BiJe Sport Logo

Where Does the Name Ryukyu come from?

In Japanese, the definition of the Ryūkyū Shotō (琉球諸島) literally meaning "Ryukyu Islands", is somewhat different from the English definition of the word. In Japanese, the term Ryūkyū Shotō is used to refer to the part of the Nansei Islands which is in Okinawa Prefecture (the southern half), as opposed to islands of the same group located in Kagoshima Prefecture (the northern half).
Modern usage of the word Ryūkyū (琉球) in Japanese, however, is usually replaced by the word Okinawa (沖縄), which is considered its synonym. And when referring to the region in the broad (and imprecise) sense, the Nansei Islands is sometimes referred to as Amami-Okinawa Chihō (奄美・沖縄地方), literally "Amami-Okinawa Region", or variations thereof. For example, the Japanese train timetables JR Jikokuhyō (JR時刻表) uses variations of Nansei Shotō, Okinawa, Amami, etc., but completely avoids using the word Ryūkyū.
In English, until well into the late 1800s (the Meiji period in Japan), the word "Ryukyu" was spelled Luchu, Loo-choo, or Lewchew. These spellings were based on the Chinese pronunciation of the characters for "Ryukyu" (which is "Liúqiú" in modern Mandarin).

You are viewing the text version of this site.

To view the full version please install the Adobe Flash Player and ensure your web browser has JavaScript enabled.

Need help? check the requirements page.

Get Flash Player