Instruments

Taiko Drums


Miya Daiko
(‘shrine’ drum):

Barrel-shaped drum made from a hollowed tree trunk. Cowhide drumheads are permanently secured to the body by large iron tacks. The most commonly used Japanese drum especially in festivals.

Okedo Daiko
(‘bucket’ style drum):

Cylindrical drum constructed from slats of wood. Cowhide drumheads are stitched over iron rings and extend beyond the body of the drum. They are lashed together by a single length of rope.

Shime Daiko
(‘tightened’ drum):

Small, high-pitched drum made from a single log. Cowhide drumheads are stitched over thick iron rings and extend beyond the body of the drum. They are secured to the body by heavy rope or bolts.

O-Daiko
(‘large’ drum):

This larger version of the Miya daiko, is placed high on an upright stand requiring the drummers to play with arms raised above the shoulders. The ensemble’s O-Daiko, was donated by one Japan’s most respected taiko companies, Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten.

Nebuta Daiko:

Belonging to the same family as the Okedo Daiko, this drum differs in that its heads are made from horsehide (giving a more staccato-like sound) and is worn around the drummer’s shoulder allowing for mobility. The drum takes its name from the Nebuta festivals held in the Northern Tohoku district of Japan.

Hirado Daiko
(‘flat-bodied’ drum):

A drum similar in construction to a Miya Daiko but with a much shorter body. This drum was originally used to accompany folk singing.

O-Hirado Daiko

(large ‘flat-bodied’ drum):

A much larger version of the Hirado Daiko. Nagata Shachu’s O-Hirado Daiko has a playing diameter of 111 cm.

Uchiwa Daiko
(‘fan’ drum):

A single headed drum attached to a long wooden handle. Used in Buddhist ceremonies and to accompany the chanting of itinerant shamans.

Eisa O-Daiko:

Eisa is a form of folk dance unique to the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) traditionally performed to mark the end of the O-bon Festival. In Eisa, performers dance energetically playing three types of taiko, including the bright red O-Daiko hung from the shoulder.

Kotsuzumi:

An hourglass-shaped small drum with heads laced to the body. Carried on right shoulder, players hit its drumhead with their right fingers and are able to adjust its tone by squeezing strings attached to the drumhead with their left hand. This drum is found primarily in Noh and Kabuki theatre.

 

Melodic Instruments


Shinobue:

Transverse, seven-holed, folk flute made from shino bamboo.

Shakuhachi:

A vertically-held bamboo flute, made from the very bottom of a bamboo tree. Four fingerholes are put on the front of the instrument and a thumbhole on the back. The standard shakuhachi takes its name from the traditional measurements of one shaku (30 cm) and eight sun (3 cm) approximately 54cm.

Shamisen:

A long-necked lute with three silk strings, similar to the banjo. It is believed to have entered Japan from China during the 16th century. It’s usually played with a plectrum, and used for both folk music as well as Kabuki and Noh theatre.

Sanshin:

The sanshin (literally meaning “three strings”) is an Okinawan musical instrument, and precursor of the Japanese shamisen. It consists of a snakeskin-covered body, neck and three strings.
Ryuteki:

Meaning “dragon flute” it was used in the Imperial Court music and in dance ‘Gagaku’. It was introduced from China in ancient times.

 

Narimono (Accompaniment Instruments)


Chappa:

Brass hand cymbals used in festivals and for Shinto ritual dance accompaniment.

Jangara:

A pair of larger brass hand cymbals used in the traditional performing arts of northern Kyushu.

Te-bira:

Similar to the chappa but made from steel producing a much dryer sound.

Atari Gane:

Brass hand gong played with a deer antler mallet.

Hyoshigi:

Rectangular hardwood clappers.

Hyotan:

Gourd shakers originally used to carry water by the military during the medieval civil wars of Japan.

Orugoru:

A set of bells of varying pitches. Originally Buddhist-style Sanctus bells, they are most often used in kabuki theatre to indicate lightness.

Rei:

Buddhist hand bell with a clapper suspended from the inside.

Mokugyo:

Wooden fish gong used during chanting by some Buddhist sects.

Mokusho:

A sharp, high-pitched wood block which stands on three legs.

Suzu:

A small bell tree used in Shinto ceremonies and dances.