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 Gabriel Falke

Stephen Gabriel Falke is passionate about loving Jesus and loving Japanese! He grew up in Virginia, America, and first visited Japan in 2007. He then studied abroad at Sophia University in Tokyo for a year in 2012. He also participated in the JET Program as an ALT from 2015-2017. He currently works as an English teacher at Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai Secondary School in Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan.
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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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