ENSEMBLE HIJIRI-KAÏ – Japanese Music of the Edo Period

Teruhisa Fukuda (shakuhachi), Shihô Kineya (shamisen, vocals), Aiko Noda (koto), Junko Harada (koto).

Album: Urban Music of the Edo Period (1603-1868).

  1. Godanno-Shirabe
  2. Rembo-nagashi
  3. Echigo-jishi
  4. Midare
  5. Yuki
  6. Yûgure
  7. Koto sangen nijûsôkyoku

The shamisen (三味線), also known as the sangen (三絃) or samisen (all meaning “three strings”), is a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument derived from the Chinese instrument sanxian. It is played with a plectrum called a bachi. The Japanese pronunciation is usually shamisen but sometimes jamisen when used as a suffix, according to regular sound change (e.g. tsugaru-jamisen).

In Western Japanese dialects and several Edo period sources, it is both written and pronounced as samisen. The construction of the shamisen varies in shape, depending on the genre in which it is used. The instrument used to accompany kabuki has a thin neck, facilitating the agile and virtuosic requirements of that genre. The one used to accompany puppet plays and folk songs has a longer and thicker neck instead, to match the more robust music of those genres.


A shakuhachi (Japanese: 尺八, pronounced [ɕakɯhat͡ɕi]; Chinese: 尺八; pinyin: chǐbā) is a Japanese and ancient Chinese longitudinal, end-blown flute that is made of bamboo. The bamboo end-blown flute now known as the shakuhachi was developed in Japan in the 16th century and is called the fuke shakuhachi (普化尺八). A bamboo flute known as the kodai shakuhachi (古代尺八, ancient shakuhachi), which is quite different from the current style of shakuhachi, was introduced to Japan from China in the 7th century and died out in the 10th century.

After a long blank period, the hitoyogiri shakuhachi (一節切尺八) appeared in the 15th century, and then in the 16th century, the fuke shakuhachi was developed in Japan. The fuke shakuhachi flourished in the 18th century during the Edo period, and eventually the hitoyogiri shakuhachi also died out. The fuke shakuhachi developed in Japan is longer and thicker than the kodai shakuhachi and has one finger hole less. It is longer and thicker than hitoyogiri shakuhachi and is superior in volume, range, scale and tone quality. Today, since the shakuhachi generally refers only to fuke shakuhachi, the theory that the shakuhachi is an instrument unique to Japan is widely accepted.


The koto (箏) is a Japanese plucked half-tube zither instrument, and the national instrument of Japan. It is derived from the Chinese zheng and se, and similar to the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum and ajaeng, the Vietnamese đàn tranh, the Sundanese kacapi and the Kazakhstan jetigen. Kotos are roughly 180 centimetres (71 in) in length, and made from Paulownia wood (Paulownia tomentosa, known as kiri).

The most common type uses 13 strings strung over movable bridges used for tuning, different pieces possibly requiring different tuning. 17-string koto are also common, and act as bass in ensembles. Koto strings are generally plucked using three fingerpicks (tsume), worn on the first three fingers of the right hand.

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