Aomori #5: Tsugaru Shamisen (津軽三味線)

Aomori’s fifth postcard features a man playing the Tsugaru Shamisen. Shamisen is a traditional Japanese instrument with three strings, adapted from a similar Chinese instrument introduced around the 16th century. You can read more about this instrument here. Tsugaru is a style of instrument and playing that originated in Aomori, and grew popular throughout Japan. Read more about the genre here.

I visited Aomori several years ago, but I didn’t know about its connection to the shamisen at that point, so I didn’t pay attention to anything shamisen-related. However I’ve attended a concert of the renowned Yoshida Brothers, who play in Tsugaru style, and it was simply fantastic! I can’t give enough praise to them and their amazing music! I recommend watching a few of their videos… my favorite songs of theirs include Kodo, and a collaboration they did a few years back with Monkey Majik called Change. It’s mostly sung in English, and is a really catchy song (and great for post-writing!)

A few pictures from the Yoshida Brothers concert about 6 years ago… please excuse the poor quality. This was back in the point-and-shoot days!

Program for their Ibuki tour

Shamisen shadow

…technically pictures weren’t allowed, so I didn’t take any of the brothers themselves. Just note, the concert was really great!

If you’re interested in shamisen, there is a lot of opportunities in Japan to learn about and listen to this fantastic instrument! In Aomori, of course, there is the Tsugaru Shamisen Kaikan in Goshogawara, which has daily performances. In Hirosaki, a few izakaya (Japanese-style bars) in the area have performances as well.

In Tokyo, there are occasional performances at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Unfortunately, it’s closed for renovations through March, so information on upcoming performances isn’t reliable. However, if you’re in Tokyo and are interested in shamisen performances, please email/message me and I will help you find some for your dates if it is when the Museum is closed.

And of course, throughout Japan whether the Tsugaru style or others, there are many chances to listen to shamisen. Please give this amazing instrument a try!