Okinawa Tourism Information:RecordoftheSongsPassedDownonMiyako

Record of the Songs Passed Down on Miyako

post : 2014.11.22 16:00

Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture. Located 310 km south of the main island, its emerald green sea is said to be the most beautiful in the East.

The island is abounding with visitors all year long, but today we would like to introduce you to another type of trip, a little different from usual tourism.




On Miyako Island “Aagu” (old songs) and “Kamiuta” (religious chants) have been sung for centuries. It is the island’s harsh nature, the islanders’ faith and a sad history of capitation tax that gave birth to these songs. They are melancholic, they also had the power to help people get through hard times, and like a bridge to brighter days, they helped the islanders to encourage each other.



Together with the passing of the times, the Shinto priests of the Ryukyuan religion (called “Kaminchu”, who perform Shinto rituals at sacred sites), and Shinto rituals have been diminishing, and the beacon of light of the “Kamiuta” is starting to fade.

The musician Makoto Kubota found that scarce light,

digging up the island’s “Aagu”, and going on a journey from the past connecting people,

bringing a new ring to an old source of sound.


Sometimes, the camera manages to capture that atmosphere,

when getting deeper on the track that Makoto Kubota followed, the life and faith of the islanders is revealed.

The movie “Sketches of Myahk”, which is based on the director’s own itinerary, is screened all around Okinawa Prefecture.

In order to enjoy even more this travel picture that starts with the songs, we have interviewed the director about his movie.


【Interview with Director Koichi Onishi】

Please tell us what provided the spark for making “Sketches of Myahk”.


Director Onishi (title omitted below): The great music producer Makoto Kubota, who also appears in the movie, moved to Miyako Island 7 years ago and started to listen and record the music of the elder people living in a village in the island’s periphery.

Almost unknown old local folk songs remain there, and he discovered simultaneously religious rites that are still being held by the community in “Utaki” (sacred areas) as well as the existence of religious chants that have been sung for centuries.


Mr. Kubota told me that the generation of people who remember these songs and know their background, which is the ancient way of life on the island, is above 90 years old, and he also told me that even though the village’s religious rites were miraculously remaining, they could vanish anytime, so I felt that as a film maker it was somehow my duty to immortalize it on film.

At the same time I also had the feeling that there was not much time left.

This was in February 2009. Two months later, Mr. Kubota introduced me to the singers, I went to the island with a high-end compact video camera and peripheral equipment, and this is how I started shooting.


How did you make this movie?

Onishi: The shooting on Miyako Island took about a year. During that period I had 5 round-trips to Tokyo, our base. The fact is I always brought the camera with me and went to the island by myself to collect materials. I did a lot of coverage on the elders, but actually I would visit them in their homes, we’d watch TV together and indulge in small-talk, they would offer me a meal and I would shoot intermittently. That’s how the shooting took place.


I had such a great time, it felt like I was spending time with my late grandparents once again. At times I even wished that the shooting would never end.

For the religious rites in the Utaki, I shot according to the yearly schedule. Many of the ceremony scenes were shot in Irabu Island’s Sarahama district, the area of Miyako where forms of ancient beliefs are the most preserved. 



Actually even in Sarahama these beliefs could vanish anytime, so people there have the desire to convey to the next generation the preciousness of these ceremonies and the gravity of the crisis they face, which is why they kindly accepted to be part of the movie.   


Please tell us the message you want to send out through this movie as a director.

Onishi: I think this movie is a great chance to look back on where the songs come from as well as on how we were living traditionally.


After so much development, the modern era is the scene of great confusion, so I hope that many viewers will realize what is really important in their hearts by having a glance at Miyako’s grandmas, the way they live, the religious ceremonies as well as the songs that have been sung for many generations.

Koichi Onishi (producer, director)


Born in 1965 in Osaka. Started to work as an assistant cameraman for a TV news program while studying at Osaka University of Arts.

In 1988, received with a fellow student best graduate work prize for “Kawachi Yukyoden”, a documentary on a strolling guitarist in the context of the vanishing old neighborhoods of Osaka.

Made the movie “Kichijoji Muei” with folk singer Wataru Takada as the iconic role.

In 1995, presented monochrome movie “Todokazu no Machi De”, a second work with Wataru Takada set in Hokkaido’s Hakodate. He also worked on a wide range of video projects such as TV programs, music videos and DVDs. “Sketches of Myahk” is the first movie he made in 16 years.



[Okinawa, Miyako Island Tour]

*A talk with Director Koichi Onishi each time

1/15(WED) Itoman, Hase Temple 14:00 

 16(THU) Nanjo, Tenku no Chaya 19:00 

 17(FRI) Nishiharacho, Café Ionca 18:30 

 18(SAT) Yonabaru, Bar Mohican 19:30 

 19(SUN) Kume Island, Resort Hotel Kume Island 17:30 

 22(WED) Ginowan, Café Unizon 21:00 

 23 (THU) Yomitan-son, Yomitan Village General Welfare Center 18:30 

 24(FRI) Koza Otobola 20:00 

 25(SAT) Nago, Nago Central Community Small Hall 18:45 

 26(SUN) Nakijin-son, ONDO 19:00 

 27(MON) Iejima, Hanikusuni Hall 19:00 

 29(WED) Motobu-cho, Motobu-cho Market Machigwa Yukuisho 19:30 

 30(THU) Ogimi-son, Ki To Nami 14:00


2/6 (THU) Irabu Island, Irabu Community Hall 18:30 

 7(FRI) Miyako Island, Book Café Breathe 18:30 

 8(SAT) Miyako Island, Book Café Breathe 18:30 

 11(TUE/Holidays)Naha, Okinawa Center for Gender Equality Tiruru 18:00 

【Learn More】

“Sketches of Myahk” Screening Schedule Site

“Sketches of Myahk” Official Site


Okinawa Clip Photowriter monobox