Naha Shizoku and Kume Shizoku


Translated by Andreas Quast


From its regional classification, the Ryūkyū Shizoku is mainly divided into Shuri Shizoku, Tomari Shizoku, Kume Shizoku, and Naha Shizoku (Note 1). From this, Karate is also classified as Shuri-te, Tomari-te, (Kumemura-te), and Naha-te. Among these, Kumemura-te is not classified nowadays and as I have described in an article the other day, with the exception of Kojō-ryū, some parts of its transmission were incorporated into Shuri-te and Naha-te.


By the way, the upper career limit and the course of the career of Ryūkyū Shizoku were predetermined for each region. Specifically, it was as follows:


[HIGH]  Shuri samurai > Naha samurai > Tomari samurai [LOW]

[SPECIAL STATUS]  Kume samurai

(Note 2)


The [SPECIAL STATUS] of Kume Shizoku is because they had special rank names and occupations which were distinguished from the others. Just daringly, I think that it would be classified as follows:


[HIGH]  Shuri samurai > Kume samurai > Naha samurai > Tomari samurai [LOW]


This is because Shuri Shizoku could be promoted up to Sanshikan (1st major rank), while Kume Shizoku could only be promoted up to Sanshikan Zashiki (2nd major rank), and therefore below them. In rare cases like that of Sai On, some people from Kume Shizoku became Sanshikan though. But no one from Naha Shizoku or Tomari Shizoku has ever been promoted to Sanshikan.


As can be seen in previous articles [on this blog], regional discrimination did not only occur in terms of career promotions but also when it came to studying abroad and traveling to China:


Kanshō (government-sponsored foreign students): Shuri and Kume Shizoku

Kingakujin (privately financed foreign students): Kume Shizoku

Tōtabiyaku (attendants to China): Shuri, Tomari, Kume, and Naha Shizoku


While Kanshō and Kingakujin could stay in China for several years, the Tōtabiyaku could stay from half a year to one and a half years. In addition, Tōtabiyaku were usually chosen for the first time during their 40's or 50's and after many years of meritorious service. Given these facts, one becomes aware of various contradictions in the personal histories of Karate men who have been traditionally told up to now.


For example, the originator of Ryū’ei-ryū, Nakaima Chikudun Pēchin Kenri (whose Chinese-style name is given as Ei Tokuroku, or otherwise as Ei Kokutatsu) is said to have been born in Kume village, to have studied the sciences and practiced the martial arts (shubun renbu) from early childhood so as to follow the path of the Kume Shizoku, at the age of 19 to have taken the opportunity to study abroad in Beijing, or otherwise in Fuzhou and there to have studied under Ryū Ryūkō (Ch.: Liu Longgong), at that time the leader of the “Royal Family’s Military Officers Bodyguard Training School” of the Qing Dynasty of China (Note 3, 4).


To begin with, according to Mr. Dana Masayuki of Okinawa Studies, Kume Shizoku did not use the court rank designation "Chikudun Pēchin", but used "Tsūji Pechin" instead:


As regards Kume village ranks, at the age of 15 or 16 years they tied up their topknots for the male coming of age ceremony and received the rank of Shūsai, and were referred to as so-and-so Shusai.


Then at the age of 25 or 26, they were promoted to the official post of an interpreter (Tsūji). If their family status was that of a Satonushi family they were referred to as Satonushi. If their family status was that of a Chikudun family they were referred to as Tsūji.


Five years later they received the yellow Hachimaki given the rank of Pēchin. If their family status was that of a Satonushi family they were referred to as Satonushi Pēchin. If their family status was that of a Chikudun family they were referred to as Tsūji Pēchin. (Okinawa Times: Okinawa Karate History 10. 20th August 2017).


In other words, if Nakaima Kenri was a "Chikudun Pēchin", he would have been either from Shuri, Tomari, or Naha Shizoku, but not from Kume Shizoku.


So, when I read the "Ujishū" [a huge collection of genealogies] which includes almost all of the genealogies of the Ryūkyū Shizoku, it turned out that the Nakaima House of the Ei-clan is a branch family of the Aharen House of the Ei-clan (originator Tokeshi Chikudun Pēchin Kisshin) of Naha Shizoku (Note 5).


According to the "Okinawa Monchū Daijiten" (Encyclopedia of Okinawa Family Clans [based on the paternal line]), originator Kisshin was a person from Wakasa town of Naha who lived during the Jiajing period (1522-1566). At first, the nanogashira (the first Kanji of the first name) of the Ei-clan was "Kichi", but at the time of 5th generation Kikka the nanogashira "Kichi" was prohibited and changed to "Ken" 憲 (Note 6).



Then, since Nakaima Kenri was Naha Shizoku, it is not a fact that he studied abroad as Kanshō or Kingakujin. And if he had traveled to Qing China, he likely did so as a Tōtabiyaku and stayed in Fuzhou from half year to one and a half year. By the way, in the case of Tōtabiyaku, wasn't it difficult to be chosen at the young age of 19?


Since genealogies would include the exact departure and return dates for a travel to China, concrete facts should be found when examining the written entries made for Kenri. 

In addition, since Kume Shizoku did not use nanogashira, it is unlikely that the character "Ken" would have been attached in front of every first name for generations.


Why did Naha Shizoku become Kume Shizoku? It may be that in the process of oral tradition, transmitted from generation to generation of descendants, facts were changed little by little, like in Chinese whispers.


By the way, although there were a few cases when Naha Shizoku lived in Kume village, they were distinguished by being called "Shimanakanchu" (Okinawa Daihyakka Jiten). Shimanaka refers to the four towns of Naha, that is, to Naha proper. They were citizens of Naha, did not have their domiciles registered in Kume village and they were distinguished by Kume villagers as "strangers".




Note 1: Other than that, the ruling class of isolated islands was called Sentō Shizoku.

Note 2: Watanabe Miki: Kinsei Ryūkyū no Samurai to “Risshin Shusse”.

Note 3: Uechi Kan’ei (editorial supervision): Seisetsu Okinawa Karate-dō ― Sono Rekishi to Gihō. Uechi-ryū Karate-do Kyōkai 1977, page 785.

Note 4: Takamiyagi Shigeru, Nakamoto Masahiro, Shinzato Katsuhiko: Okinawa Karate Kobudō Jiten. Kashiwa Shobō, Tōkyō 2008, page 480.

Note 5: Originator: the third son of Tokeshi Chikudun Pēchin Kisshin, Nakaima Chikudun Pēchin's branch, his oldest son, Ei Shikō AKA Nakaima Chikudun Pēchin Kenchi. Ujishū, page 84.

Note 6: Miyazato Chōkō (editorial supervision): Naha Shuppan-sha Henshū "Okinawa Monchū Daijiten". Naha Shuppan-sha 1998, page 126, 127.