I have had some pretty awesome community media encounters so far in my research here in the Ryukyu islands but this one with Mr Ikehara from Shimakutuba Broadcasting/Crest Company is hard to beat. And here is why: this man, an entrepreneur, innovator, inventor and fluent speaker of Uchinaaguchi was looking for ways to promote the island's fast declining language and he thought the best way of doing this is not by some top down government/ prefecture language program (those apparently have not worked out that well) but by means that bring the language to the everyday life of ordinary people. Since vending machines are so popular in Japan (you will find a vending machine even in the middle of nowhere in this country), he came up with the idea of using recycled vending machines to offer drinks using the local language and also to broadcast his FM Nirai from them (using old smart phones inserted in them).
So, when you go to buy your coffee or water you read the offers in the local language while you are listening to the FM broadcasting in Uchinaaguchi too. So far, it's impressive. But the man has not stopped there. He has now started a new kind of vending machine that sells you merchandise in Uchinnaguchi language, including the T-shirt I bought from one of them which has printed an expression by a well known Okinawan historical figure on it (coming with a little insert that introduces you to the meaning of the expression). You can see the FM Nirai's board above it here in this posting, which was playing when we were there. It did not escape my attention that the machine was right next to Starbucks in Kadena's American Village area (Kadena has a huge US base).
And that is not where this man has stopped either, his portfolio of social entrepreneurship that brings Uchinaaguchi language to the people of Okinawa is rich with dozens of similar ventures. Inspiring man!