OPG to start full-scale project to promote Shimakutuba

September 15, 2012, Kazuki Furugen of Ryukyu Shimpo

From the 2013 fiscal year, the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) will redouble its efforts to preserve Shimakutuba, the Okinawan language. The OPG has put together a ten-year plan for Shimakutuba in the second half of this year and will increase the current budget from 2 million to 20 million yen. Daiichi Hirata, the director general of the Department of Culture, Tourism and Sports of the OPG talked to the Ryukyu Shimpo ahead of the Day of Shimakutuba on September 18.

The languages of Okinawa are now recognized by UNESCO as being endangered. There is an increasing need to preserve these languages, with more people using them to help them spread and be passed on from one generation to the next.

In 2011, the OPG created the Department of Culture, Tourism and Sports as part of the restructuring of its organization. It has consolidated projects related to Shimakutuba and is holding meetings to which it invites university professors and other experts.

Hirata commented, “To mark 40 years since Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty, we are celebrating this year as the departure year for Shimakutuba-related efforts.” He continued, “We will create a plan in the coming second half of the fiscal year, and work to give the plan shape. From next year we would like to launch a movement to familiarize people with Shimakutuba, in the same way as we have promoted the Good-job movement awareness-rising campaign (for a higher employment rate in Okinawa).” The basic plan will be formed later. However, Hirata said, “We would like to provide opportunities for people to have fun with Shimakutuba, while also studying it using an academic approach. The balance between the two is important. We will work on the project using our vision of how Shimakutuba would be used in the next five to ten years.” The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly added “the Day of Shimakutuba” to the prefectural calendar in 2006.

(English translation by T&CT, Kyoko Tadaoka and Mark Ealey)

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