22 Feb 2019 in Discover Japan
Take a trip down memory lane with a 90-year-old islander!
Shosuke Matsutake was born in 1929 on Taketomi Island, a tiny landmass in subtropical Okinawa. He remembers island life through the ages.
How has life changed on Taketomi Island since you grew up?
When I was young, there were more than 2000 residents. Today, the population is just 360. I remember we used to eat yam all the time, because it was the only product we could grow! Today, we’ve found other ways to farm with animals, and tourism has become a big part of our lives.
Have you always lived on Taketomi?
No. Because Taketomi is coral, it’s difficult to grow anything. So, when I was 20, I moved to Iriomote island, the second biggest in Okinawa, to cultivate and sell my own rice.
I worked there for 30 years, bringing rice back to Taketomi every now and then.
How else did you make a living?
When I returned to Taketomi, I brought back the water buffalos I’d used in the paddy fields of Iriomote. I managed to breed and sell them to other islands.
I also introduced silk worms to Taketomi, selling raw silk to a manufacturer in Miyazaki on the mainland.
Taketomi has few natural resources, so we had to be creative!
What are your memories of Okinawa under American occupation (1945-1972)?
After the war, Americans brought new products to the island, like flour and corn. This meant we didn’t have to farm anymore. And, of course, our currency changed to American dollars.