Minosuke Nishikawa Nihon Buyo Performances in Singapore and Malaysia 2


The skin is horsehide.
The body is made of cherry wood.
This instrument does not like moisture, and the drumheads must be parched. Preparation for a performance begins about two hours in advance, drying the drumheads over an electric heater.
To strike the drum, the player wears yubikawa on his fingers. It is made of many layers of Japanese washi paper, stuck together with glue made from kneaded rice.


Similar to the Ōtsuzumi, the skin is horsehide, and the body cherry wood.
However, the kotsuzumi needs moisture to achieve its characteristic sounds. Moisture is applied to the drum skin using small pieces of washi paper moistened with saliva, and by breathing onto the drum skin before striking it.
There are two basic sounds:
"pon" and "ta"
Some say the Ōtsuzumi and kotsuzumi resemble a married couple, and the two instruments are often played in turns in a performance.


There are two types of fue. One is the nōkan, identical to the flute used in the noh theatre. It is used for playing patterns of music adopted from the noh theatre.
The other type of flute is the shinobue, often used for festival music. The do re mi scale can be played on this type of flute, unlike the other.


The skin is cowhide, with a patch of deerskin in the centre, which is the area that is struck. There are two types of drumsticks:
a thick type, mainly used for playing patterns of music adopted from the noh theatre
and a thin type, often used for playing festival music.

About the shamisen (lute)

The shamisen is said to have developed from a Chinese instrument, the sanxian, imported into Japan at the end of the 16th century from the Ryuku Islands (today's Okinawa). Shortly afterwards, it is believed to have changed into its present form, through the hands of musicians who wanted to create a new type of lute.

The neck is made of red sandalwood from India. Dense, hard wood is considered best. The body is made from Southeast Asian quince. Four pieces of wood are joined together, the neck goes through the body, and the body is enclosed using animal skin. Snake skin was originally used, but this was changed to cat or dog skin, each of which suits a different purpose, and was adapted to mainland Japan.
More recently, synthetic leather is also used, but the quality of the sound is considered inferior, and it is used mainly for practicing.

To pluck the shamisen, a plectrum, similar in shape to a spatula, and made of ivory, is used. This way of playing was borrowed from an older type of lute used in Japan, called the biwa.
It is believed that biwa players were the principal creators of the shamisen. Both instruments also share a buzzing tone. On the shamisen, when a string is played, it slightly touches a part of the neck, leaving a reverberation called sawari. But while the biwa has frets similar to the Indian sitar, and all tones reverberate, with the shamisen, only one of its three strings the thickest, open string - gives the reverberation.

There are many tunings, of which three are basic:

"Home tuning" (honchōshi)
The first, and thickest string becomes the basic note. Once that is decided, the second string is tuned to perfect fourth, and the third string one octave higher than the first string.

"Second string raised" (ni-agari)
From the honchōshi, raise the pitch of the second string.

"Third string lowered" (san-sagari)
From the honchōshi, lower the pitch of the third string.

The tunings are changed whenever necessary, for example when the key changes during a piece.


A dance which focuses on the beauty and graceful lines of movement in a female dance. A woman imitates, with style, dandy young men of the late 17th - early 18th century period, whose fashion has been adopted into several classic dance pieces. The dance also includes movements using a decorative spear, showing ways in which props are used in Nihon Buyo to enhance the beauty of the movements.

Matsu-no-midori (The Green Pine)

An auspicious dance to wish for success in life, using the image of a fresh green pine tree to depict a young girl who grows in dignity and accomplishment.

STomo-yakko (The Servant)

Choreographed 180 years ago, the dance depicts a servant who has lost his master while accompanying him to the pleasure quarters, lighting the way with a lantern. The dance interweaves the servant’s comical imitation of his master and the colorful atmosphere of the pleasure quarters, highlighted by an energetic sequence of footsteps to display the dancer’s skill.

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The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Section, Arts and Culture Department, The Japan Foundation
Naohisa Abe (Mr)
Tel: 03-5369-6063 Fax: 03-5369-6038

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