What is Ushibuka Haiya

Ushibuka Haiya (in Japanese: 牛深ハイヤ) is a Haiya minyo (a Japanese folk song/dance) that originated in Ushibuka, Kumamoto in Edo period. There are 40+ Haiya minyo across Japan, and folklorist, Kasho Machida, and his disciple, Tsutomu Takeuchi, concluded that Ushibuka Haiya is the origin of them.


  • Ushibuka Haiya, known to be originated in Edo period, but unknown who exactly started, is designated as Ushibuka's Intangible Folk Cultural Property
  • Ushibuka's rich natural sea port was a major hub for sea transportation. Sailing ships and fishing boats from various ports across Japan visited Ushibuka, and once Ushibuka became important, that was when the song was originated and spread out. 
  • Song, describes women longing for seamen coming back to Ushibuka port as they don't come back for months once they leave the port, was sung for seamen when they drink sake together. Ushibuka Haiya was memorized by seamen and brought to one port to another, and it influenced various regional minyo all over Japan. For example, Sado Okesa, much known than Ushibuka Haiay, is thought to be influenced by Ushibuka Haiya.
  • Seaman in steering was obligated to sing songs all night long in order not to fall asleep, and hence Ushibuka Haiya must have been memorized strongly by them.
  • Haiya means South Wind. It is written as Hae, but it was pronounced as Haiya by people in Ushibuka as their dialect. In northern Japan (and also in Kagoshima), it is pronounced as Hanya, and in further north Japan, it is pronounced as Aiya as seen in Tsugaru Aiya.


Because it was a dance of drink song for seaman, it is in kneeling position, keeping one's balance low. Motions of seamen rowing a boat and collecting fishing nets can be seen in the dance. In the introduction of this article, it's said that Ushibuka Haiya is a folk song/dance, but it is rather fast-paced for one's stereotypical image of folk dance.

Preservation Activity

  • Ushibuka Haiya Festival is held in Ushibuka, every year, in the 3rd weekend of April. It's 48th in 2018. 
  • Ushibuka Haiya National Championship Tournament is held also in Ushibuka, every year, in the end of June. It's 18th in 2018.
There exists quite a few Preservation Societies - Hozonkai. They present performances at not only local events, but also Hawaii, Mongolia, and Hong Kong. Our Tokyo Ushibuka Haiya Club has presented once in Sado island, 415km away is the farthest we have been. Not yet in overseas.