THE EARLIEST JAPANESE LANDING ON THE SENKAKU ISLANDS?
A member of the Ryukyu royal family landed on the Senkakus in 1819, says Professor Ishiwi Nozomu
(translated from Yaeyama Nippo newspaper– May 16, 2015)
Ishiwi Nozomu, associate professor of comparative literature at Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University, announced on the 15th at a press conference of the Okinawa Prefectural Government Press Club that he had discovered a historical record demonstrating that a member of the Ryukyu royal family had landed on one of the Senkaku Islands, either Koba (Kuba) Island or Uotsuri Island, in 1819 in order to search for fresh water. The record in question is "The Sho Family Geneology - Sho Koki of the Twelfth Generation", composed by the Gushikawa family, a branch of the royal family of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which was a part of Japan since 1609 or earlier. If confirmed, this discovery would push back the date of the earliest recorded Japanese landing on the Senkaku Islands by sixty-five years, from 1884 to 1819.

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Professor Ishiwi Nozomu explains the information that he discovered in the historical documents. (May 15 noon, Office of the Okinawa Prefectural Government)

According to this historical record, the ship of Sho Koki, a Ryukyu royal family member, was heading for Satsuma Province (now Kagoshima in Japan) on official business, but was blown off course in a rainstorm on September 18, 1819, and ended up on an uninhabited island with high peaks called "Yokon Koba Island". Its crew spent three days scouring the island for a source of drinking water, but found none. Afterwards, they were cast adrift by another rainstorm and arrived at Yonaguni Island three days later.

According to Professor Ishiwi, "Yokon Koba Island" must have been one of the Senkaku Islands. The Senkaku Islands are the only uninhabited and isolated islands near Yonaguni Island, and they are lush with a species of fan palm called "Koba" in the Ryukyu dialect.

Professor Ishiwi added that there is absolutely no documentary record in Chinese historical sources of any Chinese sailors landing on the Senkaku Islands.

Ryukyu officials helped Sho Koki to land on Yonaguni Island, who were dispatched from Ishigaki Island, one of the Yaeyama Islands. Professor Ishiwi noted that, "The officials were obviously very experienced at receiving castaways." It appears that by 1819 the Senkaku Islands were already recognized by the people living in the Yaeyama Islands as a place where various ships would go adrift. Professor Ishiwi also emphasized that, "We can surmise that the Senkaku Islands were within the cultural sphere of the Yaeyama Islanders. It is likewise clear from these historical sources that the Senkaku Islands are integral territories of Japan."

Furthermore, Professor Ishiwi stated that, "Though few Japanese records exist, there are many descriptions in Chinese historical sources of people being guided to the Senkaku Islands by Ryukyuans. Indeed, many of these sources prove Japan's traditional claims to the Senkakus. I hope that these facts will become more widely and exactly known to the people of Japan, including the people of Okinawa."

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