Musical Instruments of Japan
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Musical Instruments of Japan

Traditional Japanese musical instruments are musical instruments used in the traditional and folk music of Japan. They comprise a range of string, wind, and percussion instruments.

Percussion Instruments

  • Bin-sasara (, ?; also spelled bin-zasara) -- clapper made from wooden slats connected by a rope or cord
  • Hy?shigi () -- wooden or bamboo clappers
  • Den-den daiko () -- pellet drum, used as a children's toy
  • Ikko -- small, ornately decorated hourglass-shaped drum
  • Kagura suzu -- hand-held bell tree with three tiers of pellet bells
  • Kakko () -- small drum used in gagaku
  • Kane (?) -- small flat gong
  • Kokiriko (, ?) -- a pair of sticks which are beaten together slowly and rhythmically
  • Shakubyoshi (also called shaku) -- clapper made from a pair of flat wooden sticks
  • Mokugyo () -- (also called Wooden fish) woodblock carved in the shape of a fish, struck with a wooden stick; often used in Buddhist chanting
  • Ita-sasara (?) -- clapper made from wooden slats connected by a rope or cord
  • ?tsuzumi () -- hand drum
  • San-no-tsuzumi (), hourglass-shaped double-headed drum; struck only on one side
  • Sasara () -- clapper made from wooden slats connected by a rope or cord
  • sekkin - a lithophone either bowed or struck
  • Shime-daiko () -- small drum played with sticks
  • Sh?ko () -- small bronze gong used in gagaku; struck with two horn beaters
  • Taiko (), literally "great drum"
  • Tsuri-daiko (?) -- drum on a stand with ornately painted head, played with a padded stick
  • Tsuzumi (?) -- small hand drum


  • Biwa a pear shaped lute
  • Gottan or hako-jamisen
  • Ichigenkin (kanji: ) -- monochord
  • Junanagen () -- 17-stringed koto
  • Koto (?, ?) -- long zither
  • Kugo () -- an angled harp used in ancient times and recently revived
  • Shamisen () -- A banjo-like lute with three strings, the shamisen was brought to Japan from China in the 16th century. Popular in Edo's pleasure districts, the shamisen was often used in Kabuki theater. Made from red sandalwood and ranging from 1.1 to 1.4 meters long, the shamisen has ivory pegs, strings made from twisted silk, and a belly covered in cat or dog skin. The strings, which are of different thickness, are plucked or struck with a tortoise shell pick.
  • Taishogoto () -- zither with metal strings and keys
  • Tonkori (?) -- plucked instrument used by the Ainu of Hokkaid?
  • Yamatogoto (???) -- ancient long zither; also called wagon (??)


  • Koky? - bowed lute with three (or, more rarely, four) strings and a skin-covered body



Japanese flutes are called fue (?). There are eight traditional flutes, as well as more modern creations.

  • Hocchiku () -- vertical bamboo flute
  • Nohkan () -- transverse bamboo flute used for noh theater
  • Ry?teki () -- transverse bamboo flute used for gagaku
  • Kagurabue () -- transverse bamboo flute used for mi-kagura (), Shinto ritual music)
  • Komabue () -- transverse bamboo flute used for komagaku; similar to the ry?teki
  • Shakuhachi () -- vertical bamboo flute used for Zen meditation
  • Shinobue () -- transverse folk bamboo flute
  • Tsuchibue (hiragana: ?; kanji: ; literally "earthen flute") -- globular flute made from claymore
  • Bow flute ()- a flute developed by Ishida Nehito with bow hair on it to accompany the koky?.[1]

Reed Instruments

  • Hichiriki () -- double-reeded flute used in different kinds of music

Free reed mouth organs

  • Sh? (?) -- 17-pipe mouth organ used for gagaku
  • U (?) -- large mouth organ


  • Horagai () -- seashell horn; also called jinkai ()


See also


Gunji, Sumi; Johnson, Henry (2012). A Dictionary of Traditional Japanese Musical Instruments: From Prehistory to the Edo Period. Tokyo: Eideru Kenky?jo. ISBN 978-4-87168-513-9..


  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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