Ishigaki Island to erect a monument to Taiwanese immigrants
May 19, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo
It has been decided that a monument to the Taiwanese farmers who emigrated to Ishigaki island in the prewar period and introduced agricultural know-how by bringing a water buffalo and pineapples to the island, will be set up in the car park of Nagura Dam in Ishigaki. Tsuyoshi Iha, the president of the group in charge of erecting the monument, announced this on May 11 at the Ishigaki Municipal Office. With regard to the introduction of pineapples to the island, there was friction between the local people and the Taiwanese immigrants so the descendants of the settlers welcome the building of the monument. The unveiling of the monument will be on Pineapple Day on August 1.
A total of 330 Taiwanese farmers from about 60 households emigrated to the Nagura district of Ishigaki in 1935 bringing pineapple seedlings. After that, they brought 30 water buffalos to the island. In 1938, canned pineapple was produced for the first time in Okinawa, and then exported to the main islands of Japan.
Although the Minister of the Army prohibited the manufacture of canned pineapple as an extravagance during the war, Taiwanese immigrants secretly stored pineapple seedlings, which helped with the revival of the pineapple industry after the war. The Ryukyuan Government promoted pineapple production along with sugarcane production as key industries for Okinawa. Pineapples were produced not just in the Yaeyama region, but all over the prefecture.
To begin with, the people of Yaeyama plowed their land manually, so the use of water buffaloes was a breakthrough for them. There as friction between the Taiwanese immigrants and the locals, who felt threatened that their land being usurped and this led to incidents of violence and injury.
Iha said, “Okinawa has benefited from the pineapple industry. It has widely influenced not just the primary industries but also land transportation, seaborne shipping and the work environment in Okinawa. The Taiwanese immigrants did a great deal building the foundation of the pineapple industry.”
Takeshi Miki, the vice-president of the group said, “We should not forget how pineapples were brought into Okinawa. We need to understand the twists and turns of history. It is good that the people of Yaeyama are to erect a monument in appreciation of the efforts of the Taiwanese immigrants.”
Kanei Goya, the head of the Yaeyama branch of the Ryukyu Overseas Chinese Assembly, said, “For quite some time local people in Ishigaki have talked of setting up something to honor the Taiwanese immigrants. I am very pleased that this monument will be erected.”
(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey）
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