Okinawan, Ryukyuan in Bolivia

Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Okinawan, Ryukyuan
Country: Bolivia
10/40 Window: No
Population: 2,600
World Population: 1,154,200
Primary Language: Okinawan, Central
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 1.50 %
Evangelicals: 0.10 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Japanese
Affinity Bloc: East Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Ryukyuan are the indigenous peoples of the Ryukyu Islands. Traditionally, the people have a tightly knit family life and enjoy close personal friendships. They see themselves as bound by their home island and, especially among older people, will always consider themselves from Ryukyuan first and Japan second. They are among the longest-lived people in the world. In the late 1800s, a few Japanese, usually from Okinawa, emigrated to either Peru or Bolivia. Among these were the Ryukyu. They worked in mining, railroad construction or rubber plantations. After WWII, the Japanese and Bolivian governments worked together to establish two groups of immigrants from Japan to settle in Bolivia. One was mainland Japanese, and the other was Okinawan and Ryukyu. The latter grew soybeans and wheat.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Initially, the Ryukyu people spoke Japanese and learned Spanish. Today Ryukyu people who live in Bolivia are considered simply Japanese by the Bolivian majority. Their identity with the Ryukyu Islands will become weaker as time goes on. Every day they must communicate in Spanish and live in a Latin American cultural environment.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Native Uchina (from the Ryukyuan Islands) religion places strong emphasis upon the role of the women in the community, with women holding positions as shamans and guardians of the home. Most of the younger generation are not serious adherents of this religion anymore, but many older people try to teach about the old ways, including dances and the language. As they blend with other cultures, the Ryukyuan people have adopted Roman Catholicism from the Bolivian majority. Others are more traditional; they are Buddhist or Shintoist like the Japanese. Some have clung to the Soka Gakkai Buddhist cult.

What Are Their Needs?

The Ryukyuan people do not have a legacy of understanding the ways of God as revealed through Moses, the prophets, and Jesus Christ.

Prayer Points

Pray that a strong movement to Jesus will bring Ryukyuan families and communities into a rich experience of God's blessings. A small number of the Ryukyuan people identify themselves as Christians. Pray they will be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. The Ryukuyan are known as a peaceful people and have always considered the arts and music as more honorable than combat skills. Pray these peaceful people will welcome the good news of Jesus as it comes to them in various forms.

Text Source:   Joshua Project