Asadoya Yunta (安里ユンタ or 安里屋節) is one of the most widely performed Okinawan songs in recent music history. The song originated from Taketomi Island in the Yaeyama district of Okinawa, Japan. It tells the tale of a young and beautiful peasant woman named Kuyama Asato (安里クヤマ) and the advances of a government official. The version wide-spread in Okinawa has Kuyama refusing the official as she felt the stability offered by marrying a local man was better than the luxurious but short-lived lifestyle of a mistress. However, in the Taketomi Island version, Kuyama ended up becoming the official’s mistress.
The song went through several adaptations. In 1934, Nippon Columbia decided to record songs from Okinawa. Apart from traditional songs performed in local dialects, the company also wanted to record Okinawan songs in standard Japanese so people all over Japan can understand them. As a result, a local poet, Katsu Hoshi (星克 or pseudonym 星迷鳥) was commissioned to write new lyrics for Asato Yunta in standard Japanese. The new lyrics were more of a love song instead of the story of Kuyama Asadoya. In addition to new lyrics, Chōhō Miyara (宮良長包), a music teacher from the local school, re-arranged and modernized the melody, and this new version was sometimes called Shin Asadoya Yunta (新安里屋ユンタ). Most of the more recent performances of Asadoya Yunta by pop singers such as Rimi Natsukawa and Ryuichi Sakamoto are actually lyrics of the modernized Asadoya Yunta.
Columbia’s recording launched Asadoya Yunta into popularity all over Japan. It was again reinterpreted in 1944 into a war song. Due to the song’s popularity, a folk dance was choreographed to the melody after World War II.
Various recordings of Asadoya Yunta in Rekion:
- Rekion identifier for the 1953 recording あさどや・ゆんた（安里屋節）performed by Akiko Miyagi (宮城章子) is info:ndljp/pid/2916213
- Rekion identifier for Columbia’s 1934 recording of the modernized Asadoya Yunta 民謡：安里屋ユンタ is info:ndljp/pid/3568155
- Other recordings can be found via keyword search “安里屋”
OSUL has several resources in English and in Japanese on Asadoya Yunta:
- Resource in English:
- Songs from the edge of Japan : music-making in Yaeyama and Okinawa by Matt Gillan (Ashgate, 2012) provides information about the original song as well as the 1934 recordings. It also has the English translation of the first verse of Shin Asadoya Yunta’s lyrics.
- Resource in Japanese with English captions for the photos:
- 琉球の舞踊と護身舞踊 Dance of Ryūkyū and self-defence dances by Seihin Yamanouchi (山內盛彬) (Minzoku Geinō Zenshū Kankōkai, 1963). The book includes a photo of the dance and the 5-verse version of Shin Asadoya Yunta’s lyrics (Hoshi ‘s 1934 Shin Asadoya Yunta only had four verses; a fifth verse was added at a later date).
- Resource in Japanese:
- 八重山民謡誌 by Eijun Kishaba (喜舍場永 珣) (Okinawa Taimususha, 1967) gives background information on the social and political environment of the song. It also provides information on the real life Kuyama Asadoya. The lyrics of Asodoya Yunta are recorded and translated into standard Japanese. Lyrics for Shin Asadoya Yunta are also included in the book.
- 沖縄の民謡 歌詞と解說 by Tokusuke Shinjō (新城德祐) (Mitsuboshi Insatsujo, 1969) – large print lyrics of Asadoya Yunta with hiragana as well as background information on the song.
NOTE: This is one of a series of posts highlighting content available in Rekion (れきおん), the Historical recordings collection of the National Diet Library (Japan), which is available at a dedicated computer in the Music and Dance Library at Ohio State. See the Introductory post in this series for more information about the database.