Nature, Ritual, and Society in Japan's Ryukyu Islands

By Arne Røkkum

© 2006 – Routledge

266 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415545648
pub: 2009-05-12
US Dollars$54.95
Hardback: 9780415355636
pub: 2006-03-10
US Dollars$168.00

About the Book

Despite their small area, the southern islands of Japan can be seen as stepping stones towards a more nuanced view of cultural osmosis between Japan and the outside world. This book presents an ethnographic portrayal of the people of the Southern Ryukyu Islands and their world. In particular it explores the mind of the islanders, their relationship with the natural world, their social relationships, and the rituals which represent and give expression to these relationships.

Based on extensive original research, including participant observation, the book allows the authentic voices of the Ryukyu Island worlds to speak for themselves as well as setting the work in the wider context of anthropology, Japanese Studies and Pacific Island studies.


'Arne Røkkum has produced a complex, nuanced, and carefully argued ethnography on nature, ritual, society, and symbolism in the Ryukyu Islands, specifically, in this case, Yonaguni Island…There are some wonderful vignettes in this ethnography and some well-constructed analytical frames of reference…it is informative, well researched, and exposes a level of detailed observation and analysis rarely found in the English-language literature on the Ryukyus.' - Matthew Allen, Journal of Japanese Studies, Volume 33

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Commuted Landscapes and Species 2. Person and Island 3. Cyclical Lapses 4. Fateful Exchanges. Conclusion

About the Series

Japan Anthropology Workshop Series

Editorial Board:
Pamela Asquith, University of Alberta
Eyal Ben Ari, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hirochika Nakamaki, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka

Kirsten Refsing, University of Copenhagen
Wendy Smith, Monash University

Founder Member of the Editorial Board:
Jan van Bremen, University of Leiden

Routledge is very proud to be publishing this important series, which has already signed up a good list of high quality books on interesting topics, and has a truly international range of authors and editors.

A key aim of the series is to present studies that offer a deep understanding of aspects of Japanese society and culture to offset the impression of constant change and frivolity that so tempts the mass media around the world.  Living in Japan brings anyone into contact with the fervent mood of change, and former residents from many other countries enjoy reading about their temporary home, but there is a demand also to penetrate less obvious elements of this temporary life.  Anthropologists specialise in digging beneath the surface, in peeling off and examining layers of cultural wrapping, and in gaining an understanding of language and communication that goes beyond formal presentation and informal frolicking.  This series will help to open the eyes of readers around the world from many backgrounds to the work of these diligent anthropologists researching the social life of Japan.

Submissions from prospective authors are welcomed, and enquiries should be sent in the first instance to the series editor Professor Joy Hendry (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / General
HISTORY / Asia / Japan