箏/琴 (Koto)


Koto is Japanese traditional music instrument. Categorized into zither group. It has 13 strings with bridges. Its body is made of paulownia, and the bridges are made of ivory. silk was used for the strings, but now polyester is the major material for the strings. It has mainly two schools, Ikuta-ryu (生田流) and Yamada-ryu(山田流). Koto is played solo, or with Sangen (三絃) or/and Shakuhachi (尺八) and/or kokyu (胡弓). Especially, the ensemble of koto, shamisen, and shakuhachi/kokyu is called sankyoku (三曲).

Japanese koto appears in the history before 300B.C. What is known as koto today came from China and was established around 9th century. It was used in Gagaku (雅楽) and considered as a symbol of a dragon. We still use the name dragon body parts, such as dragon head and dragon tail, as the names of koto parts. Kengyo Yatsuhashi/八橋検校 (1614-1685) established the base of today’s koto piece, and Michio Miyagi/宮城道雄 (1894-1956) developed new style introducing some Western music. Today, many contemporary style are born among musicians.


三絃/三味線 (Sangen/Shamisen)

Shamisen is Japanese traditional music instrument close to banjo group. It was 3 strings. The wood used is ruby wood and red sandalwood, and the skin is taken from a cat. The sting is either silk or polyester.

Shamisen is relatively new instrument among Japanese instruments, established around 15th century. The shamisen has many different kinds of types. The one used with koto, such as in sankyoku is jiuta shamisen (地歌三味線) and often called sangen.


篠笛 (Shinobue)

Shinobue is one of Japanese wooden horizontal flutes made of simon bamboo. Since shinobue is a folk music instrument, it has a simple structure and a lot of variations in terms of its length, the number of halls etc. all over Japan. It is used a lot in matsuri (festivals).