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Photo: TARUMI Kengo

It’s lovely, this name. It’s called just the way it looks. I can almost hear the sincere and honest Uchinānchu (Okinawan) say: an akabanā is an akabanā, how else could it be called? The Japanese name for akabanā is bussouge1. That sounds rather imposing, even a little obscure. This flower belongs to the hibiscus family and has a brilliance that does not quite match its name; bussouge.
 The akabanā you see in Okinawa is truly beautiful in contrast with the blue sky and blooms with its head high. You could even say that this is a flower embodying the temperament of the Okinawans. That’s why people love it so much; many houses have it in their hedges, and you will see it in every part of Okinawa.

What comes to mind when talking about akabanā is China Sadao’s song Akabanā (released in 1978). My uncle liked it, and I used to play it whenever I went to his house. The song was what you might call a popular tune; it didn’t feel so Okinawan. China was originally from a traditional folk music background, but this piece was weirdly tuned to pop music which I didn’t like so much. I heard this style was on trend in Okinawa back then. The song had little impact on me however, my uncle’s wife (so, my aunt) was an Okinawa native and was more or less related to China so I listened to this song, feeling some intimacy as if he was someone I knew. 
 As a producer under the label “Disc Akabanā,” China Sadao has been putting out some fine albums. One of them is his own CD, Shima Uta, in which he sings the elegant and delicate shimauta2 full of life. It’s a great album that lets you enjoy the vitality of Uchinā (Okinawa). Nēnēs3, a group he produced, is yet again, excellent. Each singer has her own flair. Like its label “Disc Akabanā,” they are another akabanā representing Okinawa.

Editor’s Note:

  1. Literal translation: the mulberry flower of Buddha.
  2. Songs native to Okinawa.
  3. A music group produced in 1990 by China Sadao. The initial members were Koja Misako, Yoshida Yasuko, Miyazato Namiko, Hiyane Yukino and Toma Eriko. Since then, the members have changed frequently.