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EPISODE 12 🌺 Shimakutuba: Exploring the Languages of the Ryukyus

In this episode, we speak with linguists and individuals working on reclaiming languages with three distinct Ryukyuan/Loochooan languages. These languages originate from the following locations known in Japanese as Amami Oshima, Miyako, and Yaeyama. Join us in conversation with Madoka Hammine, Michinori Shimoji, Martha Tsutsui Billins, and guest host Micah Mizukami, who share their focus in their respective languages, linguistics, revitalization, and identity.

We hope to dedicate an entire episode to each of these languages, so be on the lookout in future seasons!

Nifee Deebiru to Nami Oshiro and My Shima Playlist for the Shimakutuba Fundraiser graphic we used for our background image for this episode!

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Guest Host

Micah Mizukami is a 5th-generation Shimanchu and is pursuing his Ph.D. in Second Language Studies with a focus on sociolinguistics. He works in the field of oral history and has taught courses on oral history methods and the social history of Pidgin (Hawaiʻi Creole English) with a language rights focus. He also looks at the intersection of narrative and identity. Through the JET Program, Micah taught on the island of Tokunoshima.

Instagram: @mizumicah


Madoka Hammine Madoka Hammine has a Ph.D. in Education from the Lapin yliopisto (University of Lapland) which focused on minority-endangered languages. She is a heritage speaker of Meeramuni from Miyara, Ishigaki island and she grew up in Yonabaru, in Okinawa (Uchinaa). Her work focuses on the language revitalization and reclamation of Ryukyuan languages, as well as heritage language teaching and learning, identities and emotions of second language learners, indigenous language education, language policy and planning. Her dissertation is titled, “Speaking my Language and Being Beautiful – Decolonizing

Radio program: marumaru (まーるーまーるー琉球諸語)

Michinori Shimoji has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Australian National University. His thesis is titled, “A grammar of Irabu, a Southern Ryukyuan language.” He is a heritage speaker of the Irabu dialect in the Miyako islands. His current research is on the Kyushu dialects of Japan, which are also severely endangered. His work focuses on the documentation and revitalization of other Ryukyuan languages and Japanese dialects.

Martha Tsutsui Billins has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from SOAS University of London. Her thesis is titled, “A sociolinguistic documentation of honorific verbs in Southern Amami Ōshima.

She is an outsider linguist who is a Yonsei (4th generation) Japanese-American. Her research focuses on Shimaguchi in Setouchi town on Amami Oshima, specifically honorifics and politeness strategies in the face of language loss. She is the host and producer of Field Notes, which is a podcast about linguistic fieldwork, particularly focused on under-described and under-documented languages.

Additional Help

Reed Ridens

Discord: @kama_yaima

Show Notes


Ippee nifee deebiru (thank you very much!) to Marin Naruse from Amami Oshima for providing this episode’s music! Marin shared, “the song is called Yoisara Bushi, which is one of the most beautiful songs of Amami shima uta. The song is originally based on the belief of Unarigami, the spirits residing in sisters. Website:

And as always, nifee deebiru to Brandon Ufugusuku Ing for the music for the fun fact!

Oki Fun Fact of the Day:

This episode’s fun fact was shared with us by our guest host, Micah!

Did you know there are lots of fun language resources that exist for many of the language varieties in the Ryuukyuus? However, accessing these resources can be difficult for the diaspora, since finding them often requires searching in Japanese. This is further complicated by the current political division of Ruuchuu between Okinawa and Kagoshima Prefectures. Searching for individual islands or specific villages tends to work. For example, there are many versions of Rajio Taiso from across the archipeligo you can see on YouTube. There are also picture books and karuta sets that have been created. Vlogs are another fun language resource, too. Happy Learning!




Huge thank you to Emma Anderson and Joseph Kamiya for audio editing and mastering.


Donations to Ichariba Choodee are very much appreciated!


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