February 18 is Dialect Day in the Amami Islands of Japan. Japan is made up of 6,852 islands, 430 of which are inhabited. The Ryukyuan Languages (まくとぅば Shima kutuba “Island Languages”) are the indigenous languages of the Ryukyu Islands, the southernmost part of the Japanese archipelago.
There is no current data on the status of the language. The 2005 Census, however, reported that the total population of the region was 1,452,288 but fluent speakers were restricted to those 50 or older. The Ryukyuan languages are still used in traditional cultural activities, such as folk music, poetry, and drama. And there has been a radio news program in the Naha dialect since 1960.
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