Nansei Islanders

Okinawa, Awami, and other southwest islands and their inhabitants

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 January 2007
Last updated 28 August 2014

Nansei Islanders 1953 Awami return and related measures

Nansei Islanders

The term "Nansei Islanders" (南西諸島人 Nanseishotōjin) refers to people with principle registers (本籍 honseki) in Kagoshima Prefecture south of 30 (29) degrees north latitude (including Kuchinoshima) or in Okinawa prefecture. It was used by the Allied Powers during the Occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952 in a number of directives issued by General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP) and related Japanese government orders and laws.

1946 SCAP directives concerning repatriation excluded Nansei Islanders from the term "Japanese" because they were affiliated with parts of the former prefectural Interior that were not included in "Occupied Japan" as defined by the Allied Powers under the terms of surrender Japan signed on 2 September 1945. As an occupation zone, "Occupied Japan" was under the authority of the Allied Powers. However, the Nansei Islands, beginning with Okinawa prefecture, had been captured by the United States and was directly under the control and jurisdiction of a U.S. military government.

The Kagoshima islands were returned in the early 1950s -- Tokara Archipelago on 10 February 1952, and Awami Islands on 25 December 1953. The Ogasawara Islands (Bonin Islands) and the Kazan Archipelago (Volcano Islands, Iwojima) were returned on 26 June 1968. Okinawa was returned on 15 May 1972.

See Alien registration and immigration and Alien control laws in Japan for particulars.


Awami return and related measures

24 December 1953

Cabinet Order No. 404 of 24 December 1953


Cabinet order concerning inter alia transitional measures for application of Ministry of Justice related laws and regulations associated with the return of the Awami Islands

This order, which addresses problems related to the return of the Awami Islands to Japan by the United States on 25 December 1953, is still in effect. It was last revised by Cabinet Order No. 421 of 26 December 2011.

Article 14 of this order defined those who would qualify for the 4-1-16-2 visa status defined by Law No. 126 of 1952. This article was deleted by the "Special law concerning, inter alia, the exit-entry-country [immigration] control of persons who based on the Treaty of Peace with Japan separated from the nationality of Japan" (Law No. 71 of 1991), which provided "Special permanent residence" for all qualified treaty-affected resident aliens upon filing notification.

1953 Awami return and related measures (Order No. 404)
Provided the 4-1-16-2 status of residence for qualified aliens
who had lost Japan's nationality in 1952 and their descendants

Japanese text

The Japanese text comes from scans of the original Awami Shotō Cabinet Order No. 404 of 24 December 1953 provided by the 日本令索引 (Nihon rei sakuin) [Japan law index] website of the National Diet Library.

English translation

The Japanese structural English translation, markup, and commentary are mine (William Wetherall).


(Aim of this government [cabinet] order)



Article 1

This government [cabinet] order -- concomitant with the return [to Japan] of the former territory of the Ōshima county in Kagoshima prefecture, south of 29 degrees north latitude (hereafter called "Awami Shotō".) -- determines special transitional measures and other matters retarding the application of laws and order related with the Ministry of Justice.


(Transitional measures concerning exit-entry-country [immigration] control)


[ Deleted in 1991 (see comments). ]

Article 14

[ Deleted in 1991 (see comments). ]

Purpose of Article 14

Paragraph 1 of Article 14 stipulated regulations for aliens exiting and leaving Japan through ports in the Awami Islands. After their return to Japan, the islands defined the southernmost border of Japan with the Ryukyus, which was then being administrated by the United States as a trust territory under a United Nations mandate.

Paragraph 2 of Article 14 defined Awami Islander aliens who qualified as aliens who had been Japanese until losing Japan's nationality on 28 April 1928 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect. The paragraph expanded the scope of the 4-1-16-2 status of residence, originally defined in Ministry of Foreign Affairs Order No. 14 of 12 May 1952 for the children of 126-2-6 Potsdam Law aliens who had been Japanese until 28 April 1952.

1928 Potsdam Law

The Potsdam Law, promulgated on and enforced from 28 April 1928, defined 126-2-6 as a special status for Taiwanese and Chosenese in Japan who lost Japan's nationality on the same day and became aliens. The Potsdam Law, however, did not apply to the Nansei Islands, which were not then part of Japan. Hence the need for Article 14.

1991 Special Measures Law

The 126-2-6 and 4-1-16-2 statuses, among others defined for 1952 nationality losers and their descendants, were subsumed by the "Special Permanent Resident" (特別永住者 Tokubetsu eijūsha) status defined by the "Special Measures Law" of 1991, article 2 of which deleted Article 14 in Cabinet Order No. 404 of 1953.

See Alien registration and immigration and Alien control laws in Japan for particulars.

The story of the return of the Awami Islands is told in English in the following book.

Robert D. Eldridge
The Return of the Amami Islands
(The Reversion Movement and U.S.-Japan Relations)
[Studies of Modern Japan]
Lanham (MD): Lexington Books, 2004 (2003)
xxx, 223 pages, hardcover