Buying sanshin in the U.S. has become that much easier

What an exciting time we’re living in if you’re a fan of the sanshin. In the past, those of us outside of Okinawa who play the sanshin would have to either go there or be fortunate enough to know someone who lives or travels there for us to buy the instrument or its accessories (e.g. strings, uma, karakui, etc.). Although there have been ways to order the instrument online (like eBay, Asoviva Sanshin), I’m very happy to announce that sanshin and sanshin accessories can now be ordered in Hawaii. In addition to being able to purchase a variety of new sanshin or its accessories, you can also have the skin from your sanshin’s chiiga (drum) replaced with a new one of your choice: real snakeskin, double-layer (a combination of a layer of real snakeskin over a layer of synthetic covering), or synthetic covering.

First of all, I’d like to thank Derek Shiroma-sensei, director and instructor of the Okinawa Minyo Kyokai Wakugawa Akira Dojo and the Urizun Minyo Group, for allowing me to share photos of a few of the sanshin they have in-stock as well as the many accessories they have readily available for purchase.


In the picture above, you’ll see the interesting shape of the chira (headstock) of a “peg” sanshin (top left), the special reddish hue on a makabi sanshin (top right), a mix of old and new on another peg sanshin (bottom right), and the traditional black color on a yunaa sanshin (bottom left). (Note: makabi and yunaa are styles of sanshin.) The great thing is that they can custom-build your sanshin so your dream makabi sanshin with a bright tone, set of double-line karakui, and a minsaa tiigaa, has just come true.


In need of a child-size sanshin? They have you covered. Pictured above is a child-size sanshin next to an adult-size sanshin (top) and a closer look at the chiira (bottom). And don’t let its size fool you, the child-size sanshin has a very nice, adult-size sound. (Oh, and don’t you love the cozy for the chira’s ten? Btw, the official name is Ten Cap — yep, I prefer to call it a cozy too.)


As I mentioned above, they can custom-build sanshin and that means going as deep as choosing to have a chiiga that’s made in Vietnam or one that’s made in Okinawa. How’s that for choices?


The above photo is a side-by-side comparison of a synthetic-covered chiiga versus a double-layered one. And yup, they can also do real snakeskin and if you wanted to, real snakeskin on the top, synthetic covering on the bottom; it’s your choice. Another great thing is that you can make a request for the tone of the sanshin to be, if you’re like me, on the lower side.

And if you’re in need of sanshin accessories, they have it covered.


A few styles of the karakui they have available


Itokake (top left), Tsume (top right), Utaguchi & a variety of Uma (bottom right), and Peg Karakui (bottom left)


Lots of different Tiigaa styles to choose from


Clip-on tuner with an all-important backlit display


Sanshin Soft Case with a large zippered pocket in the front for your books, backpack-style straps, and a small pouch in the inside for your accessories

So, did I whet your appetite enough that you can’t wait to order this stuff? Great! (Oh, and I forgive those of you who skipped to the end to find out who you need to contact to order your new sanshin and/or accessories rather than waiting till who knows when for your friend’s uncle’s daughter’s neighbor to come back from Okinawa.)

The Important Part
Contact Derek Shiroma-sensei at to find out more!

And as Steve Jobs would say: “One more thing.”


You didn’t expect me to leave there empty-handed, no? I haven’t named her yet but I’m thinking “Ito Yunaa,” a play on the name of Hawaii-born J-pop goddess Yuna Ito. Explanation: ito is Japanese for string(s), and yunaa is the style of this sanshin. Pretty smart and a bit geeky huh?


Yuna Ito (photo credit: groink on Wikipedia)

19 thoughts on “Buying sanshin in the U.S. has become that much easier”

  1. Thanks much for the info! Looking forward to obtaining my own sanshin… Maybe not until next Fall, though, when I sign up for Norman Kaneshiro-sensei’s class.

    Love the name for your new sanshin!

  2. @Travis: You’re very welcome. I know you’ll learn a lot from Norman-sensei and hopefully I’ll have a chance to see you perform.

    Yep, Ito Yunaa it is. 🙂

  3. Hi Richie,
    Thanks for putting up the sanshin info on your site we really appreciate all your help and support…

    Wow! Ito Yunaa!!… right on!… one day we should go to aki no no then… Yuna ito’s mom owns the place…

  4. @ichiro shiroma: Thanks for letting me know about it. And I’m loving my Ito Yunaa too. 🙂 Yes, let’s check that place out one day and maybe the real Yuna will be there. Lol.

  5. @tn: Try contacting Derek Shiroma-sensei via the email above and he should be able to get an answer for you.

  6. Hey Richie, thanks for this! I’ve been thinking about ordering another Sanshin. Now since you mentioned I can select the tone, I wont have to order a sanshin all the way from Amami Oshima since their sanshin have a higher, brighter tone.

    Althought I really do want an inexpensive sanshin I can carry around with me like the make-it-yourself sanshin kits or the wooden ones at Asoviva.

    College dorm gets boring without Okinawan music.

  7. @Kuu: No prob. 🙂 You can also check to them to see if they can get cheaper sanshin in too.

    Ah, college life. Now’s the best time to practice Okinawan music (i.e. as long as it doesn’t affect your studies).

    Take care.

  8. Hi Richie! Thanks for the great article. Buying a musical instrument is always difficult and the sanshin is no exception. I was very fortunate to be able to get both of my sanshin in Okinawa. One was bought from a store and the second was custom made for me.

    Question: do you know where I can get my sanshin repaired? I live in California and would love to have it reskinned with snakeskin. But, as my second sanshin has also ripped, I’m thinking of having it covered with the synthetic material while I find someone reputable to fix my first sanshin.


  9. @emi: Hi Emi! Please get in touch with Derek Shiroma-sensei ( as he may be able to find someone who can fix your sanshin.

  10. Be fore-warned…I tried to commission a TRULY customized sanshin…to the point where I obtained my own Burmese python skin because of the color and paterns of the skin and specified what kind of wood I wanted from Uchinaa but they kept ignoring my questions and requests. Instead, they kept trying to sell me sanshin made in Vietnam.

  11. @KSC thank you for leaving the comment. It’s my hope that they’ll respond to your comment so we can find out why this happened.

  12. Richie, I was given a sanshin when I was in Okinawa with the service. In my last move the shippers chipped the lacquer on it and snapped off one of the tuning dials. I want a reputable person or place to have my sanshin repaired but I dont want to leave it to just some musical repair shop that has no idea what they are dealing with or no experience. I would also need a cost estimate so that the claims office will cover the expense. Anybody in mind?

  13. Hi Brett. If you’re on the US mainland, try contacting the folks over at the Okinawa Association of America If you’re on the island of Oahu, contact Derek Shiroma-sensei at the email listed in this post. Let me know if you need further assistance.

  14. Hello, do you know exactly what the synthetic material is that they use as the artificial skin? I’ve been searching everywhere and can’t figure out what kind of fabric or material it is. Thanks for any help!

  15. Hi Kyle,

    The jinku-gawa (人工皮三線) sanshin are made of nylon. The ones on older sanshin may be made of parachute material (like the ones played by Koja Misako).

  16. I see… Do you know what kind of nylon fabric it is? Maybe canvas?

    And thank you so much for your help! I appreciate it immensely!


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