Natsupana is a nonprofit organization (NPO) established in May 2013 according to the seven articles of the Shiraho Village Yuratiku Charter. Our purpose is to help protect the traditions, culture, and natural environment of Shiraho for future generations and to support the community to develop and prosper.
The Village of Shiraho
Our home, Shiraho, looks out onto the Pacific Ocean from the southeastern coast of Ishigaki Island. Ishigaki is approximately 450 km from Okinawa’s main island and is the central island of the Yaeyama archipelago. Historical evidence of Shiraho dates back to the Keicho land surveys of 1610. In 1771, Shiraho was devastated by the Great Yaeyama Tsunami. Migrants from nearby islands such as Hateruma, Miyako, Tarama, and Okinawa Main Island following the tsunami helped the community to develop to where it stands today.
Shiraho is a traditional farming community, and raising livestock and growing crops remain essential livelihoods to the region to this day. The village is also known for its active practice of traditional performing arts, with numerous cultural customs and festivities throughout the year. Examples include ‘Hounensai’, a festival to thank the gods for rich harvests in the past year and to pray for good harvests in the coming year, ‘Ha-ri-sai’, to pray for safety and abundant catch at sea, and ‘Tane dori sai’, to pray for the healthy growth of rice seedlings.
In addition to passing on the traditional practices inherited from ancestors to future generations, the village retains its traditional townscape, such as the low stone walls, fukugi trees, and red-tiled roofs. Our ocean is home to one of the largest colonies of blue corals in the world, and the people have inherited a “coral reef culture”, a lifestyle intimately linked to the rich natural environment of the region.
Challenges and Responses
Plans for the construction of the New Ishigaki Airport announced in 1979 resulted in the painful division of the village into two. The village came together again in 1995, and the Shiraho Community Council, the administrative organisation of the community, has been working for the cohesion of the village ever since. However, the opening of the New Ishigaki Airport in 2013 triggered massive waves of change for the village. Large-scale developments and the influx of new residents bring new energy into the region. At the same time, the rapid increase of incomers raises concern that the community’s strong solidarity characterized by deep bonds between the people, the land, and their ancestors will be lost. The succession of traditional cultural practices, protection of the natural environment, and lifestyle improvements are also prevalent challenges.
The Shiraho community has taken various actions to address these issues. 2005 saw the initiation of the Shiraho Conservation Council for Bountiful Seas aiming to revitalize the region through the protection and sustainable use of the coral reef, as well as the Shiraho Sunday Market, which encourages the inheritance of knowledge on making use of nature’s blessings and the sale of regional specialties. 2006 saw the enactment of the Shiraho Yuratiku Charter by the Shiraho Community Council, outlining the goals and policies, as well as detailed measures on the development of the village. The measures and actions outlined by the charter were highly praised, receiving two Okinawa prefectural awards recognizing positive development of remote islands and excellent community organizations in 2008 and 2009, and was also certified a Okinawa Furusato Hyakusen in 2011, which selects 100 appealing villages in Okinawa.
Natsupana aims to protect the culture and nature of the region for future generations and to contribute to its development according to the seven clauses of the Shiraho Yuratiku Charter. We encourage visitors and Yaeyama residents alike to recognize the beauty and splendor of Shiraho’s traditional culture, nature, local industries and livelihoods through sustainable use such as eco-tourism. Proceeds from the development and diversification of the primary industry and from interactive and profitable activities will be reinvested into conserving the region’s natural environment, traditional townscape and culture.
Shiraho Village Yuratiku Charter
(1) Goals of our community development
We will further the development of an “open-hearted Shiraho that nurtures the sea, land, and heart”; a Shiraho that protects its rustic landscape, ocean abound with fish, red-tiled roofs, fukugi trees, and houses surrounded by the characteristic low stone walls, traditional culture and lifestyle intimately connected to the rich natural environment passed on therein; a Shiraho that the youth can carry forward with hope and pride.
(2) The Seven Charters of Community Development in Shiraho Village
1. We will protect the culture of Shiraho and carry it on into the future.
2. We will protect the world-famous coral reef and live rooted in nature
3. We will cherish our stone walls, red-tiled roofs and fukugi trees and foster a scenic townscape
4. We will harness the blessings of our natural environment to develop local industries that support the village
5. We will better our education and nurture strong children, who are our future
6. We will actively play sports and maintain our health, establishing a village of longevity with healthy hearts and bodies
7. We will unite in the yuratiku spirit for a peaceful, safe, and proud Shiraho village