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The Japan Foundation's Overseas Performances 2012 "ABEYA" Tsugaru Shamisen Tour on the West Coast and in Hawaii In Honor of the Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Centennial

The Japan Foundation's Overseas Performances 2012 "ABEYA"

The Japan Foundation organizes a Tsugaru Shamisen Hogaku Tour to take place in 5 cities on the west coast of the United States (San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Portland and Los Angeles) and Honolulu, Hawaii in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Japan's Gift of Cherry Trees to US.

Tsugarru Shamisen unit “ABEYA” is led by Hidesaburo Abe, a major member of Tsugaru Shamisen troupe “KAZE” which has been highly acclaimed through a number of performances overseas such as in US. The unit includes young leading figures such as Kinzaburo Abe and Ginzaburo Abe brothers who won the championship at the Tsugaru Shamisen National Tournament, and Maya Nemoto who won the championship at numerous Minyo competitions.

ABEYA’s repertoire ranges widely from traditional musical compositions of Tsugaru Shamisen to Minyo standard numbers, and furthermore covers original numbers. ABEYA performs delightful Japanese folk music filled with entertainment to bring you Japanese culture and dynamism through Minyo songs, Yokobue (Japanese transverse flute), Taiko and dance.


Schedule: April 9 (Mon.) to 19 (Fri.), 2012

■ Los Angeles
Date:April 9 (Mon.) 7:00 p.m.
Venue:Zipper Hall, The Colburn School
Co-organizer:Consulate-General of Japan in Los Angeles
※A workshop will be held on April 10 (Tue.)


■ Portland
Date:April 12 (Thu.) 7:30 p.m.
Venue:Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland State University
Co-organizer:Consulate-General of Japan in Portland, Portland State University Center for Japanese Studies


■ Seattle
Date:April 13 (Fri.) 7:30 p.m.
Venue:Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall
Co-organizer: Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle, Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival


■ San Francisco
Date:April 15 (Sun.) 4:30 p.m.
Venue:Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason Center
Co-organizer:Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco, Fort Mason Center, Japan Society of Northern California, Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

■ Denver
Date:April 17(Tue) 6:30 p.m.
Venue:Wellington Webb Municipal Building
Co-organizer: Consulate-General of Japan at Denver, Arts & Venues Denver

■ Honolulu
Date:April 19 (Thu.) 7:30 p.m.
Venue:Orvis Auditorium, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Co-organizer: Consulate General of Japan at Honolulu, University of Hawaii at Manoa
※A workshop will be held on April 20 (Fri.)


  • Hidesaburo Abe / Leader of “ABEYA” (Tsugaru Shamisen & Taiko player )
  • Kinzaburo Abe / Tsugaru Shamisen & Yokobue (Japanese transverse flute) player
  • Ginzaburo Abe / Tsugaru Shamisen player
  • Maya Nemoto / Tsugaru Shamisen player, Minyo singer, dancer
  • Ryu Gokita / Tsugaru Shamisen player
  • Tatsumasa Ando / Tsugaru Shamisen player, dancer

Tour Staff

  • Narumi Teramura / Producer, agent
  • Daisuke Nakatsubo / Stage director

ABEYA” Official Website Link 




The most famous song of the Tsugaru Shamisen is the “Tsugaru Jongara Bushi”, which tells of sadness at the death of a loved one, with prayers for them in the afterlife. It has three styles: Old Style, developed between 1850-1890; Middle Style, developed between 1890-1930; and Modern Style: 1930-present. 



TOSA NO SUNAYAMA (The Sand Dunes of Tosa)
In the 14th century in Aomori, the port of Tosa was a central point in an extremely important trade route on the Sea of Japan. The sailors on this route also spread folk songs all over Japan. But by the 16th century, Tosa’s harbor had filled with sand and silt, and the prosperous trade was abandoned, along with the town. This melancholy melody commemorates sadness at the loss of past prosperity.

This folk song of Aomori was sung by lumberjacks to the mountain gods as a prayer for safety. Later it became a general song to sing while hiking in the woods. The shakuhachi flute is often played as accompaniment to the song.

This song is unusual in having a light, bright, and fun rhythm.  The word “Yosare” means “letting go of dark times”.



This dynamic original song, written by Kinzaburo and Ginzaburo, refutes the image of the Tsugaru Shamisen as gloomy, conservative, and old-fashioned. The brothers are the leaders of the next generation of artists, and bring vibrant techniques to their musical performances.


This is a contest celebrating improvisation, and is the highlight of Tsugaru Shamisen performances. Musicians love it because they can express their enthusiasm and creativity.



HANAGASA ONDO (Flower-Hat Song)
A folk song from Yamagata Prefecture (which is in the northern Sea of Japan region of the country), this was typically a drinking song, but now it is sung during the annual “Hanagasa Festival” in August.

This song is from the “Donpan Festival” in Akita. It has a cheerful tune and is sung at the celebration of the construction of a new building.

Composed at the beginning of the Showa Era (about 1930), this began as a popular tune that depicted the rapidly evolving metropolis of Tokyo, at a time when large numbers of rural citizens were moving there and having their first interactions with city life.

This song originated in southern Japan but gained popularity throughout the nation because it was carried by sailors around the land, and it was adapted in the north to the Tsugaru shamisen. It is very cheerful and lively, in contrast to songs deriving solely from the musical traditions of the north.

This song is from Hokkaido, from the (western) coastal villages of the Sea of Japan, where in the spring people are busy with the prosperous business of fishing for herring. It was sung as a working song, and is now Japan’s most popular folk song. Recently, this tune has been arranged as a piece of rock music and has become popular all over Japan among young people.

A folk song very representative of Shimane Prefecture at the southern end of the main island of Honshu, it can be accompanied by a dance called “Dojo Sukui”. The tune is known in Japan as a call to duty. Our musical group’s youngest member, Tatsumasa Ando, is the National Champion in the “Dojo Sukui” dance. Despite being young, he has proven himself a worthy successor to dance masters of the past.

In Akita Prefecture’s Nishimonai area, every year in August, Bon Odori dances are performed. “Obon” is a religious holiday commemorating the return of the spirits of the dead to one’s home once a year. This piece has musical accompaniment that has a simply rhythm, sort of like a Japanese version of rap music.

On March 11, 2011, there was a terrible earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, and a subsequent nuclear power plant disaster. One of the hardest hit areas was Souma, in Fukushima Prefecture. This song from Souma has been handed down for generations and is a highlight of their July festival, which commemorates the “Warring States Period” of Japanese History (the mid-15th century to the early of the 17th century). Participants dress in period-style military costume and ride on horseback; it has been called “the best horse festival in the world”.


The Japan Foundation
Arts and Culture Dept. Performing Arts Section
Person in charge: Abe, Niwayama
TEL. 03-5369-6063 FAX. 03-5369-6038