Japan falling in love with the ukulele and Hawaiian music

Roy Sakuma
Roy Sakuma
Shunsuke Kanai
Shunsuke Kanai

By Howard Dashefsky - bio | email

TOKYO (KHNL) - It is a land rich in culture and tradition, but Japan is also on the cutting edge of pop culture. And amid the bright lights, and fast moving people, it is not too difficult to find the sights and sounds of the islands.

At a Tokyo nightclub called "Birdland", every Monday night is "Hawaiian night".

And on a recent Monday music lovers enjoyed an extra scoop of aloha: Hawaii ukulele master Roy Sakuma.

"The people of Japan they are just falling in love with the ukulele" said Sakuma.  "I've never seen so many people gravitate to the ukulele and they love Hawaiian music, and it's just so great to come here and be embraced by so many people that want to learn to play this instrument."

Not only are the Japanese keen in learning the ukulele, some are already on track to master it the instrument.

"Before was only adults, but now the children of Japan are starting to get interested in ukulele and I think that's great" said Sakuma.

"Every time I play the ukulele, it's a joy" said 12-year-old Shunsuke Kanai.  "It really reminds me of the sea and the scenery of Hawaii, where I went four times already."

Sakuma fell in love with the ukulele at the age of 14, and credits the instrument for turning his life around. Now the founder of the annual ukulele festival in Hawaii shares his passion with young students everywhere, many of them more than eager to follow in his footsteps.

"They want to absorb it all" said Sakuma. "The hula, the ukulele it all ties in. When you see it and you experience it they really appreciate the love they have for Hawaii."