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1. Koto

The image of sitting in a special seat and listening to a woman playing the koto in celebration of New Year’s or another celebratory occasion is strong.
It is an instrument with a showy timbre and performance style.

This is a 1878 drawing of a woman playing the koto.

Koto are about 180 centimetres (71 in) length, and made from kiri wood (Paulownia tomentosa). They have 13 strings that are strung over 13 movable bridges along the width of the instrument. Players can adjust the string pitches by moving the white bridges in the picture before playing, and use three finger picks (on thumb, index finger, and middle finger) to pluck the strings, otherwise known as plectra.

Beautiful Japanese series: Among the autumn leaves of Arashiyama, Kyoto, an elegant koto performance

2. Shakuhachi

The low tones of this instrument somehow recalls the feeling of ancient Japan. 
Since the sound is deep, there are many people who get addicted to it.

It was brought over to Japan from the Chinese Tang dynasty, and it was given the name “shakuhachi” because of its length in an antiquated measuring system.

The shakuhachi is made from the root of Japanese timber bamboo, and there are four holes on top and one on the bottom. It’s currently the trend to line the shakuhachi with hard materials in order to force the sound up through the top. It’s an air reed instrument similar to the traditional quena and flute from Peru and Bolivia.

The World Beats … in Honolulu: John Umiyama Neptune

This is John Umiyama Neptune’s shakuhachi performance that is sure to charm you.

3. Shamisen

Though the shamisen is said to have a shallow history when compared to other Japanese instruments, it is an instrument that has many worshippers.

A traditional Japanese stringed instrument. Skin is pulled across both sides of the square, flat, wooden trunk, and the strings are stretched across the wooden rod that goes through the trunk. Usually it is played with a gingko-shaped plectrum.

TENBI “CALLING”  Tsugaru-jamisen(Tsugaru-shamisen)

Fukui Tenbi has become famous as a shamisen player. 

4. Sanshin

Though it looks similar to a shamisen, it is an instrument from Japan’s southernmost island, Okinawa.
It’s a cheerful instrument with a characteristic musical scale that fits well with songs and makes people want to dance.

In Okinawa, this instrument is often played at weddings and other happy occasions where people are gathered.; photo by YUMIKO_okp

The sanshin goes with singing and dancing! 

Miyakozima Goya Sanshin Live Night

A sanshin musical performance incorporating traditional Okinawan clothing.


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