Blind Student Mitoya chases her dream to be a Sanshin singer

Blind Student Mitoya chases her dream to be a Sanshin singer

Misuzu Mitoya confidently doing sanshin performance at Ikebukuro Sunshine City, Toshima District in Tokyo on June 6.


June 9, 2015 Ryota Nakamura of Ryukyu Shimpo 

A 15-year old blind high school student fascinated by Ryukyuan traditional music is taking steps towards her dream of becoming a sanshin singer for Ryukyuan dance in Okinawa. In Tokyo, Misuzu Mitoya met a graduate of the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts who now teaches her sanshin, at an annual Okinawan event held near Mitoya’s home in the capital. She is overcoming the challenges of being a blind person and improving her skills in Utasanshin, or sanshin for songs. Her sanshin dream is coming true, and she aims to study at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts as well as pass the Ryukyu Classical Performing Arts Contest.

Mitoya encountered sanshin for the first time three years ago with her father, Atsushi, and mother, Michiko, who are Okinawa enthusiasts. They were at a sanshin workshop held for visitors at the Okinawa Mensore Festa held at Ikebukuro Sunshine City, Toshima District in Tokyo.

She used to learn the piano, but she said she could not play so well. With sanshin as well, she was “almost giving up on learning it at the beginning.”

However, she started picking up the finger plucking slowly. She also started to like Ryukyuan classical music such as “Kagiyade-Hu” and “Binuchi-Bushi” as she could “feel the Ryukyuan history.”

She reached a turning point in her journey last year. Graduates of the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts who were performing at the Mensore Festa found Mitoya humming Ryukyuan folk song and let her perform with them on stage. Since then she has improved her Utasanshin skills dramatically through lessons with the graduate residing in Tokyo. This year, she “officially” performed on stage at the Mensore Festa with other graduates.

On June 6, she performed “Asatoya Yunta” on stage with the other performers. She also performed “Bashofu” by herself, and her commanding performance amazed the audiences who would not have been able to tell that Mitoya was blind if they had not been told.

Mitoya aims to study at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts to further her sanshin training, and she will also enter the Ryukyuan Classical Performing Arts Contest in August.

Thirty-nine-year old Kazuyuki Nashiro from Onna Village, who performed with Mitoya at the Mensore Festa, said, “She has improved since last year. It doesn’t matter whether a music practitioner is blind or not.”

Mitoya who has traveled to Okinawa many times with her parents, says of her passion, “I like the ocean, the breeze, the people of Okinawa and sanshin. I want to study Ryukyu classical music and become a singer for Ryukyuan dance in the future.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sayaka Sakuma)

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