The ukulele in Japan

The ukulele has found an important place in Japan. The proof, this small instrument is present almost everywhere in this Asian country and even gets the slogan "I am huge in Japan" on all surfaces presenting its photo. The ukulele which is an instrument considered to be unique to Hawaii has made a special place for itself in the hearts of the Japanese. Overview of the history of the ukulele in Japan.

The ukulele: a very significant instrument in Japan

Put simply, the ukulele is recognized as the representative of goodwill between America and Japan. Over the generations that have passed, this instrument has indeed brought together the best of American, Hawaiian and Japanese traditions. It was more particularly around 1885 that the Japanese made their entry into Hawaii, where approximately 200,000 Japanese made their home on Hawaiian soil to work in the sugar cane fields.

And since in those days, it was difficult for Americans of Japanese origin to blend in with the crowd and integrate into the culture of the place, several homes made the decision to send their children back to their country. of origin so that they can freely continue their studies. A situation that has led many children to bring home a ukulele in memory of Hawaii. It was in 1920-1930, when immigrant children reached legal age, that the popularity of the ukulele in Japan began. Among the most famous ambassadors of the ukulele in Japan, we find Yukihiko Haida accompanied by his brother Katsuhiko. The son of Japanese parents living in Hawaii, the two Nisei were forced to leave the country to return to Japan following the death of their father. Buckie Shirakata, too, was instrumental in popularizing the small musical instrument, the ukulele, in Japan. Thanks to their collaboration with the Haida group, the Shirakata Band was named to the list of the first wave of performers from Hawaii to Japan.

The ukulele: instrument of redemption after the war

Following the Second World War which hit the world, Japan badly needed to reinvent itself. Life at that time was indeed hard with increasingly scarce money and hard to find equipment. This was not entirely the case with Hawaiian culture at home, since after the war (circa 1950s) more than 4,500 bands formed and began performing Hawaiian music in Japan. The demand for the ukulele was so great that Toshiba began to design its own collection. By 1957, a number of manufacturers focusing solely on this small stringed musical instrument made their way into the market, including an experienced and more respected ukulele maker like Kiwaya at the top of the charts.


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