Steel Trappings

On the Playlist

On the Playlist: Buckie Shirakata

July 1, 2022 • Geronimo "Geri" ValdrizSteel Guitar History

"HAWAIIAN STEEL" is a weekly radio program that spotlights the Hawaiian steel guitar masters from the past to the present. "ON THE PLAYLIST" features the musicians heard on the program's playlist. This month we feature steel guitarist Bucky Shirakata!

Buckie Shirakata is a steel guitarist, bandleader, recording artist, and teacher who moved to Japan from Hawai‘i. He is the originator of the 1950s post-war Japanese style Hawaiian music.

Buckie Shirakata

Tsutomu "Buckie" Shirakata was born on April 16, 1912 in Honolulu. He graduated from the McKinley High School and the University of Hawai‘i. He developed a serious interest in the steel guitar as a teenager growing up in Hawai‘i, and later took lessons from Sol Ho‘opi‘i.

In 1933 his group the Aloha Hawaiian Trio won an audition on a local radio program, and was awarded a trip to Japan. The trio consisted of Buckie, Satoru Moriwaki, and Charles Nosaka, all three Hawaii born and raised. The group performed at hotels and theaters, and made several recordings for Columbia Records in Tokyo. Buckie played his wood bodied steel guitar in A Major Tuning, and Japanese fans were excited to hear Hawaiian mele such as "Akaka Falls" and "Hui E." After 10 months in Japan, the Aloha Hawaiian Trio returned to Hawai‘i.

Buckie finished his schooling at the University of Hawai‘i and in 1935 he returned to and settled in Japan, bringing with him the first electric Hawaiian steel guitar, the Rickenbacher frying pan. Upon his arrival in Japan Buckie played with touring Hawaiian musicians such as David Pokipala, Bob Ka‘ai, and Syd Kamau. He played with other Japanese Hawaiian bands as well, and eventually formed his own group called the Aloha Hawaiians.

From 1942 to 1945, Hawaiian music was banned in Japan and Buckie waited out the War. The ban on Hawaiian music ended in 1945 with the arrival of American occupation forces, and from that time onward the Aloha Hawaiians were in the forefront of the Hawaiian bands in Japan. They remained active through the 1970s in both the performing and recording fields.

As a steel guitarist, Buckie inspired many young players in Japan. He was noted for having developed a "jazzy" technique of playing the steel guitar, and for introducing new steel guitar tunings such as A Minor. He played his single note solos in the style of Tommy Castro and Sol Ho‘opi‘i.

Buckie opened his first teaching studio in 1940 called the Aloha Hawaiian Studio. He taught the steel guitar, ‘ukulele, and Hawaiian mele. Among his many students were some of Japan's leading Hawaiian musicians. Buckie also published a popular instruction manual for the ‘ukulele and featured it in many of his own recordings.

Among Japan's Hawaiian musicians, Buckie was a prolific recording artists with over 200 recordings! In addition to his recording in 1934 during his first visit to Tokyo, he made numerous recordings in 1938 for Columbia as "Ray King's Hawaiians." In 1941 the Aloha Hawaiians recorded "Tsuki No Yo Wa" sung by Betty Inaba and "On a Little Bamboo Bridge," and both became smash hits.

Buckie Shirakata and His Aloha Hawaiians

In 1950 Buckie signed with the Teichiku label and recorded more than 25 Hawaiian albums! He also composed songs such as "Aloha Nui Loa Ia Oe," "Aloha Hawaii," "Come to Hawaii," "Dream Paradise," and "Hawaiian Cradle Song." Almost all of the lyrics are in Japanese but the songs are topically Hawaiian. These are similar to Hapa-Haole songs, but are composed in Japanese-English.

In 1965 the Hawaii House of Representatives honored Buckie for disseminating Hawaiian music in Japan and for teaching many Japanese to play the Hawaiian Steel Guitar.

Buckie Shirakata

In the 1990s Yasu Kamiya of Canopus Steel Guitars created a "Buckie Shirakata Model" based on Buckie's well worn Fender Studio Deluxe six string steel guitar.

On July 13, 1994 Buckie Shirakata died at age 82 after a long and prolific career as a Hawaiian steel guitarist.

Today fans seek out the recordings of Buckie Shirakata. He continues to inspire steel guitarist seeking to emulate his Japanese-Hawaiian style. His music is now available on CD and online to a new generation of fans who can appreciate this innovative and unique Hawaiian musician!

On the Playlist of Hawaiian Steel: Buckie Shirakata

Song CD Album
Kila Kila Haleakala Ray King's Hawaiians | Kalua Kamaainas / Omagatoki Co. Ltd.
Papa Loves Mambo Buckie Shirakata | Japan Steel / Teichiku Records
That's the Hawaiian in Me Ray King's Hawaiians | Kalua Kamaainas / Omagatoki Co. Ltd.
On A Little Bamboo Bridge Buckie Shirakata | Japan Steel / Teichiku Records
Hilo Hanakahi Ray King's Hawaiians | Kalua Kamaainas / Omagatoki Co. Ltd.
Mack the Knife Buckie Shirakata | Japan Steel / Teichiku Records

"Hawaiian Steel" with Geri Valdriz is broadcast live every Tuesday from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm (HST) on Mana‘o Radio, Wailuku, Maui, Hawai‘i, KMNO, 91.7FM on the radio dial.

You can catch it on the air, or streaming live at www.manaoradio.com. Listeners can also access our online archives to enjoy previously recorded programs at your convenience. Just search "Listen on Demand" for past shows.

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2024 Festivals and Workshops
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Ka Makana Ali‘i
February 17, 2024 – 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM HST
Ka Makana Ali‘i Shopping Center, Kapolei

Kona Steel Guitar Festival
April 4-6, 2024
Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, Keauhou, Hawai‘i

Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival
May 11, 2024 – 12:00 Noon - 4:00 PM HST
Kukui Grove Center, Lihue, Hawai‘i

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
June 8, 2024 – 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST
Windward Mall, Kāne‘ohe (O‘ahu), Hawai‘i

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week (July 10-15, 2023)
July 8-13, 2024 – 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM HST
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī (O‘ahu), Hawai‘i

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
July 12, 2024 – 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM HST
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī (O‘ahu), Hawai‘i

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
July 13, 2024 – 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM HST
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī (O‘ahu), Hawai‘i

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival Keiki Kine at Kahala Mall
August 17, 2024 – 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM HST (tentative)
Kahala Mall, Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Maui Steel Guitar Festival
October 19, 2024 – 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM HST
The Shops at Wailea, Wailea, Hawai‘i

2024 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts

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All broadcasts originate from the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Facebook Page and YouTube Channel.


Kona Steel Guitar Festival
April 6, 2024 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 12:00 Noon - 3 PM and 5 PM - 8 PM HST

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
July 12, 2024 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM HST


Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
July 13, 2024 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 11:00 AM - 2:30 PM and 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM HST


Other Events
2024 AISGC Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival *
July 25-27, 2024 – Towne Square Community Center, Winchester, IN
* Registration Fee Required

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