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About The Koto
The standard Koto, similar to the Chinese gu-zheng, is a thirteen-string plucked zither of beautiful Paulownia wood with a movable bridge under each string. It was introduced to Japan from China through the Korean Peninsula in the 7th century. This was about the same time that Buddhism and numerous other cultural influences arrived in Japan from the Continent.
The instrument has been part of the Gagaku court ensemble for over one thousand years, gradually becoming popular among the merchant classes of the Edo period (1600-1868). An important member of the traditional Sankyoku ensemble, along with the three-string Shamisen and Shakuhachi (bamboo flute), the Koto developed further in a solo capacity, eventually gaining its place as one of Japan's most prominent musical instruments.
Today a varied repertoire along with a wide range of playing techniques provides a wonderful palette of sound textures, making the Koto appealing to audiences the world over. The Jushichigen, a seventeen-string bass Koto, was developed early in the 20th century by Koto master Michio Miyagi, and this instrument now plays an integral role in contemporary ensembles. The standard Koto, accompanied by the bass Koto, compliment each other beautifully thus providing a saturating and memorable musical experience.
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