From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Ryuka (Okinawan: Ruuka "Ryukyuan poem" or simply Uta "poem"; Japanese: 琉歌 Ryūka) is a genre of poetry in the Ryukyu Islands composed in Ryukyuan languages. Ryūka is different from the tanka poetry of Japan.

Standard Ryūka[edit]

Ryūka consists of four units (often treated as separate lines when romanized or translated) usually with the following pattern of onji:

8-8-8-6, while Japanese Tanka is 5-7-5-7-7. There are other forms of Ryūka such as 7-5-8-6 or 5-5-8-6 or longer Ryūka with 8-8-8-8-8-8-8...-6.

Examples of Ryūka[edit]

Ryukyuan Transliteration Translation
Kiyunu hukurashaya
na’unijana tatiru

The pride I feel today;
What can I compare it to?

The budding flowers'
reception of the morning dew (unknown composer)
Unnadaki agata
satuga umarijima

Muin ushinukiti
kugata nasana (Onna Nabe)
The village on the other side of Mount Onna
is where I was born

I want to push away the woods
and pull it near (Onna Nabe)
及ばらぬ とめば想ひ増鏡
影やちやうも写ち 拝みほしやの
Uyubarantumiba umui mashikagami
Kajiyachon uchuchi ’ugamibushanu (Yoshiya Chiru)
My lover and I are of different social positions. My affection increases like Masukagami.
I would like see his face with my mirror.(Yoshiya Chiru)
Makkwa narabitaru
’yuminu chirinasaya

Chukiya irisagati
fuyunu yafan (Akamine Ueekata)
Our pillows side-by-side;
The heartlessness of my dreams

The moon sets in the west
a winter's midnight (Akamine Oyakata)
(a coded reference to dreaming of a lover while sleeping alone in a bed set for two)
Utaya sanshinni
’udui hanishichuti

Churagasanu utuji
ashibu urisha (Unknown composer)
Playing Sanshin songs;
Bouncing back and forth in dance

The caregiver of a smallpox patient
plays happily
古血わじらてど 欠きて 居やびむぬ
命のある間は 使かて たぼり(鳥刺小橋川)
Furuchi wajiratidu kakiti uyabimunu
Nuchinu aru weedaya chikati taburi (Torisashi Kobashigawa)
Though the impure blood flows (due to syphilis)
Please use me as long as I am alive (The composer was blamed for using broken coins)(Torisashi Kobashigawa)
Migushikuni nubuti
tisaji muchagiriba

Haifuninu nareya
chumidu miyuru
I climed to Miigusuku Castle
to signal by raising a washcloth

But the ship was so fast
it was only visible for the blink of an eye
Yuruharasu funiya
ninufabushi miati

Wannacheru uyaya
Wandu miati (Unknown composer)
The boat sailing at night
looks to the north star

My mother who gave birth to me
looks to me.[4]


  • The Satsuma clan invaded the Ryukyu Kingdom (modern-day Okinawa Prefecture and Southern Kagoshima Prefecture) in 1609. Apparently the word Ryuka appeared after the introduction of Japanese culture. The first Ryukyuan language dictionary titled Konko-kenshu published in 1711 recorded the word Ryuka for the first time. The writers of Ryuka were not only those in the upper class, but also included a girl who was sold to the Red-light district called Yoshiya Chiru and a woman farmer of passion called Onna Nabe.
  • Ryūka was composed for singing with Sanshin for one thing, and was composed as literature which developed under the influences of Tanka of Japan. Ryūka is composed even today, and is appreciated in everyday life; for instance, it plays a part in such as the Ryukyuan Dance Kumi Odori.
A monument of Ryuka at Naha Port
  • Ryūka is popular now not only in people living in Ryukyu proper, but also in Ryukyuan people who have immigrated to Peru and Hawaii.[5]


  • Older literature of the Ryukyu Islands included prayer for prosperity of the community, good harvest, glorification of kings and superiors, namely, poetry of the mass, while Ryūka dealt with the feelings of individuals. Ryuka may be classified into 1) celebration poetry 2) seasonal or scenery poetry 3) love poetry 4) teaching poetry 5) travel poetry 6) smallpox poetry. Of these classifications, love poetry is well described in Ryuka. Peculiar is the smallpox poetry; the purpose of glorification of smallpox demon is improvement from deadly infection of smallpox.[6] There is a collection of smallpox poetry including 105 poems published in 1805.[7]

See also[edit]


  • Kei Higa Okinawa Encyclopedia1983, Okinawa Times, Naha, jou, chu, ge.
  • Yoji Aoyama Ryūka Omoshiro Tokuhon (Interesting Ryukas) 1998, Kyodo Shuppan, Naha
  • Nihon Shodou Bijutukan Ryuka - the heart of the poems of the Southern Island 1992, Kyoiku Shodo Shuppan Kyokai, Tokyo
  • Masanori Nakahodo Various aspects of Okinawan literature, Postwar literature, Dialect poems, Dramas, Ryūka, Tanka 2010, Borderink, Naha, ISBN 978-4-89982-168-7


  1. ^ Nihon Shodou[1992:74]
  2. ^ Aoyama[1998:200]
  3. ^ Nihon Shodou[1992:76]
  4. ^ Nihon Shodou[1992:98]
  5. ^ Nakahodo[2010:220-252]
  6. ^ Higa[1983ge:848]
  7. ^ Higa[1983ge:450]

External links[edit]