Ryūzō Saki’s Idai naru sokoku Amerika

[My Great Motherland, the United States]

Idai naru sokoku america cover


Saki, Ryōzō. Idea nary sokoku Amerika. Tokyo: Kadokawabunko, 1978.

1. Introduction

Idai naru sokoku Amerika [My Great Motherland, the United States] was first published in paperback in May 1973 and was later republished in hardback in 1978. The story is based on the 1969 murder of “Kinuko-chan” in Okinawa. Ten-year-old Kinuko-chan was kidnapped on her way from school and killed by Kōkō Yasuda, a nineteen-year-old half-Japanese half-American man. Yasuda took Kinuko into a sugarcane field, killed her, put her dead body into a big suitcase, and carried the body to his boarding house. After that, he abandoned Kinuko’s body on a beach in Yomitan Village. Because of Yasuda’s appearance, a witness thought the murderer was a U.S. soldier, so the investigation was thrown off track. The Okinawa public also suspected that the murderer was an American because after World War II, there were many incidents, such as drug trafficking, rape, and robbery, involving U.S. soldiers. When Yasuda was discovered to be the murderer, the news was a big shock to most Okinawans. According to the newspaper, Yasuda’s motivation for committing the crime was “revenge against society.”

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The novel and the actual case are very similar in terms of the method of killing, items left at the murder scene, the motivation for the killing, the progress of the investigation, and Okinawan’s reaction to the case. On the other hand, the location and date of the killing have been changed, as have the names of those involved. In researching the case for his novel, Ryūzō Saki corresponded with and interviewed Yasuda and others. In addition, he attended the trial as a courtroom spectator. Thus, it may be said that the story is founded on fact and accurately depicts Yasuda’s state of mind both before and after the murder.


Ryūzō Saki, whose original name was Ryōzō Kosaki, was born in North Korea in 1937 and moved to Hiroshima Prefecture when he was four years old. He started writing novels when he was nineteen. In 1965, he wrote Jankenpon kyōtei, which was awarded the New Japanese Prize for Literature. In 1975, his novel Fukushu suru wa ware ni ari was awarded the Naoki Prize. Many of Saki’s novels are based on actual murder cases. Idai naru sokoku America is also said to resemble and to have been influenced by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, the famous 1966 novel that described a violent murder in Kansas in the United States.


Idai naru sokoku Amerika
raises important questions concerning race and identity in post-war Okinawa. The main character is Osamu Yonashiro, a half-Japanese and half-American young man, who becomes one of the worst murderers in Okinawan history. Osamu does not know the identity or whereabouts of his father. He only knows that his father is an American, a fact that makes Osamu proud. Osamu’s parents were divorced shortly after Osamu was born because Osamu’s American appearance angered Osamu’s Okinawan father, who realized that the child was not his. After the divorce, Osamu’s grandparents brought him up until he entered high school. In daily life, he was often isolated because of his mixed blood. Even though his grandfather was on his side, Osamu really hates him. He wants to live in the United States eventually. When he turns nineteen, he kills a sixth-grade schoolgirl on purpose without remorse. At the trial, he is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In jail, he writes letters to the President of the United States of America to tell him how glad he is to have American blood. At end of the story, Osamu cheers, “To my Great Motherland, the United States!”

2. Character List

Osamu Yonashiro 与那城

A twenty-four year old man who is half-Japanese and half-American. He was born on May 7, 1949. He weighs 72 kilograms, is 182 centimeters tall, and has an American appearance. He does not know his real father, except that he is an American. Osamu is proud to have Anglo-Saxon blood and holds a grudge against the Okinawan people. He lived in a cramped space when he was child, did not have friends in school, and was teased by his classmates. One day, he deliberately kills a sixth-grade schoolgirl, Ryōko Gushiken. Now he lives in prison and tries to justify his behavior in letters addressed to the President of the United States of America.

Osamu’s adoptive father 戸籍上の父

Osamu’s adoptive father was born in Okinawa and is a junior high school teacher. He is short, has dark skin, and talks with a provincial accent. He does not like Osamu because he knows that Osamu is not his real son. He hasn’t seen Osamu since his son was four years old.

Osamu’s adoptive father’s parents 戸籍上の父の両親

Osamu’s grandparents live in the countryside and are devoted to their grandson, Osamu, who lives with them until he is four.

Osamu’s mother’s parents 修の母の両親

Osamu’s grandmother dies when Osamu turns four years old. She really loves Osamu, and they sleep together every day. Her husband, Osamu’s grandfather, is a teacher and devoted to Osamu. He feels bad for Osamu because he does not have a father and was abandoned by his mother. He tries to be a father to Osamu, but Osamu does not accept him. Osamu’s grandfather tries to get Osamu to be proud of being Okinawan.


Osamu’s mother was born in Okinawa and is now forty-three years old. When she was twenty years old, she became pregnant by an American, whom she met on base, where she worked as a maid. After she gets divorced, she flirts with some men and finally gets married to Justis, with whom she moves to Hawaii and then New York. She took care of Osamu before he made trouble.

Tomodai Kinjō 金城 朝大

Osamu’s defense lawyer, who tries to get Osamu’s sentence reduced. He sends Osamu to the hospital because it may lead to a lighter punishment, but the strategy does not work well. Kinjō asks Osamu’s relatives to help him, but no one does.

Kenji 謙次

Osamu’s cousin and classmate, who calls Osamu “Samu.” Kenji does not have a good relationship with Osamu.

Kenji’s mother 謙次の母

She is Osamu’s elementary school teacher and aunt. Osamu lived at her house when he was in his third year of junior high school, but she does not like him because he always makes trouble.

Caroline キャロリン

Caroline is sixteen years old and 170 centimeters tall. She is half-Japanese and half- American but cannot speak English. She starts working as a prostitute. She meets Osamu at a festival and falls in love with him, but their relationship comes to an unexpected end.

Ryōko Gushiken 具志堅 涼子

The sixth-grade elementary school girl who is killed by Osamu on her way from school in May 1969.

Masao Shimabukuro 島袋 盛勇

Osamu’s classmate, Masao is half-African American and half-Okinawan. Unlike Osamu, Masao is proud of having Okinawan blood. In a school speech contest, he talks about being Okinawan and wins. Osamu and Masao are not good friends. One day, their classmates force them to fight, and after that, they stop talking to each other.

Jimmy ジミー

Osamu’s American friend, who sells marijuana after he is discharged from the U.S. military.

Justis Vilaleal ジュスティウス・ ヴィラレアル氏

He is a Filipino but has American nationality. He gets engaged to Osamu’s mother. Justis is rich and kind, so Osamu really likes him and calls him “Papa.”

3. Plot Summary

Chapter 1 (3-15)

Osamu Yonashiro, who is accused of illegally disposing a body, has been sentenced to life imprisonment. He admits to all the charges but feels no guilt or remorse. He seeks the death sentence. The defense lawyer, Tomodai Kinjō, has tried to get Osamu’s relatives to testify on his behalf, but no one will, not even his grandfather or mother.

Chapter 2 (16-26)

Osamu’s letters, addressed to the President of the United States of America, give the details of the case. Osamu killed a sixth-grade schoolgirl, Ryōko Gushiken, with a hammer when she was on her way home from school. The police thought she was a runaway; however, they found her satchel, textbooks, and a sheet covered with her blood. Two weeks later, a high school student discovered Ryōko’s decomposed body. The police investigated the case and found witnesses. Eventually, they finally found the murderer, Osamu.

Chapter 3 (27-40)

Osamu and a girl, Yukari, are in the car, and he is looking for the right time to kill her. When she tells him where she lives, Osamu realizes that she is probably rich and goes to a mission school. He assumes that because she is rich she must have some American ties, so he changes his mind and does not kill her. But then he notices that Ryōko does not look so rich, so he reconsiders and decides to kill her. After killing her, he puts her dead body in a big suitcase and takes the body to his room.

Chapter 4 (41-52)

Osamu takes Ryōko’s body out of the suitcase and carries her to the bed. He recalls his childhood with his grandmother. She and Osamu always slept together when he was four years old. He tries to have sex with Ryōko’s dead body, but he has trauma about the sexual act because of his mother. He once witnessed his mother and her boyfriend Kelly having sex, so he has unpleasant feelings about sex.

Chapter 5 (53-65)

Justis Vilaleal, a rich and American with a house and fancy car, gets engaged to Osamu’s mother. He is very kind to Osamu, and Osamu really likes him and calls him Papa. They spend some precious time together.

Chapter 6 (66-77)

After a year, Justis moves to Tokyo with Osamu’s mother, but because of her job, Osamu decides to live with his grandfather. At school, he meets Masao Shimabukuro, who is half African American and half Okinawan. Osamu does not like him at all, and considers him an enemy because Masao is good at everything. One day, Osamu and Masao are beaten by their classmates, who are jealous and racist. They force Osamu and Masao to fight each other, and after that, Masao and Osamu stop talking each other.

Chapter 7 (78-93)

Justis and his mother finally get married, and that makes Osamu happy because he thinks that he will be adopted into the family and be able to go to the States. He visits his mother and Justis’s place in Tokyo. Justis suggests that Osamu transfer to a missionary school, located in Tokyo suburb, and live with an aunt. At the missionary school, Osamu cannot get along with his classmates or teachers. He complains and gets in trouble when someone praises Okinawa, so the principal calls his aunt to the school. During P.E. class, Osamu hits his head and has to go to the hospital. After the accident, he is absent for a few days, and four days later, he decides to run away.

Chapter 8 (94-103)

At a police box, Osamu asks how long it will take to get to the headwater. The police think he is a runaway and try to give him shelter. In the afternoon, the police send him to a mental hospital, but Osamu does not know where he is. He has a CAT scan and is questioned. They think he is a mental patient, but he denies it. Sadly, no one comes to the hospital to meet him. After one year, Justis shows up and takes him to his grandfather’s place in Okinawa. However, living in Okinawa causes him stress and frustrates him. He decides to go secretly to the United States in a cargo boat, but unfortunately, he is found by a sailor, and sent back to Okinawa.

Chapter 9 (104-15)

In court, Tomodai Kinjō demands a psychiatric examination for Osamu. He thinks that Osamu is abnormal, as evidenced by his action, but Osamu refuses to comply. Osamu hates that people thinks he is psychotic, even though that would lead to a lighter punishment. He does not want to go back to the hospital. A half month later, Osamu is tested by Dr. Takaesu, who concludes that he is not psychotic.

Chapter 10 (116-28)

Osamu is a second grade student at high school. In May, he goes to a carnival on base to find an American girl to learn English. Finally, he finds a beautiful girl named Caroline and tries to speak to her in his broken English. However, she does not reply, so he assumes that she is shy. When he says that he is glad to meet her, she does not even reply. Finally, she just says, “I cannot speak English.”

Chapter 11 (129-42)

Caroline talks to Osamu in Japanese about her family and her life. She is very honest and tells him that she is a runaway prostitute. Even though Osamu knows that she is a prostitute, he starts to fall in love with her. He gets angry with the man who tricked her into prostitution. Osamu decides to run away to Tokyo with her using his grandfather’s money.

Chapter 12 (143-58)

In a hotel in Tokyo, Caroline starts working as a prostitute to get money, and Osamu follows her directions even he knows that prostitution is illegal. A few days later, some coworkers suspect that Caroline and Osamu are doing something bad, so they go to Osamu’s room to check. Osamu feels nervous and stabs them with a knife. Later, the police take him to a reformatory. After that, Osamu and Caroline are separated forever. When he turns nineteen years old, he starts working at an electrical appliance shop.

Chapter 13 (159-71)

Osamu goes back to Okinawa. It has been a year and half. Osamu’s grandfather does not get mad at him, even though he ran way to Tokyo with his money and almost killed the hotel’s coworkers. His grandfather suggests that Osamu transfer to a high school. He lets Osamu do whatever he wants; however, Osamu always lies and takes advantage of his grandfather. Osamu’s mother sends him a check for a $1200 for a trip to the United States, so that Osamu goes to the shop where airplane tickets are sold. He buys a ticket and prepares to go to the United States.

Chapter 14 (172-80)

In April, Osamu’s grandfather notices that Osamu is not taking the examination to enter high school and is trying to fly to the U.S., so he goes to the shop to cancel Osamu’s ticket. Osamu is on Gate 2 Street in Okinawa City with his friend Jimmy, a discharged soldier who sells marijuana. An American gets in a car accident with an Okinawan, and the Japanese police get into a bitter argument with the Okinawan. Osamu and Jimmy are there, and the residents start taking out their anger on them, because they are upset at the Americans. Osamu could say that he is Okinawan, but he does not. As a result, he gets punched and kicked until the MP and Japanese police break up the fight.

Chapter 15 (181-4)

In the court, after the first trial, the judge questions Osamu, who responds without showing any remorse.

Chapter 16 (185-200)

In prison, Osamu meets Masao, who lived in a black neighborhood and always fought with Americans to prove his worth as an Okinawan. After being sent to a reformatory, Masao fell into evil ways until he ended up in a prison. Together in prison, Masao and Osamu still hate each other.

Chapter 17 (201-202)

The day before Okinawa reverts to Japan, everyone is looking forward to drinking sake to celebrate. Osamu, on the other hand, cheers for his “Great Motherland, the United States.”

4. Point of View

The narration never changes, and all chapters are narrated in first-person. The story is told through Osamu’s letters from prison addressed to the President of the United States of America. Osamu deliberately killed a sixth grade girl, so readers have reason to doubt the veracity of his story, or at least suspect that he is merely trying to justify his reprehensible behavior. However, he comes across as being honest and forthright. In 1969, mixed-blood Okinawans had a hard time living in Okinawa. Many Okinawans looked down on Americans because of World War. In addition, Americans were looked down upon because of incidents of rape, robbery, car accidents, and selling drugs. At the same time, many Okinawans scorned Okinawan women who were involved with American men. The narrator raises important questions concerning race and identity.

5. Symbolism and Imagery

Sugarcane サトウキビ

The sugarcane, with their long, thin stalka and sharp-pointed leaves like knives, symbolize the struggle for survival and also represent “how Okinawan people are” from Osamu’s point of view. Osamu is of mixed American and Japanese parentage, and Okinawan people are prejudiced against him. Moreover, when Osamu was a student, his classmates bullied him, and even his mother treated him as a burden sometimes. Significantly, Osamu killed the Okinawan girl in a sugarcane field. The symbolism of this suggests that Osamu wants to get revenge against all of Okinawan society.

Osamu Yonashiro 与那城

Osamu is a murderer and people think he is crazy, but at the same time, he is a product of his surroundings. He himself symbolizes the race problems and identity problems that were a part of Okinawa at that time. On the other hand, the realistic descriptions perhaps make it difficult to read the novel as an allegory.

Justis’s mustang and house ムスタングと家

Justis Vilaleal, who gets engaged to Osamu’s mother, has a Mustang, a very fancy and expensive car, and he lives in an American house with a yard. Osamu respects and envies Justis, and his pride in having American blood grows stronger. The Mustang symbolizes America’s prosperity because Okinawan people in those days were poor.

Masao as a panther 島袋 盛勇

Osamu compares Masao to a black panther: “He is staring at me like a black panther” (75). As we know, a black panther is a ferocious, powerful, and fearless animal—like Masao. The reader can guess that Masao is aggressive boy. Masao’s personality is the opposite of Osamu, who is ashamed of being Okinawan. Like Osamu, Masao also symbolizes the race and identity problems in Okinawan society.

School surrounded by the bars バーに囲まれた学校

Osamu’s school is surrounded by bars, as if to suggest that the students are prisoners. Osamu, who is bullied in school, certainly feels as if the school is a jail. After the World War II, crimes, such as rape and drug trafficing, were common in Okinawa. The school surrounded by bars symbolized that fact that Osamu is living in a violent and destructive environment.

6. Setting

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The main story takes place on a small island in the middle of the Okinawa mainland, and was based on the murder of “Kinuko-chan,” which happened in February 1969. The case shocked Okinawan people at that time. Kinuko-chan was only ten years old, and she was kidnapped and killed when she was on her way home from school. The criminal was Kōkō Yasuda, a nineteen-year-old half-Japanese and half-American man. Yasuda took Kinuko into a sugarcane field, killed her, put her dead body into a big suitcase, and brought her to his boarding house. After that, he abandoned Kinuko’s body at seaside at Yomitan Village. According to the newspaper, Yasuda’s motivation for committing the crime was “revenge against society.” The author, Ryūzō Saki, directly corresponded with and interviewed Yasuda and others. In addition, he attended the trial as a courtroom spectator.

7. Criticism

Shun Akiyama insists that the author, Ryūzō Saki, is a unique and fearless writer. In 1973, when the book was published, the Japanese government did not approve of crime books, such as Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Akiyama points out that Saki’s depiction of the main character, Osamu Yonashiro, reveals the dark side of people, and that that is what is interesting about the novel. Saki’s novel was written at about the time of Okinawan’s reversion to Japan, so most Okinawans were positive about being a part of Japan. However, in Saki’s novel, Osamu is just the opposite: he strongly desires to be a part of the United States. Akiyama points out that writing a novel with a main character that takes such a position obviously took much courage.

8. Themes

Law of the Jungle 弱肉強食

Osamu says, “The best always win. The weaker goes to the wall.” These words partly explain why he feels that Americans are superior to Japanese. Okinawa was under American control since the end of World War II, so many Okinawans, like Osamu, struggled with feelings of inferiority. However, the logical extension of this “might makes right” mentality would also justify Osamu’s brutal murder, so the philosophy is obviously morally bankrupt.

Race and Identity in Okinawa after World War II

Idai naru sokoku America addresses important problems concerning race and identity in Okinawa after the war. After the war, there were many births of half-Japanese and half-American children. The main reason was that Americans were much richer than Okinawans, so many poor Okinawan women felt that a relationship with an American man would lead to a better life. However, the children of such relationships had to overcome race-based discrimination. Some children could overcome the bullying and other problems, but other children—like the main character, Osamu—could not. In the novel, Osamu’s classmates tease him and force him to fight Masao just for fun. Moreover, his teachers, parents, and relatives were not sympathetic or supportive. At the time, such children had to struggle with the American part of their identity. Okinawans had negative stereotypes about Americans. Because of drug trafficking, rapes, robberies, and other crimes involving U.S. servicemen, many Okinawans viewed Americans as being violent and dangerous.

9. Discussion Questions

1. Why does Osamu write to the President of the United States even though he knows he will never receive a reply?

2. Why doesn’t Osamu’s mother tell him about his real father? And why doesn’t Osamu ask her about his father?

3. Why doesn’t Osamu deny his involvement when the police come to his house?

4. Why did he speak English during the investigation?

5. Does Osamu have psychological problems? Or not?

6. Does Osamu really want to go to the United States? Why did he kill Ryōko before he was about to leave?

7. How does Masao feel towards Osamu when they meet in prison?

8. What happened to Caroline after the incident in Tokyo?

9. Why didn’t Osamu’s mother visit Osamu when he was in jail?

10. How does Osamu feel towards the family members of the victim? How does his attitude change?

11. What does Saki want to teach readers through his novel?

12. What does the novel reveal about race relations in Okinawa after the war?

10. Works Cited

Akiyama, Shun. Kaisetsu [Commentary]. Idai naru sokoku Amerika. By Saki Ryūzō. Tokyo: Kadokawabunko, 1978. Print.

“Gaijinjiken sōsaken ga kabe ni.” Naha: Ryūkyū Shinpō, 9 Mar 1969. Print.

“Hannin wa Okinawajin datta.” Naha: Ryūkyū Shinpō, 14 Mar 1969: A-3. Print.

“Kinuko san goroshi no Yasuda.” Naha:
Ryūkyū Shinpō, 15 Mar 1969. Print.

“Kinuko san jiken.” Naha:
S Ryūkyū hinpō, 14 Mar 1969. Print.

“Kinuko san no itai mitsukaru.” Naha:
Ryūkyū Shinpō, 13 Mar 1969: A-3. Print.

“Kinuko san no irui mitsukaru.” Naha:
Ryūkyū Shinpō, 13 Mar 1969: A-9. Print.

“Kitanakagusuku no shōjo yukue fumeijiken.” Naha: Ryūkyū Shinpō, 7 Mar 1969: A-3. Print.

“Kōkaisōsa ni fumikiru.” Naha: Ryūkyū Shinpō, 8 Mar 1969. Print.

“Mokugekisha ni kuichigai.” Naha:
Ryūkyū Shinpō, 15 Mar 1969. Print.

Ryūzō, Saki.
Hōtei no nakano jinsei. Tokyo: Iwanamishinsho, 2009. Print.

---. Idai naru sokoku Amerika. Tokyo: Kadokawabunko, 1978. Print.

Jimmy and George. Tokyo: Sūeisha, 1982. Print.

---. Waga Okinawa nōto. Tokyo: Ushio Shuppansha, 1981. Print.

Original report by Shiori Tobaru. Edited by Takuma Sminkey.