Sanshin, which can very well be said to be the soul of the music of Okinawa, is made from ebony wood, rosewood and python skin. There are seven representative shapes for sanshin, each requiring an exceptionally high level of delicate and careful workmanship. It is not uncommon for decades to go by before a sanshin passes successfully from the initial stage of wood selection to final completion.
Despite its widespread popularity, the exact origins of the sanshin are yet unknown, although the musical instrument is said to be have been in existence for over 600 years. After the Chinese three-stringed lute known as “sanxian” was introduced to the Ryukyu Kingdom in the 14th century, master craftsmen of the kingdom’s Kaizuri Magistrate’s Office refined techniques for producing a musical instrument unique to Okinawa. The original pronunciation for the word “sanshin” is derived from the original Chinese pronunciation (“sanxian”) and represented in writing with the Japanese kanji for the word “string”. In the 17th century, the concept of using the sanshin as an accolade in recognition and reward of honor was developed. The sanshin occupies a special place in the hearts of the people of Okinawa, particularly in times of hardship and strife. In the aftermath of WWII, a type of sanshin termed “kankara sanshin” made with salvaged scrap materials provided much needed solace to those who bore loss and suffering as a result of the war. In recent years, there has been growing demand for sanshin from generations of Okinawa migrants located worldwide. The sanshin was officially designated as a prefectural traditional craft product on November 30th, 2012.
|Material||Ebony wood, rosewood, isu (Distylium racemosum), yew plum, python skin|
|Place of manufacture||All regions of main island of Okinawa|
|Main Products||There are seven main types of sanshin: Febaru, Chinin-dēku, Kubashundun, Kubanufunī, Hiranaka-chinin, Makabi, Yunā|
|Partnership name and date of establishment||Sanshin Craftsmen's Business Cooperative Association of Okinawa, April 16th, 2010|
|Date designated by national||November 7th, 2018|
|Date designated by prefecture||November 30th, 2012|
|Source||Source: "An Outline of Promotion Strategies for the Craft Industry", official website of Sanshin Craftsmen's Business Cooperative Association of Okinawa （https://okinawa34.jp)|