- 国際教育 (ISSN:09185364)
- vol.18, pp.54-63, 2012 (Released:2020-07-31)
This paper aims to deepen historical understanding of the Okinawan identity through a study of the dialect punishment board (hogen fuda).
Up until 1879, in Okinawa, ordinary people used the Ryukyuan language. In the Ryukyu Islands, people in different groups had different dialects. The difference between their dialects was very wide compared with dialects in mainland Japan. In the Meiji period, the Japanese national government started teaching standard Japanese all over Japan including Okinawa in order to establish a unified language in their attempt to modernize the nation. It was linked with other policies of the government such as developing national wealth, strengthening the military and educating the masses as subjects of the Emperor. Meanwhile, Okinawan people, afraid of discrimination, wanted their own unified language. Because discrimination was often caused by differences of dialect, they wanted to communicate to other people without a language barrier.
In schools and some village communities in Okinawa, the dialect punishment board (hogen fuda) was made for every classroom and some community centers. Students had to wear it around their necks if they spoke in dialect. The tag was handed over to other students who spoke in their dialect. The method was common under the Customary Law of Okinawan Villages.
Though this method of language enforcement led to the repression of Okinawan culture and language, it was never official government policy. Certainly, standard Japanese was forced on Okinawan people in prewar times by the prefectural government. However, popular opinion supported enforcement of the use of standard Japanese as a way to adapt to the new era. The dialect punishment board continued to be used in Okinawa even after the war until around the 1970s. They chose the standard Japanese of their own will during the postwar period.
After reversion in 1972, the use of standard Japanese rapidly spread among ordinary people due to wide exposure to television, freedom to travel to and from mainland Japan and the development of tourism. As a result, the young generation born after reversion can rarely speak dialects.