The recent discovery of ancient coins at Katsuren Castle in Uruma, Okinawa shows that the Ryukyu Kingdom was a vital part of international trade between Asia and the West.
The coins date as early as the third century during the time of Constantine I, the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, to the Ottoman Empire of the seventeenth century.
Katsuren Castle was built by the Aji (Lord) of Katsuren, Amawari (d. 1458). Through maritime trade Amawari acquired considerable wealth and power. He married Momotofumi Agari, the daughter of King Sho Taikyu (reigned 1454-1460), further solidifying his power. In 1458, the King, discovering Amawari’s treachery, led an attack on Katsuren castle and killed him. Today the ruins of Katsuren Castle is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the past the Ryukyu Kingdom was an important entrepôt (center of trade) much like present day Singapore. An awareness of our Uchinanchu history helps us to escape the present day nationalist narrative which depict Okinawa as one of the poorer prefectures lying on the edge of Japan and instead envision an Okinawa thriving under conditions of greater political and economic independence.
“Ancient Roman coins unearthed from castle ruins in Okinawa.” Japan Times 26 September 2016.