Overnight in Okinawa

Henry Ershine once said, “The rule of the road is paradox quite, for if you keep to the left, you’re sure to be right.”
Okinawa is the largest island in the Ryukyu chain of islands in the East China Sea. The emperor of China sent a delegation to this island to demand tribute in A.D. 603. The Okinawans objected, and the Chinese invaded the island and occupied it for five hundred years.
A second invasion came in 1609. This time Samurai warriors from Satsuma, Japan, arrived demanding taxes and control of the Okinawan sea trade. During this occupation, a number of Western nations wanted to trade with Okinawa. Determined not to lose control of the Ryukyu islands, Emperor Meiji tightened his grip on Okinawa by sending a large Japanese military detachment to Shuri Castle in 1868. Likewise, he abolished the Ryukyuan Kingdom in 1879, proclaiming Okinawa the forty-seventh prefecture of Japan.
Except for Commodore Matthew Perry’s visit in 1854, the island went unnoticed by most Americans until World War II. The battle for Okinawa was the largest American amphibious invasion in the Pacific. It began on April 1, 1945 and lasted for eleven fierce weeks. It was the last major battle of World War II and a victory for the U.S.
The island remained under U.S. control for the next twenty-seven years. During the American occupation, automobiles became prevalent on the island, and American traffic laws were established to maintain order. The most noticeable of these laws required all drivers to drive on the right side of the road, whereas before the war, the Okinawans drove on the left side of the road.
During the Nixon administration, Prime Minister Sato Eisaku struck a deal with the U.S. to repatriate Okinawa to Japan. Okinawa’s sovereignty reverted back to Japan on May 15, 1972, and this caused a problem for Okinawan drivers. While the rest of Japan was driving on the left side of the road, Okinawa was the only prefecture driving on the right. To maintain safety and uniformity, Okinawa was then ordered to comply with the other prefectures.
The change occurred at 6:00 A.M., on July 30, 1978. Okinawans went to bed driving on the right side of the road and awoke to traffic on the left side of the road. Overnight, all of the street signs were reversed, and the population was now expected to drive on the left side of the road.
I am thankful that this transformation did not involve me, for I find driving in Memphis, Tennessee challenging enough. It is not that I dislike change, but I dislike drastic change. For example, I do not like it when a friend loses a job, a family member dies, or an innocent victim suffers from a disaster. I don’t like it, yet I understand that these type of changes will occur.
When these life-changing events come, what will you do? Where will you go? How will you react?
Good news, for God never changes (Malachi 3:6; James 1:16-18), but he wants us to be transformed (2 Corinthians 3:16-18; Romans 12:2) into the likeness of his son (Hebrews 13:1-8). Have you changed? Christian are you up for the task?
“Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand.
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.” Jennie Wilson


James 1:16-18

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Paul Goddard

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