March 13, 2009, 10:08 am
Filed under: Japan

In January we heard an example of the Chinese zither called guzheng, and now I’d like to present one of it’s descendants; the Japanese koto.


The koto came from China to Japan sometime between the 7th and 8th century and was used primarily in the gagaku ensemble, Japanese court music (see World Arbiter). Like the guzheng, the koto is a long zither with bridges and it went through many configurations over the centuries in terms of size, construction and number of strings. In the 17th century the gifted blind musician Yatsuhashi Kengyo (1614-1685) created a new style of solo playing and this record is one of his most famous pieces, Rokudan No Shirabe.

The Koto player featured on this recording is another famous blind musician, Michio Miyagi. He was something of a genius; teaching by age 13, creating new instruments such as the 80 string hachi-jyugern, making records, writing essays and exploring the music of the west. He published more than 500 compositions before he died in a train accident at the age of 62.



Here is the full piece, Rokudan No Shirabe, from sides A and B.

>VICTOR 13066a
>VICTOR 13066b




Thanks to Mary Ohno and Reiko Obata for help with this post.


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Beautiful, thank you.

Comment by Fred Davis

This solo zither music in really incredible, thanks for posting.

Comment by Scott P

A day with a new Haji Maji post is a good day.

Comment by icastico

Thanks for checking in everybody!


Comment by HAJI MAJI

hey, I love your blog and I don’t want to be picky here but what happened to the last part of Victor 13066a?

thanks again

Comment by jk

ah, I figured it out. it was just downloading slow for me today and I jumped the gun on opening it. scratch the file complaint but the thanks still stands.


Comment by jk

Presently I’m looking into the west coast US Tokyo label. I’ve just discovered it was a bootleg operation; booting Japanese records, repressing them and then putting their own label on – mostly for sale to post-war American Japanese. I would dearly like to find out more about their operation, who, what when & why, etc.
Also you should be aware that 3 years ago I published a CD-ROM of Hawaiian 78s and it includes all the Japanese 78 recordings of steel guitar that could be located. This info has never before been published! If interested in getting one please contact me.

Comment by Malcolm Rockwell

Our university wind ensemble recently performed a march by this same Michio Miyagi. Interesting to hear such diverse work.

Comment by Arthur Wheatley

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