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Okinawa Historical Flags (Japan)


Last modified: 2024-01-05 by zachary harden
Keywords: okinawa | japan | ryu-kyu | disc (red) | letter: o | neyagawa | urasoe |
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image by Zachary Harden, 8 September 2009

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History of the prefecture flags

Until early in the 19th century, the ships sailing between China and Okinawa (Ryukyu/LooChu Islands) was a gold or dark yellow triangle with a red sphere in the center, and bordered with red small triangles. The shape : Staff = 1, Base = 2. Seen in Chinese movies and in Okinawan prints seen both there and in Miyako Island.
The governments of the Ryukyu's paid tribute to China, and even tried to placate "Satsuma" from Kyushu in Japan. But they were truly independent, and sailed from the coasts of India and Indonesia and to Korea also. These were not the flags flown by Chinese ships in the period. Although there is a similarity, the Ryukyu Islands enjoyed a favourable relation with all Chinese governments, and much of their culture was borrowed from them. Japanese influence did not begin to take hold until the kidnapping of the last Okinawan king by the Japanese in 1871. I will point out, however, that as an ensign, it would have been civil. The Islands maintained independence for over 7 centuries without a standing naval or military force.
Bruce Ward, 13 June 2000 to 16 June 2000


Post-War Okinawa flag 1945-1967
[Japanese ensign, 1945]
image by Nozomi Kariyasu, 03 September 2014

The prefecture of Okinawa was established on 16 May 1972 when Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands, which had been administered by the United States since 1945, were restored to Japan. Immediately after the Second World War the islands' ships wore a flag of yellow over blue over yellow with the blue of double width and a triangle cut of the fly. On 1 July 1967 the Japanese flag was restored, but with a white triangular pennant above it with the name "Ryukyus" in Japanese and English in red lettering. When the islands were once more part of Japan, the present flag, which is like that of Japan, i.e. white with a red sun disc in the centre, was established. In this case, however, the Mon is composed of another disc in white superimposed on the red one, and a third red one superimposed on that. The discs are not concentric, but the two latter are 'stepped up' towards the top. [bar]
Mark Sensen, 3 May 1996

The yellow-blue-yellow flag was certainly the signal flag "delta", here in a usage similar to that of post World War II Germany (Charlie flag) and Japan itself.
Antonio Martins
, 11 June 2000

The signal flag delta was used June 1950-July 1st 1967. According to Flags of Paradise the flag was in the proportions 76:91. The flag chart also shows US Administration High Commissioner's yellow bordered blue flag with yellow eagle and letters of the high commissioner ot the Ryukyu Islands in light blue disc with 26:33 proportion which was used from 1959-1976.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 12 June 2000

The swallow tail signal D flag was in use during 1945-1967 for U.S. Territory Ryukyu Islands (now Okinawa Prefecture in Japan) civil vessels.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 03 September 2014

There International Code of Signals uses swallow-tailed flags A and B, and then swallow-tailed C was for Germany, swallow-tailed D was for the Ryu-Kyus, and swallow-tailed E was for Japan. Is that the whole of it, or was there e.g. a swallow-tailed F for Austrian ships on the Danube?
Or the other way around, as that would seem like the logical starting point: Were there rectangular A and B flags?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 03 October 2014


Post-War Ryukyu Flag 1967-1972
[Okinawa flag, 1967-1972]
image by Chrystian Kretowicz, 8 June 2008

That "D" (delta) ensign created a lot of problems, being hardly recognizable and leading to frequent stoppages of ships carrying it.
In 1967, the United States transferred the administration of the smaller Ryukyu Islands to Japan (but not Okinawa) and changed the Ryukyus' ensign to the Japanese flag surmounted by the white pennant with the name "Ruykyus" written on it in Japanese and English.
Chrystian Kretowicz, 8 June 2008