Invitation To  BUNRAKU


Shamisen player

The shamisen player is the narrator's partner and adds atmosphere and depth to the story.

The sound of the shamisen evokes the scene and the emotional fluctuations

Shamisen player

Next to the narrator who is sitting upright and reciting with high engagement and all his might, the shamisen player plays the shamisen looking straight ahead, without changing his expression. He uses a variety of techniques to evoke the scene of the setting or the emotional fluctuations of the characters. However, the shamisen does not simply add rich atmosphere or depth to the story. It also plays a major role as the narrator's partner that supports and leads the narrator.

The mechanisms and the playing of the shamisen

Shamisen is an instrument having a square body (do) covered with leather, attached to which is a long throat (sao) . Three strings (gen) are stretched across this body and throat. To play the shamisen, a plectrum (bachi) in the shape of a ginkgo leaf is used to pluck the strings and strike the leather.

Gidayu-bushi uses a type of shamisen called "futozao" that is large and has a thick neck. It produces a low, sonorous sound that resonates loudly. At the same time, it is good for depicting subtle expressions. This instrument not only plays the melody; it also has a percussion-like role in giving rhythm and adding punctuation.

shamisen Click on to display the explanation.
shamisen koma sao and gen sawari do tenjin
Plectrum (bachi)
Koma (bridge)

The part that efficiently relays the oscillations of the strings to the body of the shamisen.

Sao (neck) and gen (strings)

The neck is made of hard wood, such as koki and shitan. The stretched strings are called "ichi-no-ito," "ni-no-ito," and "san-no-ito," starting with the thickest string.


Sawari refers to a buzzing sound produced from the ichi-no-ito lightly touching the neck. It also resonates to the ni-no-ito and san-no-ito.

Do (body)

The hollow body made primarily of karin wood is covered front and back with leather. It produces a large resonating sound.

Tenjin (headpiece)

The top part of the throat that has the string coils for adjusting the tension of the strings.