Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sam and his Sanshin

The quintessential Japanese musical instrument is a three-stringed sanshin. Since a sanshin has long strings and no frets, any note can be played and any kind of mood can be invoked. Upbeat, dance-able songs? OK! Quiet, moody ballads? Equally OK!

When the hero of my second Okinawa novel wants to announce his new business, he picks up a sanshin and plays a song that goes like this:

"Meet me at the west gate.
Be sure to ride up in style.
I'll let you into the castle,
where we'll live the life of kings,
but only for today.
Then you have to go,
and we will be what we have always been:
I in my court kimono,
and you in your workman's garb."

Sam has been to the metropolis, and he knows it isn't for him. He is what he is, a man in workman's garb.

Work? When it's the right job, it's as exalting as robes and a crown.