JPN 471-472

Okinawan Language and Culture


There are many young people in Hawai'i of Okinawan heritage, and many of them maintain an active interest in things Okinawan. This can be seen in participation of many young people in Okinawan organizations and in cultural activities, such as Okinawan folk and classical music and dance. In addition, courses with Okinawan components garner significant student interest, such as the yearly one-semester course in Okinawan history in the Department of History. Our own department has offered Okinawan-related courses on an informal basis in the past. They include:

In addition, Serafim has the green light from the Japanese Curriculum Committee to develop an undergraduate course in readings in modern Okinawan literature, though he has not yet proposed it. The department recognizes the substantial interest of both the undergraduate and graduate student communities, and this course proposal represents an effort to offer probably the only university course in Okinawan language and culture in the nation. These courses represent the first concrete move to teach Okinawan as a heritage language, and are supported by our department's rich faculty resources for implementing and conducting courses in Okinawan language and culture. Further, the courses will be taught using mostly Japanese as the classroom language, serving our goal of offering advanced skill courses in Japanese, as well, thus accomplishing two goals at the same time. In addition, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, in its Program Goals document, specifically supports development of courses such as these, with the following "Curricular Improvements" goal: "Develop curricula in heritage languages and cultures related to Okinawa, Taiwan, etc."


1. The purposes or objectives of the course:

This year-long course (JPN 471-472) is designed for those who have Japanese-language speaking and reading ability at the level of completion of Japanese 302, to pursue the following goals:

  1. To acquire skills in listening and speaking, and reading and writing, and through acquisition of these skills to acquire an appreciation of the Okinawan language, including how it differs from and is similar to Japanese. To interact with members of the local Okinawan community in order to develop a greater appreciation of the Okinawan heritage in Hawai'i in actual practice.
  2. For the most part, through the study of Okinawan language:
  1. In JPN 471: To understand, appreciate, and acquire characteristics of Okinawan folk culture, such as folk sayings, folktales, songs, and stories in the newly published Okinawan-language newspaper.
  2. In JPN 472: To understand, appreciate, and acquire characteristics of Okinawan high culture, such as Ryukyuan literature (including the Ryuuka song tradition, kumiodori (Okinawan dance dramas), and the Omoro sooshi, a compendium of song-chants associated with Ryukyu court functions. To interact with representatives of local cultural maintenance organizations. To learn more concretely about Okinawan high culture through study of videotaped performances and lectures.

2. The organization of the course content into time periods. Please be sure to include a reasonably detailed syllabus. List briefly the essential texts of readings schedule:

Japanese 471 Okinawan Language and Culture


Week 1. Introduction to the Okinawan language and culture

Week 2 Linguistic rules for sound changes and structural characteristics of the Okinawan language; rules of the standard orthographic system; pronunciation practice

Week 3 Pronunciation, Reading, writing practice with useful expressions

Weeks 4-5 Lesson 1 & 2. Using the text Hajimirana Uchinaaguchi (Let's Start Okinawan Language); Topics: greetings, family, and friends

Weeks 6-7 Lessons 3, 4, 5, & 6. Numbers, Food, Clothes, Animals

Week 8 Annual events, Okinawan traditional cultural practices: Relationships among languages, cultural products and practices, and the underlying value system

Week 9 Language and culture through proverbs (Selected readings from text Kotowaza ni miru Okinawa no kokoro (The Okinawan mind in proverbs))

Week 10 Reading practice (Text: The Hoogen Shinbun (Okinawan Dialect Newspaper)

Week 11 Reading practice (Text: "Tinsagu nu hana" [Hoosenka || The touch-me-not song])

Review, Visit to Okinawa Hoogen Circle (Dialect study group in Honolulu)

Week 12 Small Group Projects: Survey on Okinawan language and culture in Hawai'i; Small Group Projects: Group discussions for choosing group projects

Week 13 Example Projects: (1) Interviewing and meeting community people for interaction in the use of Okinawan language and culture; (2) Visiting Okinawan cultural organizations

Week 14-15 Presentations / Reports of Small Group Projects/Feedback

Week 16 Student-Teacher course assessment and evaluation (for sake of improvement for following years)

Japanese 472 Readings in Okinawan Language and Culture


Week 1 Linguistic relationships; Historical development

Week 2 Using the Okinawago jiten [Dictionary of Okinawan], both hardbound and on the Web

Week 3 Hoogen shinbun: 1 - Deepening of structural understanding

Week 4 Hoogen shinbun: 2 - More complex texts

Week 5 Folk story: 'The woman who cut her nose off for the sake of her husband' (focusing on analysis of language structure and use)

Week 6 Modern Okinawan language in modern Okinawan pop culture (Kina Shookichi, Rinken Bando, Hidekatsu, others)

Week 7 Poetic songs: Ryuuka: 1 - development, structure, and recitation practice of Ryuuka (schools of Ryuuka performance)

Week 8 Poetic songs: Ryuuka: 2 - Reading and listening to Ryuuka; local Ryuuka production and performance

Week 9 Kumiodori: Dance dramas in Japanized Ryukyuan society in the premodern era: 1 - purpose; language; dance-drama production; relation to Japanese dramatic forms

Week 10 Kumiodori: Dance dramas in Japanized Ryukyuan society in the premodern era: 2 - Nidoo tichi'uchi [Nidoo tekiuchi || The revenge of the two sons]

Week 11 The world of the Omoro sooshi: Old-Ryukyu culture through omoro songs: 1 - The language of song; singers; religion

Week 12 The world of the Omoro sooshi: Old-Ryukyu culture through omoro songs: 2 - trade; politics (relation to Southeast Asia, Japan)

Weeks 13-14 Project: (a) develop; (b) visit project site; (c) develop oral report draft, with submission and feedback; (d) rewrite

Week 15 In-class Project Reports

Week 16 Course Assessment

Course Materials

Textbooks: Okinawa Hoogen Fukyuu Kyoogikai [Okinawan Dialect Promotion Society]. Hajimirana Uchinaaguchi (Let's Start Learning Okinawan Language, 2001. Bilingual text (Japanese and Okinawan). With recorded tapes.

Shimabukuro Zenkoo. 1983. Kotowaza ni miru Okinawa no Kokoro (The Okinawan mind in proverbs). Trilingual text.

Okinawa Hoogen Fukyuu Kyoogikai [Okinawan Dialect Promotion Society]. 2002. Okinawa Hoogen Shinbun (Okinawan Dialect Newspaper).

Supplementary Center for Oral History.

Materials: How to Do Oral History, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2000.

Songs: Higa Takeshi. [n.d.] Okinawa no Uta (Okinawan Songs), with CD and Instructional Guide.

Karuta Game: Hijirida Kyoko & Oshiro Tomoko. 2000. Hawai'i - Okinawa Bunka Karuta (Cultural Information Cards). Naha: Sun Printing.

Linguistic Guide: Miyara Shinsho. 2000. Uchinaaguchi Kooza, (Lectures on the Okinawan Dialect). Naha: The Okinawa Times, Inc.

Videos available: Okinawa chiku daigaku hoosoo kookai kooza [Okinawa District university broadcast public lectures], series 1-13, on various Okinawan language, literature, and cultural topics, in Japanese.


Final Oral test ......... 20%

Final Written Test......... 20%

Project Work......... 20%

Lesson Quizzes......... 20%

Daily Performance......... 20%

(May include homework, mini quizzes,

class performance)