I arrived in Naha, Okinawa yesterday and took an interest in the local language as usual since languages are one of my hobbies.

Okinawan is a dying language separate from Japanese that is not mutually intelligible with Japanese (though there is also an Okinawan variety of Standard Japanese).

My host in my hostel taught me a couple of phrases but I don't think he can really speak it since I've read that speakers younger than about 70 years old are very few.

Anyway, I stumbled across some lessons on YouTube by a very interesting half-American Okinawan who looks Western but only speaks Japanese and Okinawan. He learned Okinawan from elderly local people twenty years ago and at least up to two years ago apparently gave classes somewhere in Naha with the support of the local authorities.

But I can't seem to find anything on whether these classes are still on offer with him or another teacher, what the exact location and meeting place is, whether enrolling is necessary or casual members of the public including foreign tourists can turn up, and whether there's a fee. Does anybody know more about this? Or at least can somebody who can Google in Japanese find out?

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    Are you looking for classes in English, or Japanese? Feb 26, 2014 at 2:37
  • My Japanese certainly isn't good enough but if the classes are something like informal meetings that don't cost anything and foreigners were welcome then I would go anyway. Feb 26, 2014 at 9:22
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    How long are you going to be there for? Do you have access to someone who can at least translate for you to explain what you want to do to someone able to teach it? I would generally advise calling the city office and explaining what you want to do to someone in the education division (Japanese: 教育委員会, kyoikuinkai), as they often will hold classes on a variety of things that are cheap and/or free. Even if they don't have any, they may be able to tell you where to look, and likely have an English speaker. To actually set up the lessons, you will likely need a translator though.
    – jmac
    Feb 27, 2014 at 8:28
  • I don't think the kyouikuiinkai (Board of Education) would give those kinds of classes. They administer the local schools, and so on. Nothing to do with cultural activities or tourism. Try the tourism office.
    – Pitarou
    Feb 28, 2014 at 1:38
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    hippie, it's quite possible that you could mill around places old people hang out and find someone willing to teach you. Some may even speak English due to the occupation by the US after the war. Bear in mind that anyone over the age of 70 may have been around for the invasion of Okinawa, though most of the older folk I have spoken with (who even fought in the war) held no ill-will. Alternatively, going to a class on any traditional Okinawan cultural anything may allow you to connect with someone who knows the dialect and wants to share.
    – jmac
    Mar 6, 2014 at 6:00

1 Answer 1


After following the BBC links to his English website, it seems he teaches at a cultural center in Naha...

I currently teach Uchinaaguchi at the Well Culture School in Naha. If you have any inquiries or would like to try it out, please call 098-832-5588.

Judging by the Japanese news page which still mentions his teaching as recently as autumn last year, I would have said it is ongoing, however I've tried searching the site for the course and couldn't find any results. I don't speak enough Japanese to get the details by phone, but I'll try and rope in a friend in who can.

Alternatively his profile page states:

Uchinaaguchi(Okinawan Language) Lessons/Lecture

I can teach/lecture about Uchinaaguchi (Okinawan Language) and will accommodate your time requirements. I can tailor your needs to Junior High School, Senior High School, College and other Institutions. Please feel free to contact me and discuss further!

That I did. The next classes (all in Japanese I might add) are the 5th April 2014 and the 19th April 2014, from 9:30am to 11:30am.

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