5. The belated dedication to the fifty-four Ryūkyūans

The Relics of Modern Japan's First Foreign War in Colonial and Postcolonial Taiwan, 1874-2015

5. The belated dedication to the fifty-four Ryūkyūans

Source: Left: East Asia Image Collection, Lafayette College. Right: Shidehara Hiroshi, Nanpō bunka no kensetsu e (Tokyo: Fuzanbō, 1938), 352.

The tombstone of the fifty-four Ryūkyūans had become dilapidated by 1916, as previous photos in this essay have shown. In 1925, its fate drastically changed thanks to a letter from 1871 shipwreck survivor Shimabukuro Kame to an Okinawan resident of Taiwan named Teruya Hiroshi. The seventy-five-year-old Shimabukuro inquired about the family that had housed him and his father after the massacre of their fifty-four compatriots in December 1874. Shimabukuro, his father, and ten other Ryūkyūans spent over forty days under the protection of the Yang family. Teruya subsequently met Shimabukuro in Naha and then mobilized his networks in Okinawa to recover the names and occupations of the fifty-four men interred at Tongpu. Thereafter, Teruya organized the members of the Taipei-based Okinawa Prefecture Residents Association to raise over 500 yen to rebuild the tomb. The new edifice, pictured here, saw the slab elevated on a cut-stone pedestal and the names of all fifty-four massacre victims added above the newly installed base. The reconstruction was carried out from January through December 1927, and the revitalized monument was dedicated in January 1928.[1] This intervention thrust the Ryūkyūans to the center of attention at the gravesite. The color postcard on the left reflects a shift in emphasis. It reads: “Taiwan Hengchun: Tomb of the Ryūkyūans. Traveling from Checheng 車城, it is located on the way to the Sichongxi Hot Springs. In November 1871 [the Ryūkyūans] washed up on Bayao Bay 八瑤湾 and were massacred by Mudan savages. This is their mass grave.”


[1] Miyaguni, Taiwan sōnan jiken, 140–157.