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Sanshin Players Around the World Unite for One Day Festival

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-02-28

The Ryukyu Broadcasting Company is holding it's sixth annual sanshin festival, which will be held at the Okinawa Convention Center, located in Ginowan, on March 4. The awesome spectacle is officially called sanshin no hi, meaning "sanshin day". The annual date was taken from the Japanese way of saying March 4, and has grown into one of the biggest cultural events on the island. Sanshin no hi consists of performances from a variety of professional sanshin musicians, playing both traditional minyo and also more recent Okinawan pop music. There are over 300 musicians that will perform on stage, starting from 11:50 am until 9 pm continuously. RBC will be broadcasting the extravaganza live on the radio from start to finish, and there will also be television coverage at different times throughout the day.

Naohiko Uehara, Directing Producer of RBC, first brought the idea to reality five years ago. "I wanted to do something in Okinawa that would bring everyone together with one heart and one feeling. The sanshin is Okinawa's spirit, and it is played during both sad times and happy times," explained Uehara.

What makes this event so special is that everyone can participate, and there is no cover charge for admission! It is an excellent chance to see and hear one of Okinawa's main cultural traditions, and it is also possible to join in and play at the same time. During the program, people in the audience actually bring their own sanshin with them to play together with the performers from their seats. There are sanshin clubs and also friends that gather to play, while listening to the broadcast from different community centers and homes around the island. "We will have groups and individuals from Kume island, Miyako, and other islands that will participate from where they live," elaborated Uehara. The show can be watched live at the Convention Center, listened to live on the radio, or watched on television.

The concept of bringing all Okinawans together through music for one day has spread not only throughout Okinawa Prefecture, but it has also reached the shores of foreign countries. The event will be broadcasted simultaneously in Hawaii, and people will be playing together with sanshin player Tetsuhiro Daiku in India. The musician will be there on a concert tour and plans have been made participate while he is there. The broadcast will also be aired in places in the mainland, including Hokkaido, giving sanshin players across mainland Japan a chance to join in the festivities. The focus on getting everyone, from beginners to novice, to professional, playing together at the same time is definitely a unique and quite special musical experience.

The range of professionals that will be playing also ensures a listening and participating crowd of all ages. Traditional minyo players, such as the great Rinsho Kadekaru, as well as recent stars like Mayumi Yamakawa will be on hand.

Anyone wishing to go and see the live music at the Okinawa Convention Center can simply attend for free. There are also tickets available, but they are not necessary to enter the concert hall. However, ticket holders will be able to win a sanshin during three separate raffle drawings, if their ticket number is called. The tickets are divided into three separate time periods for each drawing, one for the morning, one for the afternoon, and one for the evening. Each customer is allowed only one ticket, but you can stay for the show as long as you like. Tickets are available at the Japan Update office for anyone interested in this special opportunity.

"Even people that can not play, Americans and Japanese, are all welcome to come and listen. Everyone can join in the Okinawan spirit," said Uehara. There is a proverb in Okinawa that says "There are even days when the noisy crow doesn't squawk, but there is never a day that the sanshin can not be heard." The proverb is a very good explanation about the importance of the sanshin to Okinawan culture, so make sure you don't miss out on this huge cultural event.

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