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About Sanshin
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Staff Blog
What is the Sanshin?

The Sanshin is a three stringed musical instrument with a distinct tone from Okinawa, Japan. The main parts of the sanshin are:

the neck(sou)

handcrafted from a single piece of wood.

the body(dou)

traditionally a snakeskin covered drum.

three strings

the word sanshin literally means 'three strings' in Japanese.

[Scroll down for a more detailed description]

sanshin origin

Believed to originate around 600 years ago when the Chinese sanxian, a similar three stringed instrument, arrived in Okinawa. The sanshin became popular as entertainment in the royal Ryukyuan courts.

In the 16th century, the sanshin arrived in mainland Japan, and evolved into what we know today as the Japanese shamisen.

left to right: Japanese shamisen, Chinese sanxian,
Thai ping, Okinawan sanshin.

In the last 200 years it has become the central part of traditional music in Okinawa.

Similarly to how Hawaiian culture is tied to the ukulele, the people of Okinawa share a strong connection with the sanshin. It is their heart.

These days, around 10,000 sanshin are made each year, both in Okinawa and abroad. Although currently most of the demand for sanshin comes from Japan, we hope more people will learn about the sanshin, and play their own one day.

kota workshop

Ten - head of the sanshin.

Sou - neck of the sanshin. Normally made from a single piece of ebony wood, rosewood, oak, or ironwood.

The two most popular styles of neck are Makabe, and the slimmer Kuba nu funi(bone of Kuba) style. Unlike the neck of a guitar, the sou has no frets.

Doumaki, or Tiigaa - decorative cover for the body. Covers the join of the drum skin to the wooden frame.

Karakui - tuning peg. Strength of wood is important in order to maintain tension on the strings without breakages.

Uma - removable bridge, usually made of ebony, plastic, or bamboo. We have found that a solid ebony uma will produce the best sound.

Dou, or Chiiga - the body of the sanshin. A drum traditionally made by stretching snakeskin over a wooden frame.

As some countries prohibit the import of snakeskin, synthetic leather made from a durable form of polyester has gained popularity. This also allows for some creative designs on the dou!

Itokake - a strong thread that binds the strings to the base of the sanshin, at the sarunoo(lit. monkeys tail).

This is also the end of the sou which has been passed through the center of the drum.

The strings of the sanshin are made from nylon. Either white(Okinawan strings) or yellow(Amami strings).

uujiru (男絃, "male string") - thickest gauge.

nakajiru (中絃, "middle string")

miijiru (女絃, "female string") - thinnest gauge.

Bachi - a traditional pick made from buffalo horn, or ceramic.

How to tune your sanshin


Tune your Sanshin with our new quick guide! On our new page we will help you to set the Uma and to tune your Sanshin in three easy steps!

Or watch now our Tuning Video on YouTube!

watch us on YouTube

The sanshin can be played traditionally with the bachi, or in any style you wish using a guitar pick. We offer two fantastic value packages with everything you need to get started playing your sanshin.

If you would like to master the sanshin and traditional songs of the Okinawan people, we recommend picking up our Traditional Set. If you would like to play in another of your favorite music genres , we recommend our FreeStyle Sanshin Set.

Below are a few examples of traditional and freestyle play. What style of sanshin player will you be?


You can find more sanshin videos on our YouTube channels:
ASOVIVA English Channel, ASOVIVA Japanese Channel

7 reasons to buy an Asoviva Sanshin

We provide helpful labels to indicate note positions.

The Sanshin, like a guitar, requires different finger positions for different notes. However, unlike a guitar, there are no frets to indicate these positions. Asoviva provides labels for the neck(sou) of your sanshin indicating correct finger positions and making life easier for the beginner. No frets. No problem.


Each sanshin is pre-tuned and ready to play.

We think it would be disappointing if the first sound you heard from your new sanshin is out of tune! Asoviva make sure your sanshin is correctly tuned and ready to play out of the box.


We provide a position label for the uma.

The bridge(uma) of the sanshin can be difficult for beginners to correctly position. In addition to the note position labels, we provide another to indicate the correct position for the uma, ensuring correct pitch.


Your sanshin will fit inside your case of choice.

The available cases for sanshin, produced by various manufacturers, are normally 20cm wide. We ensure the width of the tuning pegs(karakui) when in place, will still allow your sanshin to fit inside any case.


We pre-stretch your strings. Your sanshin stays in tune.

New strings fitted to a sanshin, even when correctly tuned, will normally fall out of tune as they are first stretched and played. To solve this problem we pre-stretch our strings five times when we receive them, and five times again before fitting them to your sanshin. This ensures your tone will remain stable longer.


We use handcrafted karakui for an easy fit.

Asoviva only use handcrafted wooden tuning pegs(karakui). Premade plastic pegs are often problematic when fitting to a sanshin, as the sizes of the tuning holes may vary slightly. By using handcrafted pegs made specifically for your sanshin, we can ensure a perfect fit.


We care about quality.

Asoviva have taken great care to make sure each part of your sanshin meets a high standard, regardless of cost. Whether your sanshin is made from ebony, rosewood or any other wood, it has been handcrafted with the utmost care. To ensure this quality standard, each sanshin is checked for both quality of tone, and for quality of craftsmanship prior to delivery.

shoppin guide


International shipments use the following Japan Post services:
Express Mail Service. EMS mail is handled with the highest priority of any international service (estimated delivery time 2-4 days).
Economy Air (SAL) - normally 1-3 weeks.
Surface Mail - normally 1-3 months.

Once your order has shipped we will email your tracking number.

Refund/Return/Exchange Policy
In the following cases, we will exchange the item or give customer a full refund within 7days of the receipt of the items.
*In either case, customer is responsible for return shipping cost.

- When customer receive incorrect items.
- When items are badly damaged.
- When customer is not completely satisfied with the quality of the item.

When customer wants to return the item for any other reasons, customer must contact Asoviva within 3 days of the receipt of the items and sent the item back to Asoviva Items must be unused and in original packaging. Please note that after 7 days of receipt of the items, we may not be able to accept any return or offer refund.

About Delivery

Your order will be shipped to you within three business days of the date of purchase.

If there is a shortage of stock affecting your order, we will notify you immediately.


ASOVIVA accepts all major credit cards, and PayPal transactions.

All credit card payments are processed securely through the PayPal website.

How to order

Shopping cart is provided by Mal's e-commerce. Once you have finished adding products to your shopping cart, all personal information and credit card details will be processed using an SSL secured server.


-resort instrument factory- ASOVIVA Inc

Address: 〒904-0324 Okinawa, Nakagami-gun, Yomitan Village 815-3
TEL: +81-98-958-7750 (9am-6pm) / FAX: +81-98-958-3225 / E-mail:

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