Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm Back! Today is Okinawan People Day Feature: Rimi Natsukawa

On the days when I write about Okinawan people I will choose a famous or notable Okinawan person and tell you something about them. One of the things i love about Okinawa is it's music style called Minyo. Minyo is a type of popular folk music that is normally sung to the melodies of the sanshin. One of my favorite minyo singers is Rimi Natsukawa.

Rimi Natsukawa was born on 9 October 1973 and is a very popular Okinawan folk singer. She is best known for her 2001 single "Nada Sōsō" but has an outstanding musical ability both vocally and talented use of the sanshin.

Natsukawa was born in Ishigaki, the largest city in the Yaeyama Islands chain and from a young age she enjoyed singing. She aspired to be a singer after hearing her father sing classic Yaeyaman folk songs, like "Tsuki nu Kaisha" (月ぬ美しゃ, Beauty of the Moon) and "Densaa Bushi" (デンサー節, Tradition Song). From the age of seven she practised two hours everyday, with the help of her father. He trained her up to be an enka singer and at nine years old she won a local singing contest called the Chibikko Nodo Jiman Daikai. (Our Tiny Kids' Throats Competition). Natsukawa continued to win competitions, and in 1984 won the MBS TV show Shirōto Meijin-kai's (素人名人会) grand prize. In 1986, she won the Nagasaki Kayōsai's (長崎歌謡祭, Nagasaki Song Festival) grand prize (the youngest person ever to win the prize at that time).

Her Pony Canyon debut came as "Misato Hoshi," in 1989 after promoting "Shiori." (しほり) Natsukawa, by chance, was scouted shortly after winning the competition at 13 years old. She moved to Tokyo, and started preparing for her debut. She debuted later in 1989 as an enka singer with the name "Misato Hoshi," under Pony Canyon. She released three singles in three years but not find much success. Natsukawa felt defeated and after living for four years in Tokyo, she moved back to Okinawa. She lived with her older sister in Naha, and helped out in her restaurant, singing for the customers. As patrons would travel quite a distance to hear her sing, she gradually regained her desire to be a singer.

In 1998, she appeared on an Okinawan radio show called Iwa-chan no Vitamin Radio (岩ちゃんのビタミンラジオ, Rocky's Vitamin Radio) as an assistant.

In 1999, Natsukawa's musical director from her Pony Canyon days decided to set up a music production company for her, and asked if she could return to the capital. She was soon signed under Victor Entertainment, and re-debuted with the single "Yūbae ni Yurete." (夕映えにゆれて, Swaying in the Sunset) She was finding similar success to her first debut, as neither of her first singles appeared on the Japanese music charts. While watching the news broadcast of the 26th G8 summit held in Okinawa, Natsukawa watched a performance by the Okinawan folk band Begin as they performed a song called "Nada Sōsō." She found she could not get the song out of her head, and requested that she could cover the song backstage at a Begin concert. The song was released as her third single in March 2001.

Very slowly and steadily the song started gaining popularity. It was a hit on Okinawan radio stations, and in May 2002 (over a year after it's release) it first charted in the Orion top 100 singles charts. Natsukawa then released an EP of Okinawan cover songs called Minamikaze, and her popularity began to gain momentum. By June, the single had broke into the top 50, and by July the top 20. Her debut album Tida Kaji nu Umui was released in September. Natsukawa was asked to perform the song at the 2002 Kōhaku Uta Gassen (New Year's song competition), which made the song break the top 10. By the time Tida Kaji nu Umui and Minamikaze stopped charting (roughly two years later), they had sold 280,000/371,000 copies respectively. "Nada Sōsō" stopped charting a total of six years after its release, and sold over 680,000 copies.

Natsukawa released a string of Okinawan song-based releases from this time until 2004. One of these, "Warabigami (Yamatoguchi)" (童神~ヤマトグチ~, Little God, was nominated for the Japan Record Award. It was Natsukawa's biggest hit since Nada Sōsō, reaching the top 20.

In 2004, Natsukawa's music changed to centre more around original songs, with her third album Kaze no Michi (her second, Sora no Keshiki, featured many original songs, but still centred around Okinawan folk songs). She started a trend in her music for collaborating with high profile musicians like Kazufumi Miyazawa, (The Gospellers). Her 2005 follow-up, Ayakaji no Ne, was similar, with Kentarō Kobuchi of Kobukuro writing her single "Sayōnara Arigatō" (さようなら ありがとう, Good-Bye, Thank You?). Natsukawa's releases began dropping in sales, with "Sayōnara Arigatō" being her most recent top 50 single, with its 2006 re-release.

In 2006, she released a compilation album, Rimi Natsukawa Selection, that was only for release in non-Japanese Asian countries. The album was a massive success in Taiwan, reaching #1 on the Taiwanese album charts. Then in 2007, Natsukawa ended her contract with her production office. She continued to release music under Victor, however, such as her 5th album Umui Kaji.

At Natsukawa's concerts and at her website, she began asking for submissions from fans for songs they would like to hear her cover. The result of this was the "Uta Sagashi" (歌さがし, Song Search) project, where Natsukawa worked on covering mainly Japanese popular songs. This resulted in the album Uta Sagashi, her most successful release of her material since 2003.

Since this, Natsukawa married percussionist Masaaki Tamaki (玉木正昭) on January 1, 2009 and has continued to release original material and compilations. Her second Uta Sagashi album was released in February 2010, and is her first bilingual Japanese/Chinese album.

Here is a listing of her Albums and Top singles.

Studio albums

2002: Tida: Tida Kaji nu Umui

2003: Sora no Keshiki

2004: Kaze no Michi

2005: Ayakaji no Ne

2007: Umui Kaji

2009: Kokoro no Uta
Compilation albums

2004: Okinawa no Kaze

2005: Rimi Natsukawa Single Collection Vol. 1

2006: Rimits: Best Duet Songs

2006: Rimi Natsukawa Selection

2008: Ai no Uta: Self-Selection Best

2009: Okinawa Uta: Chikyū no Kaze o Kanjite

2010: Misato Hoshi Best Collection

Top 50 Singles

2001: Nada Sōsō

2003: Michishirube

2003: Tori yo

2003: Warabigami (Yamatoguchi)

2004: Kana yo Kana yo

2004: Kokoro Tsutae

2005: Sayōnara Arigatō

2006: Sayōnara Arigatō (Ama no Kaze)/Mirai

My hope is to one day be able to attend a Rimi Natsukawa performance and maybe if I'm lucky get to meet her in person.


  1. Well, I don't think that Natsukawa Rimi is the best representation of minyo at all. Altought, I do like many songs she sings but her work, specially the last ones are 99% pop music. I would choose someone such as Oshiro Misako for a female minyo okinawan singer.
    By the way, congratulations for the blog! Very interesting information! I'm from Brazil, uchinanchu descent, in 2008 i've been in Okinawa for a week in vacations to visit family and take a ride. Also I bringed to Brazil a sanshin, wich I started minyo classes in São Paulo Shibu.

  2. Natsukawa-san has a wonderful voice. I really love her music.

  3. Alexandre, While I agree that Rimi is not the best representation in all fairness I never said she was. I simply said she sings some minyo songs. Her stuff is mostly cover songs but she is an artist with which I connect because I like her sound. You are also correct that she has become a pop singer. That doesn't bother me a bit I like fresh Oninawan talent. I agree that Oshiro Misako is probably the best representation and will write about her in future postings. I've met her in person and she is a true Okinawan treasure.

    Gambate'masu on the sanshin! I'm practicing it myself.

    Please tell others you know of the okinawaology blog! Sincerely Tom Corrao

  4. I think Rimi is a good blend of new and old. Which is why she is popular. To be honest, whilst Oshiro Misako is representative of true Minyo Okinawan singers to the letter, just like opera in the west, not everybody can appreciate a good opera.
    I think Thomas is right to talk about Rimi and with reference to Oshiro Misako you would have covered your bases.

  5. Tom, thank you for your blog. I am half Uchinanchu from Chicago, now in LA, and happy and grateful that you have taken it upon yourself to help spread the culture. I do not know any of the artists mentioned by the commenters. I only know Rimi. My Dad, full Uchinanchu, introduced us to Rimi before he died. He loved Rimi's music. Now our whole family loves her music. I found your blog because I have been searching to see when she might go on tour. If you find out please post. Many thanks again for the blog.