Japanese Language Students Learn about Izena Island History

Escape to Izena Island

Izena Island (伊是名島) or Izena-jima is situated north-west of Okinawa Island, in the Ryuku Islands of Japan, on the East China Sea. The island was part of the Okinawa Prefecture during the Meiji period.

Iheya & Izena Islands.| Hideyuki KAMON

Izena Island is about 5 kilometers in size and is surrounded by the blue sea, sandy white beaches and coral reefs. The villages of Izena, Uchihana, Jicchaku, Shomi, and Nakada are located in Izena Island.

The history of the island’s settlement can be traced 3,000 years back. Archeological excavations were able to find knives and axes made of stone, as well as human bones and pottery. The earliest recorded findings in the history of Izena Island goes back to five lineages spanning 692 years between 1187 to 1879.

King Shō En

The first king, Shō En (1415–1476), of the Second Shō Dynasty of the Ryūkyū Kingdom who ruled between 1470 and 1879 was born on Izena Island. The village of Izena houses the uncovered artifacts that are related to the period of this dynasty. King Shō En worked hard to gain “recognition and investiture to enhance the prestige and authority of his family among his countrymen”. He also built a tomb on a small hill and consecrated the remains of his father and mother, and his sister was made chief Noro (priestesses of the Ryukyuan religion) in Iheya.

The worshipping rites the ritual of welcoming of the sea and “worship from afar” (Agari Umai) are observed on  Izena Island and it is also the birthplace of  the contemporary artist Naka Bokunen and musician Irei Shunichi.

Izena Tamaudun Mausoleum 

The most popular monuments in Izena Island are the historical fortress of Izena Castle, the park with the bronze statue of King Shō En and Izena Tamaudun Mausoleum, built in 1501 and Okinawa Prefecture designated this as a Historical Site. Izena Island is about 18.5 miles northwest of Okinawa’s main island and is about an hour away by ferry. The small island with a sparse population is still a treasure to visit with all of its natural beauty and rich history. It’s another place to add to your bucket list of travels!