Okinawa Feature

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Who's Who

Encoded into islander speech are delineations for who comes from where. Ethnic Ryukyu are shimanchu—written with the Chinese-Japanese ideographs to literally mean island-people and pronounced in Okinawa's dialect. Ethnic Japanese by contrast are yamatochu, reflecting Japan's archaic name, Yamato. Everyone else in the world? Naichu, or mainlanders. These systems are all relative, however. More-obscure islands hold denizens of Okinawa's capital Naha to be naichu, while on the bigger landmasses they differentiate between yamanchu and uminchu, mountain folks and sea people. By the time you go home, Okinawa's beach life may make you a dedicated uminchu, but for the moment be happy with what you are: tabinchu means traveler.

Updated: 2014-02-05

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