Okinawan sanshin designated product of Japan’s Traditional Craft

Sanshin, the much beloved 3-stringed instrument that has been entertaining people in Okinawa for hundreds of years dating back to the times of the Ryukyu Kingdom has been officially named a product of Japan’s Traditional Craft

Although sanshin has its origins in a similar instrument in China, it developed in Okinawa in its own unique way spreading widely among Okinawan residents. It became a Japan’s Traditional Craft on November 7 after the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) posted the announcement on official gazette.

The designation makes sanshin the 16th product on the list from Okinawa and the first since “Haebaru Hanaori” in 2017. It’s also the second designation of an instrument in Japan.

Okinawa Prefecture Sanshin Production Project Cooperative Association inaugurated the “Made in Okinawa Sanshin Spreading and Branding Committee” in 2016 aiming for the designation as a part of its branding project.

The committee applied METI for the designation in June, and the designation was accepted after deliberations at the Traditional Craft Designation Subcommittee in August.

Because of the designation, sanshin makers in Okinawa are eligible for a subsidy from METI to attract successors to continue the craft, develop the market for the instrument and skills to play it.

Michimasa Tokeshi, the chief director of the committee, said, “We are very happy to hear the designation. We will double our efforts to spread the popularity and brand of Okinawan sanshin.”

To be designated as a Japan’s Traditional Craft, a product has five requirements, including “it’s commonly used”, and “it should have traditional skills and techniques in use for at least 100 years.”