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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nana-san-maru: driving in Okinawa

七三丸 沖縄

Today in Japanese history was known in the prefecture of Okinawa on July 30 1978 as Nana-san-maru, the Japanese for "730." "730" referred to July 30 being the day on which traffic rules in the prefecture were brought into line with the rest of the Japan, and were changed from driving on the right-hand side of the road, U.S.-style, to driving on the left-hand side, Japanese style.

Nana-san-maru: driving in Okinawa

Up until the end of the Pacific War, cars in Okinawa ran on the left-hand side like the rest of Japan, but Okinawa came under direct United States control following the war, and with that the traffic flow was changed.

Japan was given control of Okinawa in 1972, but it wasn't for another six years that this fundamental road rule was brought back into line with the rest of Japan.

Needless to say, the lead-up to the change was carefully orchestrated - as the Nana-San-Maru campaign, the change itself was carefully executed, and the roads carefully supervised in the months that followed. Nevertheless, there were numerous minor traffic accidents, but happily none that ended in serious injuries or fatalities.

The United States' imposition of new driving rules is by no means the only thing that has ever radically distinguished Okinawa from the rest of Japan. In fact, until the 17th century, it was not a case of Okinawa and "the rest of Japan" but "Okinawa and Japan," the Ryukyu Kingdom as it was known then being a completely different country.

Okinawa still retains much of its old pre-Japanese culture, which makes it a fascinating place to visit, especially thanks to its tropical climate which provides a refuge from the winter further north-east.

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