【About Japanese traditional musical instruments (Wagakki)】

Wadaiko (Japanese drum)

Wadaiko, or the Japanese drum, is a percussion instrument which is hollowed out of a single piece of wood. The sound is produced by striking the animal skins stretched over the drumhead. Although similar instruments exist in many other countries, wadaiko performance has some characteristics that distinguish itself – loud as it sounds and spectacular as it looks, as if to bring together dance and music.

Shamisen (three-stringed instrument)

Although it looks like a guitar with three strings, or Japanese-style banjo, shamisen actually is classified as a percussion instrument, played by hitting the body with a plectrum (bachi) held in the right hand. Its sound is loud and performed with powerful shouts. This distinct style of performance called tsugaru-jamisen attracts fans all over the world.

Shakuhachi (vertical bamboo flute)

Shakuhachi is made simply by cutting the root end of a bamboo culm. Because of its simple construction, however, it is extremely difficult to produce stable sounds, which are similar to those of flute or quena. Having only five holes –four in front and one in back– it can produce two full octaves and a half. In the past, shakuhachi was played by Buddhist monks instead of reciting the okyo (Buddhist sutra).

Koto (Japanese zither)

Originally introduced from China into Japan in the 7th to 8th century, koto (officially called ) developed its original Japanese style and is officially recognized as the national instrument of Japan. Koto is made from Paulownia wood and has 13 (sometimes 17 or 20) strings. It is played with three finger picks and has very unique scales. Koto was traditionally played by female artists for the purpose of entertaining male guests. In modern times, however, it is played by both men and women and it continues to evolve with various artistic approaches.

 

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