Wagakki Life, Part I – Taking Up Shamisen

It’s gotten cold here in Suzuka. I finally broke out my heavy jacket in the past couple weeks. Things have been busy the past couple months. But it’s a good busy : )

Today I want to talk about Wagakki! Wagakki is the word for traditional Japanese instruments. There is a drum called Taiko, A bamboo flute called Shakuhachi, a 13 stringed harp called the Koto, and a three stringed guitar-like instrument called the Shamisen. For a while now, I’ve wanted to learn a Wagakki instrument, so these past few months, I’ve taken up learning the shamisen!


I actually found out that there’s a shamisen teacher next to one of the schools I teach at, so it’s very convenient. She’s an elderly Japanese lady, and very kind and hospitable towards me. About twice a month after teaching I go to her house for lessons. And recently, since finding out that I don’t have a chance to eat dinner because I bike straight to her house and then straight home afterwards, she has prepared rice balls for me when I come. She fondly calls me her grandchild, so I guess that makes her my Japanese Shamisen Grandmother!

And boy, can my Japanese Shamisen Grandmother play some shamisen! I’ve got a lot to learn, but it’s nice to know that one has a quality teacher who’s been playing for most of her life. And yet, even though I’ve only been playing for a couple months, I’ve already had my first shamisen recital! And since shamisen is a traditional instrument, you have to play it in traditional garb as well!


As much as I like traditional Japanese clothing, I’ve always thought it looks better on a Japanese : P I actually didn’t know how to put any of this on, or how to tie any of the stuff, so I had several elderly Japanese men and women fiddling at my clothing for what felt like half an hour, but I suppose the most important part is that it looks right, right?

There were young people there, too. Another woman around my age just started taking lessons recently, and there’s also a young man who has been playing since elementary school. Needless to say, he could play some shamisen, too! I only played 2 songs, but I figure that’s pretty good for 2 months. From here on out, My skill can only go up!




About Stephen

My name is Stephen Gabriel Falke, and I am passionate for all things Japanese. I have been accepted to teach for the JET Program starting 2015. In the past, during my time in college, I also had the chance to participate in a study abroad at Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan, for Japan's 2012 school year. On my blog I write about my love for Japan, my journey to get there and stay there, and my adventures studying and teaching there.
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3 Responses to Wagakki Life, Part I – Taking Up Shamisen

  1. Michael B says:

    Hey, I probably commented on this one already, but that’s because I started reading it first. Just wanted you to know I finished reading all your blogs in one night… it’s 7:10 AM here. I have a big stack of Japanese study materials next to me. You cut into my study time 😉 lol

  2. Michael B says:

    Yeah, we definitely should… who knows, maybe one day I’ll be living in japan too, and we can visit 😀

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