The Senkaku Islands are located near Ishigaki Island in the Ryukyu Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and they are composed of 8 islands: Uotsuri, Kuba, Kitakojima, Taisho, Minamikojima, Okinokitaiwa, Okinominamiiwa, and Tobise Island.
The Japanese government started to investigate the islands from 1885 on and confirmed them uninhabited. Neither declared any nation its authority over the Senkaku Islands. As a result, Japan incorporated them into its territory in 1895 and rented four islands to a private Japanese entrepreneur named Mr. Koga. He ran businesses like bonito manufacture and collection of bird feathers. In its heyday, the islands housed more than 200 Japanese. The Koga family finally purchased the rented islands and thereby became the owner.
After World War 2, Okinawa including the Senkaku Islands was under the administration of the US until 1972. After Okinawa reverted to Japan, some of the Senkaku Islands have still been provided to the US for military exercises. The Japanese government has duly paid the rental fees to the owner of the islands.
China was indifferent towards the Senkaku Islands until the 1960s. In the 1970s the existence of natural resources in the area of the Senkaku Islands was reported. Since then China started to claim the islands and contest Japan’s sovereignty over them.
Sources: Ministry of Foreign Affaires of Japan,