, an island in the Pacific Ocean, about midway between Japan and Taiwan. It is the largest of the Ryukyu Islands, which belong to Japan. Okinawa is some 65 miles (105 km) long and up to 20 miles (32 km) wide, with an area of 454 square miles (1,176 km2). Together with several other islands, it forms the Okinawa group. Of volcanic origin, Okinawa is largely mountainous. It is fringed by coral reefs. The moderating influence of the Kuroshio, or Japan Current, gives it a warm, humid climate. Typhoons often strike in summer and autumn.
Farming and fishing are the main occupations of the Okinawans. Sugarcane and pineapple are grown for export. The chief food crops are rice, soybeans, wheat, and sweet potatoes. Manufacturing is small-scale and based largely on food-processing and the making of textiles, clothing, and other consumer goods. Many islanders are employed by the United States armed forces, which maintain several bases on the island.
The population of Okinawa in 2000 was about 1,318,220. Naha, the largest city, had 301,107 inhabitants. The people are predominantly Japanese and speak a Japanese dialect. English is widely understood. There are several universities on the island. Okinawa is part of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, which encompasses all the Ryukyus.
Okinawa was part of a Ryukyuan kingdom, which for centuries paid tribute to both China and Japan. The island was annexed by Japan in the 1870's and held until the United States captured it in one of the fiercest battles of World War II. The San Francisco treaty of 1951 established American administration, but recognized Japanese sovereignty claims. Agitation by Okinawans and Japanese against American control of Okinawa led to a United States-Japanese agreement in 1969, under which the island was returned to Japan in 1972.