The Yaeyama language is a Southern Ryukyuan language spoken in the Yaeyama Islands, the southernmost inhabited island group in Japan, with a combined population of about 53,000. The Yaeyama Islands are situated in the Southern Ryukyu Islands, southwest of the Miyako Islands and to the east of Taiwan. Yaeyama (Yaimamunii) is most closely related to Miyako. The number of competent native speakers is not known; as a consequence of Japanese language policy which refers to the language as the Yaeyama dialect , reflected in the education system, people below the age of 60 tend to not use the language except in songs and rituals, and the younger generation exclusively uses Japanese as their first language. As compared to the Japanese kokugo, or Japanese national language, other Ryukyuan languages such as Okinawan and Amami have also been referred to as dialects of Japanese. Yaeyama is noted as having a comparatively lower "language vitality" among neighboring Ryukyuan languages.