This map shows the islands of Okinawa are situation 700km south of Japan.The people of Okinawa, formerly the citizens of an independent Ryukyuan kingdom are another minority culture in Japan, but in this case one that is quite intact. Originally they were subject to persecution by their Japanese conquerors up until the end of World War II, but are now considered as Japanese nationals. During World War II the Okinawan language was banned and Okinawans were conscripted and suffered horribly in the Japanese military.



The USA has all sort of defence facilities at Okinawa and there is also a navy vessel called the USS Okinawa.There was a USA military occupation of Okinawa after World War II which lasted until 1972 when Okinawa was returned to Japan on condition that it function as a base to support the Japan-USA Security Treaty. However, the people of Okinawa have resented USA military bases on their islands ever since. Listen to the facts here from Okinawa radio.



Okinawan dancers in colourful costumes.Okinawa was based on a unique ethnic culture different from that of Japan. Though subject to Japanese Shinto influences after the Meiji Restoration (1868), an individual tradition has been well preserved. Today one can still see the form of various folk traditions, particularly music and dance which play an important part in the cultural identity of Okinawa.

Okinawa has a strong musical culture with distinct instruments that distinguishes it from mainstream Japanese musical culture. The basic musical scale is, in itself, different from Japanese folksongs and rarely found in music of other regions. When used, the scale demonstrates the characteristic melodies of Okinawa that are uniquely recognisable. The sanshin is the main musical instrument. It is a 3 stringed lute which is plucked. It is not found on mainland Japan, but did migrate there to become established as the shamisen. Okinawa folk songs are still being composed and this forms a strong contrast with other districts of Japan, where only folk songs from the past are sung. The Okinawa folk songs are also adapted by Ryukyu rock groups which gained popularity both in Japan and overseas.


Information about & sounds inspired from Okinawa, Japan
Musical Scale
3 silk or tetron strings of the sanshin (low to high):
wu jiro (male);
naka jiro (centre);
mi jiro (female).
This piece is called Okinawan Trial and is by Kaznao Mimaki. Kaz has created a wealth of world music on his PC. Okinawan Trial uses a pentatonic scale, ie lacking the notes Re & La. Visit Kaz's website at:
Kaz Mimaki's Music World
ryukyu scale:
C, E, F, G, B, c
The sanshin instrument.
Descending melodic ryukyu (with ritsu tetrachord) scale:
c, B, G, F, D, C
This is the sanshin - a plucked lute. It consists of a long, black-lacquered ebony neck which pierces the top and bottom of an open frame-shaped body covered on both sides with snakeskin. The strings are plucked with a plectrum made of water-buffalo horn using the index finger of the right hand..
Common sanshin tuning:
1 5 1 or B F# b

Go back to Contents ... Go back to Contents A nice pattern. Next page about BurakuminGo to Burakumin page ...