Six Traditional Japanese Musical Instruments

Japan has traditional music that has been valued throughout generations of Japanese people. This comes with traditional instruments used in making this folk music of Japan. These instruments come in the form of string, percussion, and wind instruments! Here are six traditional Japanese instruments that have made an impact on music as a whole.



Taiko is a range of Japanese percussion instruments, but usually means a big drum. Taiko have mythical origins in Japanese folklore, some made as early as the 6th century of the Kofun period. Over time these drums have changed as well as their use- at some points being played predominantly in the palace, sometimes during war, and more modernly anywhere music is appreciated and taught.


Koto is the national instrument of Japan, and was originally played among the wealthy in Japanese courts. Koto is considered a romantic instrument, and is a string instrument some with 13 strings and others with 17. The musician usually wears three finger picks on the right hand when playing.


The shamisen is a three-stringed instrument comparable to a banjo. Traditionally the three strings are made from silk, but more modernly nylon and are played through the use of attachments such as a bachi.


Biwa is a Japanese lute usually played during the telling of stories. This wooden short-necked instrument with a graceful teardrop look to it is played by plucking the strings.


The shakuhachi is a flute crafted from bamboo. This instrument is similar to a recorder except the musician blows into a duct called the fipple. This allows for pitch control and a beautiful sound.


Sanshins have such a cool look, as they are covered in snakeskin and have a long neck. The three-stringed instrument resembles a banjo, and originates in Okinawa. Depending on the materials, this can be an incredibly expensive yet beautiful instrument.

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