Interview with an old Okinawan

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.



I sell handwoven baskets and teach weaving workshops at HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island.

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.

HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island






Christmas & New Year in Japan

06 Dec 2017 in Discover Japan

Planning a trip to Japan over the holiday period? Find out what you can expect! Read more

Ashinoko Lake

Discover the Hakone region in Japan by travelling an incredible historic road

09 Sep 2016 in Discover Japan

Discover the Hakone region in Japan by following the footsteps of great lords along a historical and legendary road. Read more


Japanese tips to keep your New Year’s resolutions

03 Jan 2018 in Discover Japan

Made New Year’s resolutions? Make sure you keep them with some Japanese-inspired help! Read more


Hideo Saito Photo

The incredible story of Hideo Saito, the orchestra leader who created a stir in japan

15 Jun 2016 in Discover Japan

Hideo Saito is certainly unknown to you, yet he is one of the greatest music teachers that Japan has ever known. Discover his thrilling history ! Read more


How to sit in Japan

21 Dec 2018 in Discover Japan

Like to master the seiza? Read all in our guide to sitting! Read more


Discover Matsumoto Castle

11 Jan 2017 in Discover Japan

Learn more about one of the Nagano prefecture's iconic monuments, whose nickname may surprise you ... Read more

most popular articles