Research into Okinawa is very important when considering Japan as a part of Asia and the influence of Asia on Japan. Professor Hokama Shuzen is accredited for the creation of Okinawan studies, which is an amalgam of research into Okinawan language, literature, and culture. He has also made great contributions to its dissemination.
Okinawa has always been critical for understanding the culture and history of other areas of Japan. The islands have maintained close cultural and historical ties with various regions inside Asia. They have been exceptionally active in other Asian regions in a relationship different from those with other areas of Japan. Today, research into Okinawa is important to help understand the dynamic approach of Okinawa towards Asia and Asia towards Okinawa.
A core researcher in Okinawan studies, Professor Hokama has created and developed a basis for research to study the traditional fields in particular. He has continued his studies of "Omorososhi", the oldest written record of songs and poetry used in the Ryukyu court. In particular, his research into "Nanto-kayo", songs of the Southern Islands of Amami, Okinawa, Miyako and Yaeyama is the first to have demonstrated the distinctive characteristics and the commonality in the basic cultures of these four island groups. He has been a leading figure in the research of "Nanto-kayo-taisei", a compilation of songs of the Southern Islands, which he gathered through his on-site fieldwork throughout the islands. He used this work to identify the bedrock of Okinawan culture. Naturally, the focus of his work is directed to the broader Asian aspects, and is headed toward the creation of a new type of Okinawan research such as a joint international research into Okinawan studies.
In addition to his studies, Professor Hokama played a central role in establishing Hosei University's Institute of Okinawan Studies in order to conduct further research into Okinawa and raise the awareness of the general public of the broad category of Okinawan studies. He currently serves as the President of the Japanese Society for the Okinawan Studies, a position he has held for 25 years, in which role he has delivered lectures on Okinawan studies throughout the islands. In addition, he has conducted fieldwork throughout the islands and has worked as an organizer for the International Symposium on Okinawan Studies, which has been held in such locations as Tokyo, Okinawa, Sydney, and Bonn. He has also trained young researchers at Hosei University, the University of Tokyo and Kokugakuin University.
Thus, Professor Hokama has been constantly involved in Okinawan studies from its inception to the position it has attained today. Furthermore he aims to widen his research to incorporate Asia as a whole. For this work, he is indeed a worthy laureate of the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.