Lawsuit seeks return of Ryukyu remains – Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii 2021-09-25 20:47:18 –

Osaka, Japan >> Almost a century ago, a professor at Kyoto University took the remains of more than 20 inhabitants of present-day Okinawa Prefecture, including King Ryukyu, in the name of academic research.

Currently, in the first case of this kind, descendants have sued the university for the repatriation of 26 sets of ashes stored at the Kyoto University Museum.

However, as the case progressed, a bigger question was raised as to whether the Kyoto District Court would rule to recognize the Ryukyu people as indigenous peoples. With Japan’s only recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people, how can a court ruling be the first step towards a government that recognizes the Ryukyus as an indigenous people?

According to the proceedings, the plaintiffs allege that the professor stole the bones of his ancestors from the tomb of Momojana in Nakijin Village.

“There was a bone of my ancestor in this tomb,” said Takeshi Tamaguchi, a plaintiff of King Ryukyu and a descendant.

The location of the remains was unknown to the people of Okinawa until Professor Yasukatsu Matsushima of Ryukoku University in Okinawa knew the location in 2017 and contacted Kyoto University for more information.

But the university sent him a letter saying they wouldn’t answer his inquiry.

Mr. Matsushima, who was angry, was informed by the Ministry of Education that he admitted that Kyoto University was collecting the remains through a member of the Diet in Okinawa. The ministry oversees the university.

Matsushima and Kura Tamaguchi filed a proceeding against the university in December 2018 seeking the return of the remains.

For plaintiffs, the root of the problem lies in historical discrimination against Ryukyus.

“Japanese imperialism and colonialism towards the Ryukyu people is the social background of this issue. Ryukyu is an indigenous people and has different religions and burial customs than other Japanese,” said Matsushima.

Between 1429 and 1879, most of today’s Okinawa Prefecture was known as an independent Ryukyu kingdom governed by the Ryukyu monarchy that unified the islands.

Kingdom independence ended in 1879 with the colonization of the Japanese islands. Ryukyus with different languages, customs and a long tradition of independence faced severe discrimination by mainland Japan.

Plaintiffs use both the national law of the time (it is illegal to remove human remains from a graveyard without consent) and the non-binding UN Declaration in the proceedings. Article 12 of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples gives indigenous peoples the “right to repatriate their bodies”.

However, the challenge is that Japan does not recognize the Ryukyu people as indigenous peoples.

Kyoto University has a different view of how the remains were obtained.

“The university does not believe that bones were obtained illegally, and we store them in a way that is suitable for preservation,” said David Hajime Kornhauser, director of global communications at the university.

The plaintiff hopes to help the Kyoto Court lay the foundation for government approval by explaining that it is an indigenous people in governing the Ryukyus.

Despite the lack of legal approval in Japan, plaintiffs’ efforts have been approved by a university abroad.

In 2019, National Taiwan University returned some of the remains collected in 1929 to the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education. At that time, Taiwan was a Japanese colony, and some of the remains remained at the university. However, the board still holds the remains for research.

“It hurts me to know that my ancestors are the subject of scientific research,” said Hisashi Tamaguchi. “I want the bones to be returned to the grave so that my ancestors can rest with peace of mind.”

Lawsuit seeks return of Ryukyu remains Source link Lawsuit seeks return of Ryukyu remains

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