Okinawa Tourism Information:KanakoHatoma’sLessonCaféAobatoisthePlacetoGoforIntroductorySanshinLessons(Mihara,NahaCity)

Kanako Hatoma’s Lesson Café Aobato is the Place to Go for Introductory Sanshin Lessons (Mihara, Naha City)

post : 2019.11.05 07:00

Have you always wanted to try playing the Sanshin but didn’t know where to begin? Or maybe you bought a Sanshin on a trip to Okinawa, but don’t know how to play? Or maybe many of you visited an Okinawan folk music pub or saw an Okinawan music performance and you’re interested to learn more about the Sanshin? Well, if you’re any one of those people described above, here’s some great news. Lesson Café Aobato is a friendly café that opened on August 10, 2019 in Mihara, Naha City, which offers Sanshin lessons. The instructor is Kanako Hatoma, a singer hailing from Yaeyama, and under her guidance, beginners to advanced Sanshin players can learn how to play, from easier tunes to the more difficult Yaeyama folk music.


“When people think about Okinawa, many will first think “the sea and sky” but I think our “culture” is also one of the major things we offer in Okinawa. So it would be great for people to get a little closer to the unique, beautiful sounds of the Sanshin,” says Kanako Hatoma.

Surprisingly, she says anyone can learn to play at least one or two songs in an hour.


If you happen to be in Okinawa and have to change your day’s plans due to bad weather, this is a great way to enjoy something truly Okinawan.

You don’t even have to have a Sanshin with you, since there are many at the café that you can borrow. You can casually drop in to participate in a lesson.


In the introductory lesson for beginners, Hatoma-san starts out nice and easy for everyone and begins with some traditional children’s songs. Then she takes requests from the participants on what songs they’d like to learn. Some of the most most requested are the very popular songs by the Okinawan group, BEGIN, including Nada Sou-Sou, Shimanchu-nu Takara, and Umi-no Koe.

Solo participants are welcome, or you can enjoy taking part in a group lesson with other customers in a fun session. These lessons are available every day, except Wednesdays and Sundays, from 16:00 to 17:00. Hatoma-san says, “Appointments and reservations aren’t necessarily required, so you can drop by whenever you’d like.” Lesson fees are 1,500 yen for an hour, and 1,000 yen for high school students and younger.


For intermediate to advanced Sanshin players, she offers lessons in Yaeyama Minyo (traditional folk music). Kanako Hatoma was raised on Ishigaki Island where her parents (who are also Yaeyama Minyo singers) run Bashofu, an establishment that offers live Minyo performances. Growing up in such an environment, Kanako-san has performed since she was very young, and is a professional singer who made her CD debut in 1999.

For 3,000 yen an hour, you can have a private lessons with Kanako Hatoma on Wednesdays and Sundays, by appointment.

Many who come in for Yaeyama Minyo lessons choose the tender melodies of Tsuki-nu Kaisha, or the upbeat and speedy strumming of Yonaguni-nu Maya.

Kanako Hatoma’s partner, Shunsuke Suzuki (Shunsuke Hatoma), is a professional guitarist whose skills are extensive, ranging from J-Pop to jazz, and is known for his fusion-style arrangements. He’s even performed with Kimaguren and other groups at Japan’s popular Kohaku Utagassen, a long-standing TV program that people look forward to on New Year’s Eve. Shunsuke-san offers private guitar lessons for beginners to semi-pros for 5,000 yen an hour (by appointment only).

Their business hours are from 11:00 to 20:00, and café time is from 13:00 to 16:00. They offer a lineup of beverages and foods at very reasonable prices, like coffee (300 yen), soft drinks (200 yen), French toast (300 yen), and cake set (500 yen).

The name of the café, Aobato, is the Japanese name for white-bellied green pigeons. When Kanako-san was in junior high school, she went to live with her grandmother on Hatoma Island, and there, she often heard the cries of these pigeons. She says, “The Aobato on Hatoma Island have a particularly unique cry. Once they start, they have about eight different melodies that they sing continuously for about a minute. The melodies of their cries somewhat resemble Yaeyama Minyo, and is truly beautiful, and they sing so well. When we decided to start our music classes here, we decided to name the place Aobato, thinking how lovely it would be to bring beautiful singing and melodies just like the Aobato that I remember.”

Lesson Café Aobato is located just 10 minutes on foot from the Asato Station of the Okinawa Monorail, and if you’re taking a taxi from Kokusai Street, the cost is just the initial fare on the meter. They receive customers who are staying at nearby hotels, and the café has become a popular place for people to get together, relax, and enjoy Sanshin and guitar lessons.

[Lesson Café Aobato]

Address: #101 2-15-6 Mihara, Naha City, Okinawa
Telephone: 098-800-2746
Hours: 11:00 to 20:00 (Schedules shown below)

-Guitar Lessons (Appt. Required): 11:00-13:00 & 17:00-20:00
-Café Time: 13:00-16:00
-Sanshin Lessons: 16:00-17:00
*For private Sanshin lessons by appointment: Wednesdays & Sundays only (apt. required) 

Closed: Wednesdays & Sundays

Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Hiroshi Kuwamura