamamoto 2001: 754). It is a principle that is manifesting today in the islands mediated communicative practices by informing the mission of island radios [...]

Similarly, another concept that of myar plays an important role in the Amamian culture and its communicative ecologies. Myar is the public square “where the residents gather and strengthen their cultural and religious ties” (Nishimura 2016: 44). It is where honensai (harvest festival) has been traditionally held in the summer during which community members engage in traditional dancing, music playing and sumo wrestling and where island storytelling takes place. This space has been adjusting to the changing needs of the island communities but it continues to play a symbolic role in connecting “the inner and outer elements of the community” (Nishimura 2016: 49). Uken FM in Amami Ōshima provides an example of that symbolic role that binds the community together through storytelling, a contemporary version of an “on-air” myar.

Amami shimauta is another important aspect of the islands cultural expression and identity and has a strong presence in the islands FM radio programs. Shimauta are folksongs in which high-pitched female and/or male voices are accompanied by the Amami sanshin (a three-stringed longneck lute) and sometimes by the chijin (drum) (Hayward and Kuwahara 2008: 65). The lyrics of these songs talk about the pain caused by forced labor, by the hardships of life, and by the separation of lovers and friends. Amami shimauta are closely related to the islands folk traditions such as hachigatsu odori (August dance) and uta asobi (singing game). Amami FM and its Asivi House have been contributing to the revitalization of shimauta that often results in hybrid new musical expressions."

(Excerpt from Papoutsaki, E. & Kuwahara, S. 2018. Mapping small islands communicative ecologies: a case study from Amami Islands. South Pacific Studies Journal, vol 31, vol 1.)

AIIRN is a SICRI initiative in partnership with the International Center for Island Studies (ICIS) at Kagoshima University in Japan.  It seeks to promote scholarship on Amami Islands by bringing together island scholars and cultural industry practitioners in the islands and sharing resources.

AIIRN Team:

Prof. Sueo Kuwahara (Kagoshima University)*

Prof. Philip Hayward (Editor SHIMA, former ICIS International Research Fellow)

Prof. Henry Johnson (Otago University, former ICIS International Research Fellow )

Associate Prof. Evangelia Papoutsaki (SICRI Co-convenor, former ICIS International Research Fellow)

* Prof. Sueo Kuwahara is Professor Emeritus at Kagoshima University, Japan. He specializes in cultural anthropology and island studies. He has carried out field research in Malaysia, Micronesia and the Satsunan Islands of Kagoshima prefecture, and has edited The Islands of Kagoshima, The Amami Islands, and The Osumi Islands. His research interests are in globalization, bullfighting, tourism, World Heritage, and natural disaster in island regions. He is a member of the SICRI network.  

800px-Amami_Islands-en.png

Topographic map of the w:Amami Islands (English version) (source: wikipedia)

IMG_6378.jpeg

All photos are provided  by Evangelia Papoutsaki

IMG_5756.jpeg
IMG_6198.jpeg
IMG_6356.jpeg

Related Links

Horizon: The Amami Archipelago online magazine

Amami Islands:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amami_Islands

https://samurai-archives.com/wiki/Amami_Islands

https://goontoamami.jp/en/amamiisland/

Amami Islands mapcart


Ryukyu Islands

Japan’s latest World Natural Heritage Site

Folk Music of the Amami Islands, Japan

Amami and Okinawa, World Natural Heritage, Amami Oshima Nature Conservation Council,

  

Amami Islands Tsumugi youtube videos

Selected Research Publication on the Amami Islands

(resources list under development )

Books

Kawai, Key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. 2013. The Amami Islands: Culture, Soceity, Industry and Nature, (Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands), Tokyo: Hokuto Shobo

 

Kawai, key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. 2013. The Islands of Kagoshima: Culuture, Society, Industry and Nature, Kagoshima: Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands.

 

Takamiya, Hiroto, Kei Kawai and Sueo Kuwahara eds. 2016. The Islands of Kagoshima: Culutre, Society, Industry and Natuer (in Japanese), Kagoshima: Nanpo Shinsha

 

Suzuki, E., S. Kuwahara, M. Hira, T. Yamamoto, S. Sakamaki and K. Kawai (eds). 2016. Biodiversity and preservation: A case of the Amami Islands (in Japanese). Tokyo: Hokuto Shobo.

IMG_4537.jpeg
IMG_9447.jpeg
IMG_6413.jpeg

Chapters

 

Hayward, Philip and Sueo Kuwahara. 2016. Amami Shima Uta: Sustaining a Vernacular Popular Island Music in the Shadow of Mainstream Japanese Culture, Huib Schippers & Catherine Grand eds. SUSTAINABLE FUTURES FOR MUSIC CULTURES: An Ecological Perspective. Oxford University Presspp.209-238.

 

Hayward, Philip and Sueo Kuwahara. 2016. Cycads, Food and Cultural Landscapes in the Amami Islands (in Japanese), Kawai, Key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. The Islands of Kagoshima: Culuture, Society, Industry and Nature, Kagoshima: Nanposhinsha, pp.56-71   

 

Hayward, Philip and Sueo Kuwahara. 2013. Cycads, Sustenance and Culutral Landscapes in the Amami Islands, Kawai, Key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. The Islands of Kagoshima: Culuture, Society, Industry and Nature, Kagoshima: Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2001. Amami Oshima: The Garapagos of the Orient, in Aoyama Toru ed. Beyond Satsuma: Satsuma Islands Accepting the 21st Century Challenge, Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands, pp.64-77.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo and Dajeong Song. 2016. Tourism in Amami Islands. In Kawai, Key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. The Amami Islands: Culture, Society, Industry and Nature, Tokyo: Hokutoshobo, pp.50-62.                                                              

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2016. Research Issues in the Culture and Society of Amami Islands. In Kawai, Key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. The Islands of Kagoshima: Culuture, Society, Industry and Nature, Kagoshima: Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands, 3-30.   cpi.kagoshima-u.ac.jp/The Islands of Kagoshima PDF/2-The_Island_of_Kagoshima.pdf

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2016. Culture and Society in the Islands of Kagoshima. In Kawai, Key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. The Islands of Kagoshima: Culuture, Society, Industry and Nature, Kagoshima: Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands,  pp.2-4.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2016. Culture and Society of the Amami Islands. In Kawai, Key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. The Amami Islands: Culture, Society, Industry and Nature, Tokyo: Hokutoshobo, pp.2-6.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2016. Efforts toward the conservation of biodiversity (in Japanese), Kagoshima University Biodiversity Study Group ed., Biodiversity of the Amami Islands, Kagoshim: Nanpo Shinsha, pp.361-389.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2013. Research Issues in the Culture and Society of Amami Islands. In Kawai, Key, Ryuta Terada and Sueo Kuwahara eds. The Islands of Kagoshima: Culuture, Society, Industry and Nature, Kagoshima: Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands, pp.5-13. 

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2016. Practice of Environmental Preservation in Amami Oshima Island (in Japanese). In Suzuki, t., S. Kuwahara, M. Hira, T. Yamamoto, S. Sakamaki and K. Kawai eds, Biodiversity and preservation: A case of the Amami Islands, Tokyo: Hokuto Shobo, pp. 45-48

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2011. Globalization and Bullfighting (in Japanese). In Takeuchi, Katsunori, Tetsuya Tonai, Akira Nishimura eds. Area Studies of Crossborder, Kagoshima: Nanpo Shinsha, pp.121-137.

Articles

 

Johnson, Henry. M. and Kuwahara, Sueo.  2017. North Meets South: Eisā and the Wrapping of Identity on Okinoerabu Island, Japan. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 11 (2): 38–55 [ISSN  1834-6057]  http://shimajournal.org/issues/v11n2/f.-Johnson-Kuwahara-Shima-v11n2.pdf

 

Johnson, Henry. M. 2016. Amami Park and Island tourism: Sea, Land and Islandness at a Site of Simulation. Tourism and Hospitality Research 16 (1): 88–99 [Print ISSN: 1467-3584; Online ISSN: 1742-9692] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1467358415581444

 

Johnson, Henry. M. and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2015. Drum Travel: Ensemble Drumming Traditions on Kikaijima—Cultures, Histories, Islands. Asian Music 46 (1): 110-145 [ISSN 0044-9202; E-ISSN 1553-5630] https://muse.jhu.edu/article/562908/pdf

 

Johnson, Henry. M. and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2013. Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands: Mapping New Performance Traditions. South Pacific Studies 34 (1): 13-39 [ISSN 0916-0752] http://cpi.kagoshima-u.ac.jp/publications/southpacificstudies/sps/sps34-1/South%20Pacific%20Studies%2034(1)%20pp13-39.pdf

 

Johnson, Henry. M and Kuwahara. Sueo 2013. Locating Shima in Island Drumming: Amami Ōshima and its Archipelagic Drum Groups. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 7 (1): 14-38 [ISSN 1834-6049] http://shimajournal.org/issues/v7n1/d.-Johnson-&-Kuwahara-Shima-v7n1-14-38.pdf

 

Johnson, Henry and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2016. SAKURAJIMA: Maintaining an Island Essence, Shima:The International  Journal of Research into Island Cultures, Vol.10, No.1, pp.48-66.

 

Hayward, Philip and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2012. SOTETSU HERITAGE: Cycads, sustenance and cultural landscapes in the Amami Islands, Locale: The Australasian-Pacific Journal of Regional Food Studies, No.2, pp.26-46.

 

Hayward, Philip and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2014. Takarajima: A Treasured Island Exogeneity, Folkloric Identity and Local Branding, Journal of Marine and Island Cultures, 3(1), 20-30 (online publication).

 

Hayward, Phillip and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2008. Transcience and Durability: Music Industry Initiatives, Shima Uta and the Maintenance of Amami Culture, Perfect Beat: the pacific journal of research into contemporary music and popular culture, Vol.8, No.4, pp.44-63.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2012. The development of small islands in Japan: An historical perspective, Journal of Marine and Island Cultures 1, pp. 38-45.                       

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2011. Development and Conservation: Issues Relevant to the World Natural Heritage Listing of Amami, South Pacific Studies, 31(2), pp.81-91

 

Kuwahara, Sueo, Takahiro Ozaki and Akira Nishimura. 2007. Transperipheral Networks: Bullfighting and Cattle Culture in Japan's Outer Islands, Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, Vol.1 No.2, pp.1-13.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo, Takahiro Ozaki and Akira Nishimura. 2007. Bullfighting and The Formation of 'Periphery-Periphery Network (in Japanese)' in East Asia, South Pacific Studies, 27(2), pp. 53-72.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo, Akira Nishimura and Takahiro Ozaki. 2007. The Frontiers of Bullfighting Network: Museums in Japan and Overseas Cases (in Japanese), Kadaishigaku No. 54, pp. 1-31.                                 

 

Papoutsaki, Evangelia and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2021. Akina: An Ecocultural Portrait of an Island Community Through the Photographic Lens of Futoshi Hamada. OJIS: Okinawan Journal of Island Studies, Volume 2 (March 2021).

 

Papoutsaki, Evangelia and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2018. Mapping small islands communicative ecologies: a case study from Amami Islands. South Pacific Studies Journal, vol 31, vol 1.

 

Song, Dajeong and Kuwahara, Sueo 2016. Ecotourism and World Natural Heritage: Its influence on Islands in Japan, Journal of Marine and Island Cultures, 5, 36-46 (online publication).

IMG_5972.jpeg
IMG_4128.jpeg
IMG_4362.jpeg
IMG_6017.jpeg
IMG_6349.jpeg

Proceedings/Reports/Other

 

Hayward, Phillip and Kuwahara, Sueo. 2008. Retaining Shima in Shima Uta: Music as Mnemonic Expression of Heritage in Contemporary Kakeroma, Novaczek, Irene ed., Refereed Papers from The 3RD International Small Island Cultures Conference held at the University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Prince Edward  Island, Canada, 29 June- 2 July 2007, pp.64-68.

 

Ozaki, Takahiro, Akira Nishimmura and Sueo Kuwahara. 2007. Formation and Characteristics of "Periphery-Periphery Network" -a case study of the "Bullfighting Network (in Japanese)", Cultural Science Reports of Kagoshima University, No. 65, pp. 25-48.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2011. Present situation of the revitalization of tourism in Yoronjima Island (in Japanese), Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands Occasional Papers, No.52, pp.21-30.     

 

Kuwahara, Sueo, Takahiro Ozaki and Akira Nishimura. 2006. Preliminary Study of "Network Formation on Bullfight in the Coastal Area of East Asia (in Japanese)" 2 − a Case Study of Yaeyama, Cultural Science Reports of Kagoshima University, No.64, pp. 51-83.  

 

Nishimura, Akira, Sueo Kuwahara and Takahiro Ozaki. 2006. A Comparative Study on Bullfight in Okinawa, Tokunoshima, and Uwajima (in Japanese), Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands Occasional Papers, No.46, pp.167-179.                                                          

 

Ozaki, Takahiro, Sueo Kuwahara and Nishimura Akira. 2006. Preliminary Study of "Network Formation on Bullfight in the Coastal Area of East Asia"(in Japanese), Cultural Science Reports of Kagoshima University, No.63, pp.31-58.

 

Ozaki, T, A. Nishimura and S. Kuwahara. 2006. Information transmission and network formation on bullfighting (in Japanese), Amami Newsletter, No. 27, pp.9-17

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2005. Rethinking Development in Amami, Research Center for Local Rule in Kagoshima Prefecture ed., The Amami Post-War History: Changes in various aspects including politics, economy, society, culture, and nature, Kagoshima: Nanpo Shinsha, pp.185-220. 

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2005. Tourism and Regional Development in Yoron Island (in Japanese), Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands Occasional Papers, No.42, pp.90-96.

 

Kuwahara, Sueo. 2004. Anthropological Research in Amami Under the U.S. Military

Governement (in Japanese), Amami Newsletter, No. 2, pp.10-16.

 

Ishiguro, Etsuji, Sueo Kuwahara and Yoshihiko Uemura. 2001. Kikai: Becoming an Agricultural Island, Aoyama, Toru ed., Beyond Satsuma: Satsuma Islands Accepting the 21st Century Challenge, Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacific Islands, pp.78-91.

IMG_1148.jpeg
IMG_5911.jpeg
IMG_1192.jpeg
IMG_4189.jpeg
IMG_0346.jpeg
IMG_5747.jpeg
IMG_0024.jpeg
IMG_6210.jpeg
IMG_4586.jpeg
IMG_4183.jpeg
IMG_0149.jpeg