the Koto Became Popular
Hosoyamada discusses the historical popularity
of this instrument.
is the national instrument of pre-westernized
Japan. Originally it was a Korean harp called the
kudara-goto. It was brought to Japan in the
middle of the fifth century.
instrument is somewhat like a horizontal harp; it's
about 185 centimeters long and 26 centimeters wide.
Sachiko Hosoyamada plays the koto.
body is made from a special wood called
kiri, or paulownia. It has thirteen waxed
silk strings of equal length, and each string rests
on a movable bridge.
strings of the koto are generally plucked
with a small ivory piecethe plectra,
which is fastened to the fingers of the right hand.
Each string is tuned by its own movable bridge and
forms a pentatonic scale. While the right hand
plucks the strings, the left hand presses the
strings behind the bridge to change the
men played this instrument
These girls wear traditional Japanese
clothing when they play the koto in their
high school club.
It used to be popular among noblemen in the old
capitals of JapanNara and Kyoto. Those
noblemen later fled to the provinces to escape the
Kengyo (1614-1685) established the basics of modern
koto music. He composed "Rokudan no shirabe", the
most famous piece for the koto.
Kengyko (1635-1715) devised squared picks and
established his style, which spread through western
100 years later, people used round picks to play
this instrument. This style, called the
Yamada style, spread throughout eastern
Japan. In the Meiji era (1868-1912), many blind
people played the koto as their job.
later, Michio Miyagi adapted Western music and
developed koto music in the Taisho era
(1913-1926). Nowadays people play the koto
with orchestras, and it is a favorite pastime,
especially among Japanese women.
traditional Japanese arts:
the Way of Tea
a Card Game
The Way of the Bow
Challenge of Kendo
a Traditional Musical Instrument
- ©1997-2007- Sandy
and Thomas Peters