SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.18 (2022)

Renaming Schoolgirls in Okinawa Prefectural
Women’s Normal School and Okinawa Prefectural
(First) Girls High School:

Individuality and Assimilation of Schoolgirls


Department of Japanese History,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

moden history of Okinawa, Okinawa Prefectural Women’s Normal School and Okinawa Prefectural (First) Girls High School, Himeyuri, schoolgirl, renaming, assimilation, modernization, warabina, yamatona

According to the narratives of teachers and students at Okinawa Prefectural Women’s Normal School and Okinawa Prefectural (First) Girls’ High School, renaming of the schoolgirls, which refers to a change from a traditional individual name, referred to as warabina (childhood name), to a Japanese-style name, referred to as yamatona, began in the early 1900s and was a trend among students at both schools in the Taisho era. As the change was toward Japanization, there is no doubt that renaming was an event in the context of assimilation and incorporation of Okinawa. However, the schoolgirls’ narratives about renaming imply “small stories” of their adoration of modernity and the significance of ‘naming’ oneself or ‘claiming a name’. The small stories may not be integrated into big stories of assimilation and/or incorporation. By using materials such as alumnae magazines, memoirs, and alumnae lists for finding schoolgirls’ big stories and small stories about renaming, this research aims to explore its meaning and then view the history of Okinawa after the Ryukyu Disposition and Annexation from the perspective of the state of individual names. The research provides an overview of traditional girls’ names of Okinawa, warabina first, then points out that warabina was considered more important as a name to be acquired than as an individual identification functionality, and that the pace of change of girls’ individual names was slower than that of boys’ names immediately after the Ryukyu Disposition and Annexation. The research then discusses the development of girls’ secondary education that served as a seedbed for schoolgirls’ renaming and the history of the two schools, and clarifies the status of both schools as topnotch girls’ secondary educational institutions and contact zones with modernity. Based on this exploration, the research uses narratives of teachers and alumnae to find the real state of education and life at the schools as well as stories about renaming. The research also organized examples of renaming on the Prefectural (First) Girls High School alumnae list to clarify, based on the findings, the relationship between the changes of girls’ names in Okinawa in the early 1900s and the renaming of schoolgirls. By studying renaming as a small story of each schoolgirl in the sense of individuality, which girls’ education unexpectedly fostered, the research indicates the significance of claiming a name involved in renaming. Given that students at both schools were never typical Okinawa girls, it became clearer that extending the research range to include the name issue of girls working at factories away from home will be important for the general goal of the research to view history from the perspective of names.