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A Day In The Drunk Tank With Polaris

Within Japan’s musical cosmos, Polaris has been one of the brightest stars. The group’s lead singer clues us in on his favorite way to experience the undersea world in Okinawa.

This month’s column features home-grown artist Yusuke Ohya, lead singer of Polaris who has pioneered the band’s lyrically soft, natural and extremely popular sound.

Last month was a busy one for Yusuke who simultaneously released a greatest hits album with Polaris and a collaborative effort with Hanaregumi’s Takashi Nagazumi and Ikuko Harada of Kuramubon. Because “Polaris” refers to the North Star, I figured his travel tips would gravitate to northern Japan. However, the first thing he said was, “There’s this great aquarium in Okinawa!”

He was referring to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa Kaiyoh-haku Memorial Park. This place boasts the Guinness-certified, largest acrylic panel fish tank in the world with side panels measuring a massive 22.5 meters wide, 8.2 meters high and 60 cm. thick.

Including whale sharks more than eight meters long and giant manta rays, this tank is home to countless varieties of marine life. Even the feeder fish they put in are large, and it’s not uncommon to find folks spending their entire day staring blankly into the tank.

“But the best part is there’s a space on one side of the huge tank that’s a bar so, while soaking in the sights, you can also take in a beer. I liked it so much I went twice just last year,” he said.

Yusuke had taken a liking to aquariums from an early age and has been to quite a few over the years. However, as far as he knows, this remains the only one serving up suds with their aquatic views.

“Weekday afternoons are especially good, because no one is around.” he suggests. “However, there’s still this strange feeling that you’re being watched. I noticed the big fish taking a quick glance in my direction whenever I passed by.

It wasn’t me being paranoid—they bustle around the tank and when they come back your way they sneak a peak. I thought maybe they were eyeing my beer, but it felt more like a look of contempt,” he observes.

Perhaps their disapproving looks are because of the young men slouching about at noon sipping beers.

“Drinking while being watched like that gives me an interesting buzz. It’s supposed to be us watching them, but it’s a bit nerve-racking that they’re the ones staring us down.”

To Yusuke’s credit, he does head down to Okinawa to create music as well. Taking a weekday off to enjoy a breather at an aquarium seems to be a pretty good diversion, especially as it’s at a popular tourist attraction. But there’s no reason to believe the aquatic giants in the water realize that. To them, he isn’t some popular musician. He’s just another guy drinking at the tank.

Yusuke’s latest album and
recommended Okinawa Sounds

Polaris
”Neiro”

The greatest hits album marks Polaris’s fifth year and features songs from their early days, before the Okinawa influence. Two-disc set includes a DVD. Great companion to their later works.

Compilation Album
“Best of Marutaka”

Album featuring the premier artists on Marutaka Records, Okinawa’s flagship label. “Early Okinawa tracks still rock,” says Ohya.

Sumiko Yoseyama
“Interlude”

The album released last year by the legendary jazz vocalist from Naha, Okinawa. Features live recordings of this older-than-65 veteran, making the listeners feel as if they were in the audience.

ohana
“Ohana Hyakke”

This trio of old friends comes together to produce fresh, bright tracks, bringing a sense of Okinawa to the listener.

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