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  • Writer's pictureMarina Watabe

Annual Sanshin Day 2022

First Sanshin Workshop in Canada

On March 4th, 2022, Southern Wave organized Annual Sanshin Day at Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby, BC. The workshop was to introduce history of the sanshin to the community in Metro Vancouver and demonstrate how to play the sanshin.

Sanshin, the Cultural Treasure of Okinawa

Sanshin is the core to Okinawan music, dance, and even opera/theatre. Okinawan people love the sound of the sanshin, and its popularity is widespread in Japan and overseas.

San means "three", shin means "string(s)". The sanshin is a "three-stringed" banjo made of a snake skin-covered wooden body and a long, thin neck. History of the sanshin goes back to the 14th century. Chinese bureaucrats and craftsmen from Fujian, brought the sanxian, the Chinese banjo, to Kume Village in Naha, then Ryukyu Kingdom (36 Min Families). The sanshin was developed further so that it suits Ryukyuan music. Today, the sanshin is played in various music genres, from Ryukyu Koten Ongaku (classic Ryukyuan music), traditional Okinawa Minyo (Okinawan folksong) to contemporary music such as J-pop music and multicultural songs.

Sanshin no Hi--What is Annual Sanshin Day?

Sanshin no Hi, (Day of Sanshin) was first proposed by Naohiko Uehara, a broadcaster, producer, and host of a long-running Okinawan radio program called Minyo de chuu uganabira (Hello with Minyo). Sanshin no Hi began on March 4th, 1993, and it is a play on words (In Japanese, san is three and shi is four). Uehara encouraged people to play Kajadihuu, one of the most popular, celebrating classic Ryukyuan songs at noon on March 4th every year to gather the spirit of Okinawa and appreciate the sanshin culture.

Annual Sanshin Day--Demonstrating What is Sanshin

We were very glad to see all attendees! We had guests who had the sanshin but hardly played, and who had never heard of the sanshin! Everyone was curious to find out "what sanshin is". At the workshop, we explained history of the sanshin, the process of making the instrument, and how to play the sanshin. We also had an exhibition of kunkunshi books Ryukyu classic music, miyako minyo (folksongs in Miyako Islands), kumiodori (Opera/Theatre of Ryukyu), and so on.

Kunkunshi (工工四) is a scale of the sanshin written in Chinese characters that corresponds to each note. It was invented by a sanshin master Yakabi Choki in the 18th centurybased on Chinese Gongche notation (工尺谱). Before his work, all songs were told orally by kuden (口伝).

Kankara (tin can) sanshin was improvised from discarded cans and woods during/after the World War 2. It still has popularity among children and beginners because of its affordability. Our attendees learned the finger positioning and how to read kunkunshi scale with kankara sanshin.

We are having our second Annual Sanshin Day on Saturday, March 4th, 2023. Mark your calendar, and stay connected to get updates by subscribing to our email list and/or following our Instagram. We are looking forward to seeing you very much!

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