Legendary Figure of Okinawan Emigration Part 1: Kyuzo Toyama

Kyuzo Toyama familyKyuzo Toyama represents the history of Okinawan emigration. He is called the "father of emigration" and the role he played is unfathomable. He also had an influential voice in Okinawan society at the time as an educator as well as an illuminator.
Toyama was born November 9, 1868, to a farming household in Kin Village, one of the poorest regions in Okinawa Prefecture at the time. However, the Toyama household was known as one of the few wealthy families in the region and did not struggle from impoverishment like other village people. This all changed when Kyuzo was born, as the family became gradually poorer. He was the oldest of five brothers, and even though he was known to be mischievous received excellent grades at school.

After graduating from elementary school, Toyama enrolled in the prefectural normal school for elementary school teachers on scholarship. Post-graduation he was assigned to Kin Elementary School as a teacher. He went on to serve as headmaster there, but left that job soon after to become the head of Namisato Ward in Kin for a few years. In 1898 Toyama moved to Tokyo, and although he had little luck in finding a job he became strongly interested in emigration when he found a book on the subject at a used bookstore. At the same time, he was moved by the philosophy of Noboru Jahana*1, who was involved in the Movement for Civil Rights and Freedom.
Later, when the Movement for Civil Rights and Freedom was met with setback, he began concentrating his effort and passion on emigration problems. In 1899, he played a major role in sending the first emigrants from Okinawa to Hawaii. In 1903, he himself led the second group of emigrants to Hawaii. On this trip, he stayed in Hawaii for six months to research the conditions of emigrants and returned home.

Upon his return Toyama became an emigration agent, sending large numbers of emigrants to Hawaii and North and South America. In 1909, at the age of 41, he was elected to Okinawa's first-ever prefectural assembly, collecting the highest number of votes. He had a promising future as a statesman; unfortunately, he died of disease the following year at his home in Yonabaru. He was 42.
The poem that he composed just before he left for Hawaii, conveying the pride and spirit of the emigrants at the time, is well known in Okinawa.

*1 Noboru Jahana: Born in 1865, he became the first university graduate in Okinawa and went on to work in public administration, as well as being involved in various public campaigns for social movement. He was well respected by the common people and seen as the symbolic figure of the movement to eliminate social classes. In 1890 he experienced conflict with the autocratic governor and other external forces, was defeated and resigned from his job. Later he moved to Tokyo, seeking employment, but returned home soon after and died in 1908.