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Sanshin more popular than ever among Okinawans

Date Posted: 2003-10-11

Okinawa’s traditional three-stringed musical instrument, the “sanshin,” is experiencing an unprecedented boom in popularity. The instrument, which found its way to Okinawa’s islands from China some 500 years ago, is in the hands of at least a third of Okinawa families. A survey 4,768 people aged 20 or older by the Okinawa Prefecture Cultural Affairs Bureau found that on average, one third of the prefecture’s citizens own one. The instrument is even more popular in the northern parts of the island, where about every second family has at least one sanshin in the household.

More remarkably, sanshin is as popular among young people as it is among older citizens. Officials at the Cultural Affairs Bureau say this is because young Okinawan musicians who are very popular throughout the country began using sanshin in their performances. Musicians such as Rimi Natsukawa, Namie Amuro, Alberto Shiroma, Rinken Band, Shokichi Kina and many others are using sanshin sounds in their tunes.

That, in turn has sparked wide interest in sanshin playing among the younger generation, which flocks to sanshin classes at community centers and even at their schools. The days when sanshin sound was considered to be a part of the lives of the elderly are long gone, and it has become truly a part of the daily life in Okinawa.

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