Your 272-Word Mini Japanese Culture Lesson

In the realm of Japanese music, there is obviously nothing is more riveting than J-Pops, but please consider some key players in Japan’s traditional music:

The shakuhachi: a wooden, end-blown flute that is – as its name helpfully denotes – 1.8 feet long. Traditionally used by Zen Buddhist monks in blowing meditation; more recently popular in Western 1980s music.

The koto: the national instrument of Japan. It is a stringed, wooden instrument similar to a harp. Koto players adjust the string pitches by moving its bridges before playing and pluck the strings with three finger picks designed to fit on their thumb, middle, and index fingers.

The sangen: a 3-stringed instrument similar to a guitar in shape and similar to a banjo in that it is covered with skin. Unlike a guitar or a banjo, a sangen is played with a large weighted plectrum called a bachi rather than with the fingers. It is also called a shamisen, but Bob calls his a sangen so I do, too.

The taiko: the Japanese drum; giant, struck with a bachi and a rather high pitch relative to their large size.

When you’ve drunk yourself into oblivion in honor of that venerable holiday called “Thursday,” the last thing you probably want to do on Hungover Friday is sit through 5 hours of a traditional Japanese music student recital – even if one of your good friends is performing.


Poor Sean. Lucky unhungover, fresh-as-a-daisy me. I have so enjoyed watching Bob perform in both the Philharmonic and traditional Japanese music concerts. To think that this was our last hurts my heart more than the plucking of the koto hurt Sean’s brain.

2 Replies to “Your 272-Word Mini Japanese Culture Lesson”

  1. Hi,
    I play kind of Japanese Traditional Music.
    My band is called Soul Of Japan. Check our videos.
    We have debut album available.

  2. I like the really unique sounds that come from traditional Japanese music. Traditional Japanese things scare me often, however, ever since Nishimata-sensei made us listen to a Noh mask play and it sounded like really terrifying ghosts and seemed to have no point other than to wail. Freaked me out a bunch it did. But cool beans ^_^

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