I played Koto for the new year 2010!

3 Jan

Happy New Year~~!
How was your holiday? Did you have a good time with your family or someone special?

Today, I can finally share with you my playing Koto music. Koto is a traditional Japanese musical instrument. Since my mother was an authorised teacher of it, I started to play it since 5 years old. She wanted me to be a professional Koto player, hence she was very enthusiastic about teaching it to me. She was an everyday teacher to me, and once a month I went to have a lesson at a very professional teacher in Tokyo. The everyday Koto lesson as well as monthly lesson and recitals or concerts with Shamisen (three-stringed lute) and Shakuhachi (five-holed bamboo clarinet) were way too much for a child who wanted to play around just like as other kids. At the age of 13, I quit it when I found I didn’t enjoy playing it at all. Professional Koto player was not my goal. I decided not to continue it any longer then.

Time has passed without playing Koto at all for over a few decades, and now that I blog to the world, I feel like sharing something very Japanese with my blog readers. Koto is too traditional and way too old style for young people today in Japan. Even if it’s a Japanese traditional music, it’s only New Year’s Day and arond then when we can hear the music at stores. Even when I started to learn it, I was the only one in my elementary school who was learning it. Most of my classmates were learning how to play piano. Some of my friends just told me “Isn’t it out-of-date?” honestly.

Please note I played it for the first time since 6 years old, for the first time in over 20 years since I quit it, it’s not perfect at all. But it’s not bad at all, either!
It’s still New Year mood in Japan. Koto music is still here and there at stores, which however will be over soon…

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24 Responses to “I played Koto for the new year 2010!”

  1. happyichigo January 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    wow koto sounds very soothing n calming..i like it..

    happy new year! did u get a lot of nengajo this year! hope u have a wonderful days ahead

    • kirin January 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

      Happy new year! Ah, Nengajo…yes, some. But I am switching it to email. I prefer frequent emails or chat by seeing or by Skype rather than a card only once a year, when it comes to people who live in Tokyo. :p

  2. xMickii January 3, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    ;O wow, looks fun ^^
    Why did you quit ? You were not interested in it anymore ?

    • kirin January 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

      I had to sacrfice many many things if I wanted to continue it. Since only 5 years old, I couldn't play with other kids after school, I had to practice it everyday (to be a professional player). I think we can do that only when we like it. But I was so much frustrated as I feel that I ruined my childhood only for practicing Koto for my mom. I found that I didn't want to be a pro of Koto. So why should I still continue it? I don't think I quit it completely if I just enjoyed it as a hobby. Too much work and too strict lessons everyday over 8 years made me stay away of it after all… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  3. shayna January 4, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    Happy New Year! ๐Ÿ˜€
    nice musical skill you have. You are surely talented in many ways. =)
    Btw, i think this musical instrument (Koto) is something similar to a musical instrument from China too, the link is here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guqin
    do u think they are similar instrument? ๐Ÿ˜€

    • kirin January 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

      Oh…(^_^) thank you….actually I am also not talented in many ways. I'm so poor at math, knitting, sewing, sports, and so many things….(T_T) I wish someday my efforts and time I worked for Koto in my childhood pays off in some way…

      As for the link you gave me, it looks like Chinese one is the base of Japanese Koto. It was imported from China long long time ago. Our culture is so much influenced by China and Korea.

  4. Steven Stier January 4, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    Very nice. You really have not practiced for 20 years? That is amazing. Thanks for some traditional Japanese culture. You are quickly becoming one of my favorite J bloggers.

    • kirin January 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

      Thanks! (^0^)/ I really have not practiced for that long period, because I was so fed up with too much practice since 5 years old. Actually I never ever felt like playing it again until this time. But at the same time I have realized that I could move my fingers to "Rokudan" that is played only during new year days. So I thought maybe I could actually play it. I was however not sure if I can make the melody without the tool, and so I was thrilled when I made it. It was amazing to me too, honestly. If I learn it again, I think I can remember more and will soon get the skills back. It was such an interesting experience to me. (*0*)

  5. Mary aka Riko January 4, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    Hi Kirin!
    This was a very interesting post. I've seen this Koto instrument in like Japanese movies and dramas but never came approached the real one. You were lucky to learn this traditional instrument, I mean like to preserved the culture. I love the sound of Shakuhachi Flute. Found out bout this instrument from one of my favourite rock band Linkin Park before. They were using the instrument on one of their song. And I was like hey, lovely tune. It sounds so unique.Haha, enough with me yapping.

    Anyways, Happy New Year 2010 to you too. Here, I feel no longer the new year mood. Haha,
    Akemashite Gozaimasu.

    • kirin January 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

      Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!
      Linkin Park played Shakuhachi on one of their songs? That's interesting! I played Koto in concert with Shakuhachi many times. Yes, I like the sound from Shakuhachi, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Becca January 5, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    such a cool skill to have! i don't think i would remember how to play an instrument after 20 years hehe… happy new year!

    • kirin January 6, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

      Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚ I feel like trying more, but I wonder where have the mucical scores gone… Without them, I cannot do any more…

  7. Momoko January 6, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    I love how you always come up with new ideas to keep this blog interesting!
    Kudos to you for being so focused and disciplined about posting every few days. I'd lack the discipline if I had a blog and only would update irregularly.
    Thank you for your hard work!

  8. kirin January 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Thank you for your kind comment. My hard work will be paid off by such encouragement and nice comments from my blog readers like you. ^__^ "Kudos…" I didn't know this way of saying. I learned something new! Updating this blog also means studying/improving English by myself, which is good to me, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you.

  9. walter January 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Not too bad for someone who hasn't played for 20 years! I admire your courage for performing live under such conditions, Kirin-san ! If it had been me , I would have practiced for weeks before I even tried ๐Ÿ™‚

    • kirin January 6, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

      The best thing is as you say, to practice more before this. But I wanted to do this at the beginning of new year because it's only the period in Japan when we hear the Koto music around. Additionally I also do not go back to my parents' house very often. (Only once or twice a year.) Please also consider that the instrument is not touched for a long time. As you see, it's a stringed instrument, it actually needs adjustment by the professionals once in a while, but I also skip this for a long time. Setting up the best condition for better work needs more time and effort, and I'm sorry I was too lazy for that. :p

  10. G... January 7, 2010 at 2:29 am #

    ใ‚ใ‘ใพใ—ใฆใŠใ‚ใงใจใ†ใ”ใ–ใ„ใพใ™๏ผ
    I've always loved the koto and the bass koto, they're beautiful instruments. I was saddened to hear that one of my favorite Japanese music groups, Rin', broke up earlier this year. Their music focused on the shakuhachi, koto, and shamisen, and I love it. I also listen to more traditional koto music (ๆ˜ฅใฎๆตทใจใ‹ๅ…ญๆฎตใจใ‹็ง‹้ขจใฎๆ›ฒใชใฉ) when I want to relax.

    I'm jealous that you can play the koto – I would love to learn how to play it. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to try to study.

    BTW, if it were up to me, I would translate ใคใ‚ as "pick" or "finger pick." Here is a picture of something similar used in America: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Don_Wayne_Reno_… I would also probably translate ็ดๆŸฑ(ใ“ใจใ˜), as "bridge".

    • kirin January 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

      ใ‚ใ‘ใพใ—ใฆใŠใ‚ใงใจใ†ใ”ใ–ใ„ใพใ™ใ€‚I didn't know Rin' but they look goood, because their style looks modern. (This is Rin' right?

      Actually unlike you in my case I didn't like classic style of singing Koto songs or sitting on the floor to play it, and wearing Kimono at the recitals, too.

      Thank you for the great translations, finger pick for Tsume, bridge for Kotoji… that's convincing! ๐Ÿ™‚
      BTW, the link you gave me is not working…it goes error…

      Anyhow I think it's interesting that foreigners like such Japanese traditional music much more than us. And we are interested in western music or world music so much. :p It's almost impossible to find Koto music CD at a local music store in Japan. Even if we look for it at a mega record shop, the space for the music would be very small.

  11. G... January 7, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    My apologies for the link. Does this work?

    That is the correct group, that was from their album Inland Sea, which featured Lisa Loeb for vocals. I prefer their other work, such as Sakitama

    While I do enjoy traditional Japanese music, I prefer groups like Rin' or the Yoshida Brothers, who are taking classic instruments and making modern style music with them.

    Anyway, I hope the links work better this time. Unfortunately, I cannot preview and check them. But from IntenseDebates' website, these seem like they should work.

    • kirin January 10, 2010 at 12:58 am #

      Thank you, I now can see the link. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Sakitama…nice music and the stage. XD I also found their official website in Japanese. (http://www.avexnet.or.jp/rin/index.html) They maybe famous in Japan, too, but I didn't know that because I don't have time to watch TV for years… :p

      Thanks for sharing!

  12. Cath January 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    Oh I love it! Very enchanting. I hope younger Japanese will appreciate this. Very similar to the Chinese GuZheng, but more enchanting.

  13. K February 10, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    Very beautiful. One of the times I was in Japan I had the oppurtunity to play the koto, just a simple Sakura (with the strings numbered 1,2,3 etc…) I thought it is such a nice sounding instrument ๐Ÿ˜€ I don’t think it’s too old! If I had the oppurtunity I would want to learn it ๐Ÿ™‚

    • kirin February 11, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

      Thank you for your comment.
      If I have learned it in a different way, I would have liked it more…I guess. :p

  14. alhambra water damage January 6, 2011 at 8:51 am #

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