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Armchair Traveller

by reception
posted 08/12/2009

The Jazz of Japan

shamisenThe Jazz of Japan, as mentioned on the Armchair Traveller’s Snow Show of last Monday, is to be found in the snow country!

From a courtly instrument played at ceremonies and to accompany Kabuki plays, this fretted three string wonder was picked up in the north by itinerant buskers (mainly blind) who’d serenade the locals and expect a feed in return. From these humble stage, the shamisen evolved in the snow country as a gutsy instrument played with gusto and unbridled energy in  folksy renditions of traditional tunes.This style of playing is known as the Tsugaru shamisen.

Bluesy, mournful, jazzy, the instrument proved to be very versatile.  The Yoshida Brothers made it popular in Los Angeles in a style that has become known as “the Jazz of Japan”.

To read about my first encounter with the Tsugaru Shamisen go to:


To hear it and see it there are several U-Tube videos on the Yoshida Brothers