Shamisen is a traditional Japanese instrument which has been used in Japan since ancient times. Nagauta, Kouta, Soukyoku, Gidayu, Jiuta, Roukyoku, Minyo, Tsugaru and more ... even a brief look reveals the various kinds of Shamisen. Originally an instrument called the "Sangen" was introduced to Ryukyu (Okinawa) in the 14th Century from China, then brought to mainland Japan at the end of the Muromachi Period. During the Edo Period, people began to love the music as they sang and enjoyed themselves. The current domestic Shamisen playing population is estimated to be about 700,000 people. This is about 1/50 the total from the heyday. Wishing to reintroduce the Shamisen once again, which has been a Japanese tradition and common people’s instrument, to Japan and even overseas, we visit an intensely passionate craftsman who works on making Shamisen.
Tokyo, Tokyo Shamisen Sangenshi Kikuoka ｜ 2015.08.03
Visiting Sangenshi※1 Craftsman Kikuoka continues making Shamisen in Tokyo.
The Shamisen workshop we visited is called “Sangenshi Kikuoka” and is in Katsushika, Tokyo. Sangenshi Kikuoka Representative; After graduating university, Mr. Kimiaki Kouno learnt his skills in Asakusa as an apprentice under a Shamisen craftsman. He then established his own workshop at age 26 and has been at the same place in Sangenshi since then. At first, Mr. Kouno was interested in the ‘sound’ of Shamisen. His mother's hobby was playing Shamisen. He had been familiar with its tone since childhood but one day realized that the sound of Shamisen changes according to how the skin is stretched. Even with the same performer and instrument, he was surprised that the tone became completely different depending on the way the skin had been put on. “I thought it was fun to change the tone through human action, that is by the skinning technique. Shamisen take on a different tone as a result of human action: the technique of Kawahari (stretching the skin).” says Mr. Kouno. It was a moment that further sparked his interest.