The oink in Okinawa: Rooting through changes in Okinawa’s heirloom pigs and

April 22, 10:30am - 12:00pm
Mānoa Campus, Moore Hall 258 Add to Calendar

A rich culture of rearing and eating pigs emerged during the independent Ryukyu Kingdom. As Japan colonized Ryukyu and renamed it Okinawa Prefecture, pigs persisted as a resilient and distinct characteristic of Okinawan society. This presentation develops the idea of a companion breed to explore the unique relationship between Okinawans and their heirloom pigs. Here, we explore how this special partnership enabled unique socio-ecological formations to emerge and evolve. Historically called “island pigs” (shima buta) and today widely called “Agu,” Okinawa’s oldest heirloom pig breed is a small black pot-bellied pig that likely first arrived in the latter part of the 14th century but only thrived after the introduction of sweet potatoes in the early 17th century. This presentation focuses on local responses to three changes in sovereign administration. The first change is the interwar effort by the Japanese government to introduce Western bacon-type breeds like the Berkshire to replace island pigs. The second change is the postwar effort by the US government to disseminate Western pig breeds and industrialize pig husbandry. The third change is the post-reversion effort of Japanese industries to market value-added “Agu” pork as heirloom pig from Okinawa. These changes elicited a range of responses in Okinawa as relations to heirloom pigs and cuisine have continued to evolve.

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Center for Japanese Studies, Mānoa Campus

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Center for Japanese Studies, (808) 956-2669,,

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