Ryukyu orai

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Ryûkyû ôrai ("Ryûkyû Communications") is a text written in 1603-1605 by Taichû, a Japanese Buddhist monk who was temporarily resident in the Ryûkyû Kingdom for that span of time. Along with Taichû's Ryûkyû Shintô ki, also completed in 1605, the Ryûkyû ôrai is one of the two first Japanese books to describe Ryûkyû at length. Both books were commissioned, or requested, by Ryukyuan scholar-bureaucrat Ba Kômei.

Collected in two sections (上・下巻), the text is a compilation of twenty-eight documents circulated in Ryûkyû at that time, selected by Taichû to represent Ryûkyû's culture and customs. These include pieces reflecting Ryukyuan poetry, festivals, Buddhist temples & offerings made to them, events surrounding the reception of Ming imperial envoys, tax goods collected from the other islands, and the cargoes of Ryukyuan and Japanese ships which made port at Naha. Letters included in the collection, exchanged between members of Ryûkyû's cultural elite, reveal considerable familiarity with and interest in Japanese poetry (Kokinshû, Man'yôshû, Ise monogatari, Senzaishû, etc.), tea ceremony, and tea utensils.

In contrast to the Ryûkyû Shintô ki which was published as a woodblock-printed book and widely circulated in Japan, the Ryûkyû ôrai circulated only in manuscript form. It still had a considerable circulation among elite circles in Japan, thanks in large part to Ban Nobutomo, but did not make it into the popular publications market. Based on the fact that most surviving manuscript copies contain a preface by Nobutomo, historian Yokoyama Manabu suggests that Nobutomo likely read and copied Taichû's own original version, or a very close copy.[1]


  • Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 53-54.
  1. Yokoyama, 57-58.