While you may not recognize the name, you will certainly recognize the sound. The shamisen is immediately recognizable as being a traditional Japanese instrument as it has been heard an innumerable amount of times on movie soundtracks and anime theme songs. The name literally means, “three strings,” and has as many body variations – hosozao, “thin neck,” chuzao, “middle neck,” and futozao, “thick neck.” The plectrum also comes in many different shapes and sizes.
The roots of the shamisen actually lie in a Chinese instrument called a sanxian. It was brought to Japanese soil in the 16th century where it eventually evolved into its current incarnation. Used throughout the ages in puppet theater and a staple of geisha performances, this instrument wove itself into Japanese culture. The shamisen owns the duality of being an ancient instrument and being performed greatly in modern times as well. Check out more details on Wikipedia and enjoy the great performance of Dois HAZUKI below!
Check back in for Part 2 with a video of the traditional Japanese drumming troupe – Bonten!