Japan Musik Instrumente
Japan – Instruments and Music

Japan – Instruments and Music

After China, we fly for a few more hours and land in Japan. Here, too, we discover a wide variety of interesting instruments and diverse sounds. Besides unique J-rock bands and viral anime openings, Japan offers a centuries-old tradition of music and art. Japanese music is not only culturally rich, but also deeply rooted in the country’s identity. It is a window into the soul of Japan and an important source of inspiration, today as much as hundreds of years ago. Let’s take a closer look at three of the many traditional Japanese musical instruments.

Shakuhachi

Thomann Shakuhachi Xiao Master G

Thomann Shakuhachi Xiao Master G

One of the best-known Asian musical instruments with an exciting and dramatic history is the Japanese bamboo flute Shakuhachi. Originally from China, the shakuhachi quickly became an integral part of zen Buddhist meditation music. As the flute could not keep up with the volume of mouth organs and drums in gagaku court music ensembles, it quickly fell out of use there, only to reappear as a spiritual tool for monks. Here, the shakuhachi went through highs and lows – playing it was even forbidden at times.

Here you can find Shakuhachi instruments in our shop.

Thomann Shakuhachi Xiao Master F

Thomann Shakuhachi Xiao Master F

Nowadays, however, the Shakuhachi once again enjoys great popularity and is even regularly featured as a sample in songs by modern artists. For example, in Linkin Park’s “Nobody’s Listening,” you can hear a shakuhachi playing almost continuously in the background. Take a listen!

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Shamisen

Suzuki Student Shamisen Kaede MS-8

Suzuki Student Shamisen Kaede MS-8

When talking about traditional Japanese music, one instrument that must be mentioned is the shamisen. The three-stringed long-necked lute is used in the traditional stage art of Kabuki but also enjoys great popularity in modern music. Interestingly, the Shamisen has always been played by all social groups, so it was not just reserved for aristocrats or scholars.

Zenon ZSM-10 Student Shamisen Set

Zenon ZSM-10 Student Shamisen Set

Geishas in particular are often seen playing the shamisen for entertainment. At first glance, the instrument looks a bit like a guitar and is held in a similar way. The sound of the shamisen is more reminiscent of a banjo. However, the way it is played differs fundamentally from both: It is played with a large, leaf-shaped “bachi” pick and the fretless fingerboard allows for completely different sonic expressions than those possible on a banjo, for example. Got interested? Start right away with the shamisen models available in our Thomann Shop.

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Koto

Suzuki Koto 3 Shaku Ryuogi Stud. Set

Suzuki Koto 3 Shaku Ryuogi Stud. Set

One of the best-known and most popular traditional stringed instruments from Japan is the koto. Anyone who feels reminded of the Chinese guzheng at the sight of this long, arched, wooden zither is completely right! The zither came to Japan around the year 700 AD and developed into the koto as we know it today. Originally used in gagaku, the elegant court music of the imperial era, as the gakuso rhythm instrument, the koto still enjoys great popularity in the popular music of the 21st century.

Suzuki Koto 6 Shaku Toki Special Set

Suzuki Koto 6 Shaku Toki Special Set

The koto is played similarly to the Guzheng, with artificial nails and various, mostly pentatonic, tunings. The biggest difference is probably the number of strings and the type of picks and strings used, which produce a softer and gentler sound than that of the Guzheng. By the way, the parts of the koto are named after the body parts of a mythological dragon. Can you see the resemblance? Koto instruments can be found under this link in our shop.


Instruments at Thomann

Here’s to the department of world instruments & traditional instruments.
Here’s to the Japanese instruments at Thomann.

For inquiries about world instruments, our colleagues in the specialist department are very happy to advise you, of course, without obligation.


About the author Sophie

Sophie joined the String and World Instruments department at Thomann in 2018. Originally working as a specialist advisor in the field of violins and string instruments, her interest quickly shifted to the diverse ethnic instruments of various countries. Today, her small apartment resembles more of a museum, filled with musical instruments from around the world. Sophie plays the violin, saxophone, bass, guitar, Guzheng, Hulusi, and Ruan, among countless other instruments.

Sophie

Sophie

 

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Lawrence started playing the electric guitar because of his passion for rock music. Back in the day he played in a metal band, but now plays more for himself.

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