The flower of sanshin: san shin no hana 三線の花

A love song played over loud speakers at the 2015 annual Maui Okinawan Festival brought back memories of growing up on Okinawa.


At the annual Maui Okinawan Festival, I heard three youngsters announce the songs they would be dancing to. When one of them added “and this one is my favorite,” I took out my iPhone to record it and began my journey of discovering this famous song about the Okinawan instrument.

Dancing to
Dancing to “San shin no hana” at Maui Okinawan Festival, Kahului, Sept 19, 2015

The first song was so catchy that I decided to try the shazam app to catch the title.  In just a few seconds, the following appeared on my phone: 三線の花 by BEGIN

I shared it on my Facebook page so that I could check it out later.

The familiar sound of sanshin accompanied all my eleven years growing up on Okinawa. For me, the three-stringed instrument is unmistakenably Okinawan. To see a song with that title perked my curiosity further.

In the following video, I see that the song is used in a movie about a love triangle. It looks like Okinawa, for I see the sea wall, which I often cycled to, at sunset.

I then stumbled upon the following video which reminded me of my Okinawan band “Funky Caravan.”

What memories it brought back! I was sweet sixteen playing the keyboard. My friend Connie with her long straight hair was the lead singer and had brought me to this band. The other members were slender 18-year old Okinawan guys who spoke little English. We rehearsed and recorded on cassette but never gave a live performance. The guys took me and my girlfriends sightseeing and introduced us to cocktails.

Funky Caravan: leader Yamaguchi in yellow T-shirt standing far right, Seiji first row in blue T-shirt.
Funky Caravan, Okinawa: leader Yamaguchi in yellow T-shirt standing far right, Seiji first row in blue T-shirt. [Anne’s girlfriends standing are not in the band but are wearing her famous Ku-tops.]
As you can imagine, listening to “San Shin No Hana” which most videos translated to “three wire flower” not only made me nostalgic for my youth but also created a burning desire to play the song.

BEGIN is the Okinawan singer and songwriter who wrote this love song.

Through Google, I found a webpage that contained the melody, lyrics, and chords. This is all I need to improvise on the piano. It would be nice to get the Romaji and English translation to introduce it to my “Music in World Cultures” class when we get to the chapter on Japan though.

Click on the sample score below to get the 3-page PDF of the rest of the score, tabs, chords, and ukulele chord diagrams.

“San Shin No Hana”

Here is a san shin solo version.

And here is a version with lyrics in Romaji and English translation in subtitles, thanks to my Kubasaki High School friend Diana who has been following Begin and other Okinawan music groups for years.


Itsu shika wasure rareta oji no katami no sanshin
Toko no made tanjo iwai no shima zake ni motarete
Hokori wo yubidenadete yurun daito makeba
Taikutsude tamara nakatta shima uta ga hibiita

Azayaka ni yomigaeru anata to sugoshita hibi wa
Yawara kana itoshi sade kono mune wo tsuki yaburi
Saita no wa sanshin no hana
Terebi no nana me mukai no
Anata ga ita basho ni
Suwareba aroni no mado kara
Yoru tsuki ga noboru
Kazoku wo nagame nagara
Nomu sake wa donna aji
Nemuri ni tsuku mae no
Uta wa daremo utau

Yorokobi mo kanashimi mo
Itsu no hika uta erunara
Kono shima no tsuchi no naka
Aki ni naki fuyu ni tae haru ni saku sanshin no hana
Kono sora mo ano umi mo
Nani mo katani wa shinai
Kono shima ni atatakana
Kaze to nari ame wo yobi
Saita no wa sanshin no hana
Aki ni naki fuyu ni tae haru ni saku sanshin no hana

English translation:

We have forgotten the sanshin that grandfather left lying on the alcohol bottle.
But found out if, take away the dust, and tuning the strings.
Now we sing simauta (Okinawan traditional song)
In the past, I felt simauta was tedious but now I feel saudade.

I sit down beside the TV where you had sat down before.
Then I can see the moon through the window made of aluminum.
How is the taste of simasake drinking with family?
Who is singing a song? I heard the song when I fell asleep.
I don’t care how many times sorrow and joy come.
If all of sorrow and joy can change the simauta song.

In soil, dry in autumn bare in winter, flower of sanshin bloomed in spring.
sky? and sea is silent.
carrying wind and rain to the island and flower of sanshin bloomed.
dry in autumn, bare in winter, flower of sanshin bloomed in spring.

ADDED ON 22 SEPT 2017: I finally found the time to put the melody, tabs, chords, and lyrics all together. See 3-page PDF.

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

2 thoughts on “The flower of sanshin: san shin no hana 三線の花”

  1. I moved to Tokyo last year (2017) and got to listen to some Okinawa music through Japanese TV. And I fallen in love straightaway. I have never been to Okinawa but I can’t wait to travel that part of Japan. I think the Japanese I use in Tokyo is a bit different from Okinawa and which makes it harder for me to understand lyrics. Thank you so much for this wonderful article and I hope I’ll learn to play this wonderful song on piano soon enough. (I found your article by searching the meaning of San shin no hana)

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