Tokyo Olympics Google Doodle

via Google & STUDIO4℃

Anyone who uses Google has come across their Google Doodles and to commemorate the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, they’ve made their largest interactive doodle and it’s simply amazing. Created with the help of STUDIO4℃ (“Children of the Sea“) and with music by Qumu, a classic 16-bit JRPG game was created that’s filled with bosses to beat (featuring 7 games from the olympics) and many side quests to explore the Doodle Champion Island. The hero ([c]athlete) of the game is a calico cat (mikeneko) named Lucky and as she explores the island we see that there are a few Uchinaa based characters like the kijimunaa (one of the game’s bosses) and shiisaa. On the Kijimuna boss’s (marathon) land you’ll find gajumaru, other kijimunaa and Luchu inspired houses.

Gajumaru (banyan tree), Adan trees, Kurotsugu (dwarf sugar palm), and we’re going to call the other tree our favorite Yaeyama Kuruchi (ebony)
Luchu inspired houses

It would’ve been interesting if Qumu (the game music composer) incorporated Uchinaa instruments/music into the Kijimuna land’s theme but maybe leaving it out was for the best? Another miss is not choosing karate (its origins is in Luchu) as the sport. It’ll take a while to complete the game so if you’re signed into your Google account it should automatically save your progress.

Google Doodles on YouTube

Check out @ainupride’s Twitter thread for a character based on the Kotan-kor-kamuy and the lack of mentioning that it’s from the Ainu mythology.

App Review: Sanshin (三線) for iPhone and iPod touch

Following our introduction of two virtual sanshin iPhone/iPod touch apps on the 20th and our review of the iSanshin app from Pawana LLC earlier today, we continue with Sanshin (三線) from Crimson Technology.

Screen shot 2009-12-31 at 7.18.23 PM.png

Crimson Technology’s Sanshin app is currently at version 1.1 and sells for U.S. $1.99. (iTunes Link) It’s nearest (or only at the moment) competitor is Pawana LLC’s iSanshin app which also happens to be at version 1.1 and is on sale for the same price of U.S. $1.99. But is it really a competition between the two apps or do both compliment each other? Read on to find out.

Continue reading “App Review: Sanshin (三線) for iPhone and iPod touch”

App Review: iSanshin (i三線) for iPhone & iPod touch

We introduced two iPhone/iPod touch apps on December 20, 2009, and both developers were kind enough to provide us with a demo of their app.

The first app we’re going to look at is called iSanshin (i三線) from Pawana LLC. iSanshin sells for U.S. $1.99 and is currently at version 1.1. (iTunes Link)

Upon launching iSanshin, you’re greeted with the splash screen (三線 = sanshin).


Continue reading “App Review: iSanshin (i三線) for iPhone & iPod touch”

Veteran Amami utasha Ikue Asazaki

We often focus on the new singers from Amami-Oshima like Rikki Nakano, Chitose Hajime, Kosuke Atari, and Minami Kizuki, leaving out the traditional singers. So, better late than never, no? Ikue Asazaki is a veteran utasha (now in her 70s) who has been singing Amami shimauta since picking it up from her father and regarded as a genius of the music. While Ikue has had indie record releases since 1997, it wasn’t until 2002 that she had her first major label release with the album “Utaba Utayun” on Universal Music. According to her Wikipedia page, “Utaba Utayun” is one of her most famous, notably for the song “Obokuri Eeumi,” which was featured in the anime “Samurai Champloo” (see below video).

With 2005’s “Obokuri” (Toshiba EMI) being her last major label release, Ikue has since returned as an indies musician with her most recent album released on 2007 titled “Hamasaki” from the HIGH CONTRAST RECORDINGS label. Ikue’s official website can be found here.

(Nifee deebitan to Shari Tamashiro for bringing the singer to my attention.)

Quick review of Namie Amuro’s “60s 70s 80s” single

Continuing onto 2008 with a very successful 2007, Namie Amuro’s new Triple A-Side single (to be released on 3/12/08), “60s 70s 80s,” is simply amazing so far. The first song, “New Look,” (PV below) samples The Supremes’ hit song from 1964 “Baby Love” to great effect. Hearing the original on the radio yesterday, I found myself humming Amuro’s version of it — it’s that addicting!

The second song — representing the 70s — is called “Rock Steady” and samples Aretha Franklin’s 1971 hit of the same name. Amuro looks really great in the PV and it’s quite entertaining. You may also want to take a moment and stop the PV around the 2:38 mark. For a little fun, check out the song titles and the artist names on the Billboard-like ranking chart. You’ll find good examples of Engrish used there.

“What a Feeling,” the third single, will sample Irene Cara’s hit single “Flashdance… What a Feelin’” from 1983. According to a Wikipedia post on the song, Irene’s version “was the last non-Japanese single to reach #1 on Japan’s Oricon singles chart until Celine Dion’s ‘To Love You More’ in 1995.” I have yet to hear the single or watch the PV but I’m sure it’ll be as good (or even better) than the other two.

“60s 70s 80s” will be Amuro’s 33rd single release which follows last April’s “Funky Town” single and is added to what is becoming quite an impressive discography. All three singles are tie-ins to Vidal Sassoon’s new “Fashion (Patricia Field), Music (Amuro), Hairstyle (Orlando Pita)” ad campaign which is being billed as a collaboration with the three — Amuro is also featured in the CMs.

Check out Amuro’s music at the iTunes Store which has a great selection of her full-albums, singles and EPs. If I remember to, I’ll post a follow-up to this post when “60s 70s 80s” is available on iTunes.

DVD: Misako Oshiro’s ‘Uta Kataree’

Misako Oshiro’s ‘Uta Kataree’ DVD Utasaa great Misako Oshiro is making 2007 a year to remember. She started off the year with her first full-album in 10 years, “Uta Umui” (UBCA-1008, Tuff Beats), and held her 50th anniversary (in Okinawa’s performing arts) recital last month (7/8/07) at the Naha Shimin Kaikan. She’ll be performing around Japan from August to October and she has a DVD out titled “Uta Kataree” (INDN-70708, Indie Network). The must-have 12-track DVD will also include an interview with the “Okinawan Shimauta Queen”. If you’re not in Okinawa, I think it’ll be pretty hard to get your hands on this DVD through the regular channels so I’d have to recommend going with Sanshin’s Matsuda. Not to fret tho’, come 10/14/07 Tuff Beats (the record label responsible for “Uta Umui”) will be releasing a DVD (UBBA-2001) of her recital which will be available online at Tower Records Japan as well as, I believe, CDJapan and I should also add that she has one of the best utasaa-related websites out there: Shima Umui (which is the name of her minyou bar in Naha).

Utasaa (utasha in Japanese): Okinawan folk singer.

[Image and tip on the “Uta Kataree” DVD via Campus Record Staff blog.]

Hawaiian meets Okinawan: Churamana

If you’re a fan of Hawaiian and Okinawan music you may be interested in the duo Churamana (チュラマナ, roughly translated as “Beautiful [chura, Okinawan] Energy [mana, Hawaiian]”) with Tokyo-born Maki Uehara on vocals/hula and Ishigakijima-born Makiko Miyara (formerly of the O-pop group Donann) on vocals. If you’re familiar with the group TINGARA (Okinawan healing music) — check out this Pop.i-O entry I posted about 2 years ago on them — Churamana’s music may seem familiar and that’s due to Gerhen Oshima’s (ex-TINGARA, on sanshin) involvement in the project along with a well-known musician of Hawaiian music in Japan by the name of Yuki “Alani” Yamauchi (on slack-key guitar, Hawaiian guitar and ukulele).

Samples of the duo’s music is available at the Japan iTunes Store (clicking on link will launch iTunes). If you’re interested in purchasing their CDs, they’re available at one of my favorite online stores,

Churamana’s Discography (caps = katakana):

Rakuen no Niji
“Rakuen no Niji” 2007.05.23 (VICL-62409)

  1. Hi‘lawe ∼ Akata Sundunchi
  2. Aloha Oe
  3. ChuraMANA
  4. Hana ∼ Subete no Hito no Koroko ni Hana wo
  5. Mana
  6. Umi no Joou Rainha do mar
  7. Pua Mae‘ole
  8. Asadoya Yunta
  9. Kokoro ni Niji wo
  10. Amakakiru Hashi
  11. Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua
  12. Yuuyake no Niwa

Futatsu no Rakuen
Futatsu no Rakuen 2006.06.21 (VICL-61977)

  1. Ula No Weo —Prologue—
  2. Kodou ∼Ichimadin∼
  3. Akaka Falls
  4. Tinsagu nu Hana
  5. Pua Ahihi
  6. Furusato
  7. Pua Anela
  8. Kanahele —Interlude—
  9. Tsuki nu Kaisha
  10. Yashi no Mi
  11. Ula No Weo

Official Website (Victor Entertaiment, Inc.)
Official Blog (Futatsu no Rakuen)

Highly Recommended: Sanshin’s Matsuda (

I mentioned in my “In The Works…” post that I was in the final stages of procuring a few CDs direct from Okinawa and today, I received my shipment. 😀

The best (or only) way to get your hands on Okinawan music is on the web and although there are very, very good online stores that ship outside of Japan such as CDJapan,, iTunes, and, you won’t be able to find that gem of an album of upcoming utasaa (folk singers) on those. So I decided to check up on my favorite online sanshin store (they also have a fine brick-and-mortar store in Futenma too) (aka Sanshin’s [also Sansin’s] Matsuda) and they had it in stock! It took me some contemplating on whether to contact them via email or not and after a few days the message was sent asking them if they would be willing to ship to Hawaii which they wholeheartedly said yes to. 🙂
Continue reading “Highly Recommended: Sanshin’s Matsuda (”

Metropolis Tokyo’s JAPAN BEAT

I’ve been meaning to blog about this site for awhile (but you know how that goes) and better late than never, right? The Metropolis website has a handful of pretty good reviews/interviews with artists from Okinawa. Although there are a few small parts where they can be totally off (they misspell Toru Yonaha’s name twice — in two different articles — as “Yoneha” and “Inaha”) the articles are great reads for those of you who are interested in Okinawan music.

I did the legwork so all you have to do is click on any of the links below. I broke away from Karakui tradition (heh) and made it so that the links will open in a new window (or right-click on the link to open it in a new tab). 😀

Enjoy! Book Review: Snakeskin Shamisen

Snakeskin Shamisen

Snakeskin Shamisen by Naomi Hirahara

The familiarity of situations, foods, phrases, and of course, the Okinawan culture appeal to me, making this a fun, quick read.

Read the rest of Donna’s review over here. According to the author’s website, Snakeskin Shamisen (which is the third book in her Mas Arai series) has been nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award in the Best Paperback Original category.