Reception and Events, September 5, 2002

Images of the Amami Islands: Makoto Koshima

The Amami Islands are composed of 8 islands which are located in the southern part of Japan. After World War II, the Amami Islands were occupied by the US along with the Okinawa islands (which has the largest US military base in Asia). The occupation lasted for 8 years from 1945 to December of 1953. During the 8 years of occupation, the Amami Islands were politically and socially isolated from mainland Japan. (The Okinawa islands were finally returned to Japan in 1972 after 27 years of occupation.) After the reversion, the Amami Islands were culturally and politically assimilated by mainland Japan which rapidly developed with the support of the US.

The Amami islanders have traditionally been close to nature and grateful for the fertility of the land. They have always had great reverence for gods and goddesses which exist everywhere in nature. This animism is popular throughout the Amami Islands. Gratitude toward and reverence of gods and goddesses appear in seasonal festivals and events.

I see aboriginal human beings and life persisting in the ordinary life of the Amami Islanders, although most modern people have already abandoned those ways with the development of modern life. My hope is that all people might regain a part of this affluent life and develop friendships working toward world peace.

Translated by Masami Toku & Jon Aull

Makoto Koshima was born in 1939 in Kasari as the first child of the owners of one of the Amami Ohshima Tsumugi (kimono) companies. He became a professional photographer and journalist after working experiences at the Naze city hall in 1964. He became the director of the Naze branch of Minami-nihon (Southern Japan) broadcasting in 1969. He established Koshima Producations, a media production company, in 1977.

Koshima is well known as a photojournalist who has been recording the important historical events of the Amami Islands of the last half century. He has published many books of aesthetically and historically important photographs and articles.