Survey conducted by Okinawa Prefecture finds 65% of people outside the island do not identify Okinawa as “The birthplace of Karate” – issues include lack of income and successors

Survey conducted by Okinawa Prefecture finds 65% of people outside the island do not identify Okinawa as “The birthplace of Karate” – issues include lack of income and successors


July 23, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

In the first-ever fact finding survey conducted by Okinawa Prefecture with the goal of promoting and passing down traditional Okinawa Karate and Kobudo, it was discovered that outside of Okinawa, 65.5% of people did not know that Okinawa is the birthplace of Karate. A lack of inheritors, and the fact that most people cannot survive on Karate alone are issues well known within Okinawa. This was announced by the Okinawa Karate Promotion Office July 22.

Compared to the 96% of respondents within Okinawa who answered, “Okinawa is the birthplace of Karate,” outside of Okinawa only 34.5% gave the same answer. Even among the respondents from outside the prefecture who answered as such, 21.8% said they were” vaguely aware,” 1.6 times the people who were “certainly aware,” at 12.8%. Currently, the total number of Karate enthusiasts, including internationally, is around 130 million people, which only serves to highlight the low awareness numbers outside of Okinawa.

Worries held by Karate dojo owners in Okinawa include, “there are few pupils” (28.6%), “the size of the dojo is small” (17.7%), and “There are no successors” (14.8%). Furthermore, 36.9% of dojo owners said their main source of income was something other than Karate, and 21.2% said that they earned no money from Karate.

There were also multiple choice questions regarding policies to spread traditional Okinawa karate and kobudo. The most common responses included ones that stressed the importance of tradition and history such as “handing down traditional techniques” (75.9%), “establishing cultural value,” (68.0%); as well as answers focused on the next generation and spreading overseas such as “personnel development” (72.4%), and “strengthening communication” (68.5%).

Amongst dojos in Okinawa, 37.4% of students come from Western countries, led by the U.S., Australia, and Switzerland. These students make repeated trips to Okinawa, reaffirming karate as a means of international exchange.

With the results of the survey, Okinawa is planning on putting together the2017, “Okinawa Karate Vision” plan. This will establish a planning committee, who will put their energy into preserving traditional Okinawa karate and kobudo.

The survey took place from November, 2016 through March, 2017, targeting 386 dojos in Okinawa, 203 of which responded. There was also a two-day internet survey on March 16 and 17, which surveyed 400 people in Japan in addition to 200 people in Okinawa.

(English translation by TC&T and Sam Grieb)

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