The Ryukyu Islands (琉球列島 Ryūkyū-rettō) are an island group, the southern portion belonging to Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and the northern part belonging to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The archipelago is home to the Ryukyuan language family.
The Ryukyu Kingdom was once an independent kingdom occupying the island chain, from Yonaguni Island in the southwest to Amami Oshima in the north. In 1372, it obtained tributary status to the Chinese emperor. A 1609 expedition from Satsuma on Kyushu captured the kingdom. After that, the kings of the Ryukyus paid tribute to the Japanese shogun as well as the Chinese emperor.
In 1879, the Meiji government announced the annexation of the Ryukyus. 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 Ryukyu's history. Some Ryukyuans and some Japanese feel that people from the Ryukyus are not "real" Japanese. Some natives of the Ryukyus claim that the central government is discriminating against the islanders by allowing so many American soldiers to be stationed on bases in Okinawa with a minimal presence on the mainland.
Many popular singers and musical groups come from the Ryukyus. These include (among many others) the pop group Begin, singer Amuro Namie and the group Da Pump. See also Ryukyuan songs.
The article incorporates text from OpenHistory.