Literary Scholar Steve Rabson provides the following quotation from the reminiscences of the Okinawan poet Yamanokuchi Baku (1903-1963). In it, Yamanokuchi describes the motivation for his 1938 poem, "Kaiwa" (A Conversation). He was living in Tokyo at the time:
In the coffee shop where I used to hang out, one of the regular customers showed up one day after a long absence, his face deeply tanned. he announced in a loud voice to the woman who ran the shop and her daughter that he had been on a business trip to Okinawa. I'd been talking to some other people at the time, but, being form Okinawa, I was slightly irritated to hear him mention it. Most Okinawans feel uncomfortable at such times. Still, I could not suppress a certain interest in this man's impressions of my homeland. But hearing him talk about how he was invited to the home of a "chieftain," how he drank awamori [Okinawa's distinctive rice liquor] from a soup bowl, and how "the natives" do this and that, I felt as though he'd been conjuring up visions of a place I'd never seen. Although aware that this was simply a tourist's amusement, I was saddened, not only because I am Okinawan, but also because the manager's daughter was listening wide-eyed to this man's every word. I had been planning for some time to graduate from my lumpen life-style, and my relationship with this girl had progressed to the point where I was intending to ask her to marry me. I couldn't help wondering what she would think if she knew I was Okinawan. Sitting in a booth in that coffee shop, I concentrated all my energy on writing this poem.
"Where are your from?" she asked.
I thought about where I was from and lit a cigarette. That place associated with tattoos, the Jabisen [three-stringed plucked musical instrument], and ways as strange as ornamental designs.
"Very far away," I answered.
"In what direction," she asked.
That place of gloomy customs near the southern tip of Japan where women carry piglets on their heads and people walk bare foot. Was this where I was from?
"South," I answered.
"Where in the South?" she asked.
In the south, that zone of indigo seas where it's always summer and dragon orchids, sultan umbrellas, octopus pines and papayas all nestle together under the bright sunlight. It's a place shrouded in misconceptions, where the people are thought not to be Japanese. . . . , a place, viewed through stereotypes, that has become a synonym for "chieftains," "natives," and "karate. . . ."
"Somewhere near the equator," I answered.
(Quoted in Chalmers Johnson, ed., Okinawa: Cold War Island [Cardiff, CA: Japan Policy Research Institute, 1999], pp. 86-87.)