Stone on MCAS Futenma serves as historical land marker

by Lance Cpl. Brittany A James, III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated Public Affairs Office
U.S. Marine Corps

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- The island of Okinawa had a long history before it became a prefecture of Japan. It was once called the Ryukyu Kingdom, a small independent nation, during the 15th through 19th centuries. The people of the Ryukyu Kingdom used the environment around them to accomplish their day-to-day tasks. Different resources were utilized in various ways in place of modern technology.

A stone formally named Shirubi-Dote, meaning “land survey marker mound,” is located in a dense jungle off the Habu Trail on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The stone is more than 250 years old, and was put in place during the Ryukyu Kingdom period, according to Masayuki Yonaha, a cultural resources program manager with Environmental Affairs Branch, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.

“Most of these stones are now gone,” said Yonaha. “There used to be around 10,000 of these stones located across Okinawa, but now there are only about 200 left.”

The stones were placed specifically to conduct a land survey, according to Yonaha, a Chatan Town, Okinawa, native. The surveys were conducted by the Ryukyu Kingdom as a request from the Satseuma Clan.

The stone was used as a point of reference for measuring distances, and creating maps and grids, according to Yonaha.
“It is important to learn how life was back then,” said Yonaha. “This area holds many features associated with human life in the past.”

That particular stone marks an area that is fertile, and will produce abundant crops, according to Yonaha. In the past, the people of Okinawa measured the productive worth of the whole area based on the placement of the stone. The farmers were taxed based on the total acreage of valuable land, according to Yonaha. The farms were surveyed for soil fertilization and productivity.

“This is what they used to create maps and grids back before we had all the technology of today,” said Yonaha. “This serves as a reminder how things used to be before they had a more modern way to measure the land.”

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