General issues: United States military administration 1948-1972
Country name on general issues: Ryukyu in Japanese characters, Ryukyus
Special issues: Local issue Kume Island 1947-1948, Postmaster issues Amami, Miyako, Okinawa, Taeyama 1947-1948
Currency: 1 Yen = 100 Sen 1947-1958, 1 Dollar = 100 Cent 1958-1972
Population: 945 000 in 1970
Political history Ryukyu Islands
The Ryukyu Islands are located in eastern Asia. Geographically, the Ryukyu Islands comprise the entire string of islands between Japan and Taiwan. Politically, the Ryukyus comprise the sub groups of the Yaeyama Islands, the Miyako Islands, the Okinawa Islands and – depending on the period – the Amami Islands.
In the 19th century the Yaeyama, Miyoko and Okinawa Islands form the kingdom of Ryukyu. De jure the Amami Islands are also part of the kingdom of Ryukyu, de facto they are, since the 17th century, annexed by Japan. The kingdom is, in the 19th century, a tributary of both China and Japan. As part of the expansionist policies of Japan from the second part of the 19th century on, Japan, in 1879, annexes Ryukyu. The kingdom is dissolved and the Ryukyus become an integral part of the Japanese Empire. After the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894-1895, China acknowledges the Japanese rights to the Ryukyus.
After WWII, Japan is occupied by the Allies. The United States establish the Ryukyus as a separate administrative unit consisting of the Amami, Okinawa, Miyoko and Yaeyama Islands. When, in 1952, the Allied occupation of Japan ends, the Ryukyus remain under United States administration. The Ryukyus are important in the United States military strategy in the Cold War, Okinawa being home to large United States military bases. Subject to the United States military administration over the course of the years, different forms of civil government – United States and local – are established. The Amami Islands are returned to Japan in 1953, the rest of the Ryukyus in 1972. The United States still have a number of military bases on Okinawa.
Postal history Ryukyu Islands
Until 1945, the stamps from Japan are used on the Ryukyus. In 1945 and 1946, mail services are free. From 1946 until 1948, a ‘Fee Paid’ cancellation is used. From 1947, local and postmaster issues are also introduced. On Kume Island, a stamp of local design is issued: a typewritten stamp made valid for use with the seal of the Kume postmaster. The postmasters of the Amami, Okinawa, Miyoko and Yaeyama Islands issue overprinted Japanese stamps. On Amami the overprint is an oval with a text reading ‘Checked’. On the other islands the overprint is the seal of the postmaster.The local and postmaster issues are referred to but not listed in the catalogs. Definitives are issued in 1948. The Ryukyus issue stamps until 1972, when the stamps of the Ryukyus are superseded by those of Japan.