History and Culture

Kume Island is a place rich with a long and unique history. As a type of crossroads it has prospered through the ages, even as politics, governments, and time has shifted.

Due to Kume Island's unique geology and tall mountains, unlike most islands, Kume is rich in water. It is no wonder then that the island was settled early in history and became a stopover between the Ryukyu Kingdom and China.

There are many historical sights and objects to see around the island, and the Cultural Center and Museum has much to see and learn. There are several suggested half-day driving courses to fit in many of the historic Kume Island locations. Check them out or download a copy.

Historic and Cultural Locations

  • MuseumCultural Center and Museum

    Kumejima's Cultural Center holds a muesum full of artifacts and information from Kumejima's long history. It also houses a archival libarary and interesting sites around the ground.

  • Tenkougu ShrineTenkougu Shrine

    Tenkougu is a shrine presented to the islanders by a Chinese Ambassador after they rescued him from shipwreck.

  • TsumugiTsumugi Pavilion

    The Tsumugi Pavilion is the place to learn about the hand woven Pongee silk made at the facility. It includes both demonstration area, shop, and museum.

  • Uezu House FrontUezu Historic House

    The house of a former Magiri (district) governor during the Ryukyu Kingdom, the beautifully preserved wooden house demonstrates tradition and style all at once.

  • ChinbeiChinbei Shrine

    Chinbei is a large prayer place in the Nakachi Area of Kume Island along the main ring road. It is the place where the Chinbei or High Priestess prays during major religious events.

  • ChinbeiShita Aka

    One of Kume Island's lost villages can be found at the base of the Hiyajo Cliffs. The abandoned village's ancient paths and walls are still present.

  • Namida RockSonami Beacon and Namida Rock

    Kumejima's Cultural Center holds a muesum full of artifacts and information from Kumejima's long history. It also houses a archival libarary and interesting sites around the ground.

  • Old Nakazato Government Grounds

    The location of the Magiri-era government grounds. Today only the outer walls remain. The interior is used as a place to play gett-ball.

  • Nakahara ZenchuNakahara's Birthplace

    The birthplace of Nakahara Zenchu is currently under restoration.

Ancient History

The first appearance of Kume Island in Japanese history occurs in the Shoku Nihonji, the second of the Six National Histories*. According to a Guide book created after the creation of Kumejima Town in 2004, islanders arrived with a courtier named To Keji from an island called Ryubi in the year 714. Ryubi is considered to be Kume Island.

Okinawa's official history marks Kume Island's first tribute to the Chuzan Kingdom with Kerama and Iheya in 1264.

Kume Island was settled at different locations and times with initial settlers staying near the shallows for the easy acess to shellfish. They later moved higher into the mountains and began cultivating the land. The ruins of one of Kume Island's lost villages still stands today.

Ryukyu Kingdom Era

An old Okinawan folk song collection compiled in the 16th century and edited in 1623 titled "Omorosaushi Vol. 21" contains a title "Omorosaushi of Two Magiri in Kumejima." Magiri were districts during the Ryukyu Kingdom similar in size to villages, cities, and towns, but were politically more like Japan's modern prefectures.

The song notes that Kume Island was divided into Nakazato and Gushikawa magiri in the 16th century. These two magiri were added to the Ryukyu Kingdom of King Shouen between 1470 and 1476. They remained the same until the reign of Shoushitsu in the 1660s.

There were two governing bodies, known as kuramoto, located in Maja (for Nakazato Magiri) and Kanegusuku (for Gushikawa Magiri). They governed the island jointly, and were led by officials from the Shuri government on the Okinawa mainland. The residence of the governor of Kanegusuku still stands today at Uezu Historical House. Walls still stand around what used to be the Nakazato governemnt offices.

Modern History

When clans were abolished in 1879 a new Kumejima Bansho guard station was created to administer the still separate Magiri. In 1908, the Magiri were transferred to the village system in Okinawa. According to Kumejima Town's first Mayor, Kyuzo Takazato, "As Kumejima has been divided into two magiri since the time of the regional lords and the kingdom of the Ryukyus, it was very difficult to become a unified entity."

In 1972 a council was formed to investigate consolidation of the two villages, but it came to nothing. Another council was formed in 1997, and in October 2001, Uchima Seioku (Gushikawa Village Mayor) and Takazato Kyuzou (Nakazato Village Mayor), signed an agreement to consolidate the villages. Kumejima Town came into being on April 1, 2002.

This website marks the 10 year anniversary of Kumejima Town!

  • SchoolsKume Island Schools

    There are 10 schools on Kume Island, many with histories dating more than 120 years.

More Kume History

  • Tsuma

    A celebration of the rice harvest dating back to the Ryukyu Kingdom. It involves the participation of a Chinbei and local Noro priestesses.

  • UmachiiUmachii

    A celebration of the rice harvest dating back to the Ryukyu Kingdom. It involves the participation of a Chinbei and local Noro priestesses.

  • Yajiyagama caveYajiyagama Cave

    Located in the Ohara Area, the Yajiyagama cave system were once used as communal tombs (ohaka). Visitors can enter the caves though there are still remains within.


comments powered by Disqus