Gagaku is a style of music and dance that was introduced from the Asian continent 1,400 or 1,500 years ago. This is the oldest orchestral music in the world having all three kinds of instruments; wind, string and percussion. Gagaku is now played almost exclusively on special occasions at the Imperial Palace.
AKIRA NAKATANI, TAKASHI KAKIHARA
Noh is the form of drama combining music and dance which was perfected by father and son, Kan-ami and Ze-ami during the Muromachi era, (14th century). The music contains no unnecessary notes, whereby expression of eternity is found in the simple, intense playing.
DANJURO ICHIKAWA, TAKAO KATAOKA
Kabuki is a form of art which integrates song, dance and drama originated and perfected in the Edo era (16th-19th century). Kanjin-cho is the most famous kabuki drama, it's reputation resting not only on it's dramatic quality, but also on it's fine Nagauta (type of singing) and Geza music (musical ensemble).
YOGO TATEYAMA, MARI UEHARA
A beautiful biwa brought to Japan through the Silk Road is preserved at Shoso-In in Nara prefecture. Japan's oldest epic tale, Heike Monogatari (the Story of Heike) is sung to biwa accompaniment. There are three playing styles of biwa, Heike Monogatari featuring all three; the noble and profound Heike biwa, the wild Satsuma biwa and the graceful Chikuzan biwa.
SHIZUO AOKI, KATSUYA YOKOYAMA
The shakuhachi came to Japan from China in the latter half of the 7th century. In time, the shape and playing style of the shakuhachi changed in response to the needs of Japanese music. As a result, this wind instrument has become a distinguished tradition of Japan equal to any other wind instrument in the world.
TOSHIKO YONEKAWA, CHIYOGA FUJII
In the Nara Era (8th century) the koto (so) was brought from China as one of the instruments used in Gagaku. Yatsuhashi Kengyo, a remarkable maestro of the Edo era had established two playing styles of koto; rokudan and midare. Both styles are still the basis of Japanese koto playing to this day. The year Yatsuhashi died, Bach and Handel were born.
TOSHIKO YONEKAWA, MICHIKO INOUE
A sankyoku ensemble consists of the three representative Japanese instruments; shamisen, koto and shakuhachi. Even though it was only one of the numerous musical styles that originated in the Edo era, the intricate beauty of the Sankyoku, that sprang from the three instruments, can be called the first genuine Japanese chamber music.
TOSATAYU TAKEMOTO, YASHICHI TAKEZAWA
In Japan, all instruments and music styles were defined by and deeply related to social class. The shamisen was the first 'people's' instrument. It is said that Japanese people interpret music with the left side of the brain, and this may be the reason why Fushi (storytelling) accompanied by shamisen became so popular.
While the Japanese aristocracy enjoyed the elegant gagaku and bushi (samurai) loved wabi and sabi in No, the ordinary townspeople of Edo (later Tokyo) liked 'iki' the most. Categorized into Uta Mono (songs of Edo people), many styles of Uta Mono are filled with the charms of singing and shamisen performances.
SUWA DAIKO HOZONKAI
Townspeople of Japan enjoyed Matsuri (festivals) for hundreds of years while Gion Matsuri held in Kyoto has a history of more than a thousand years. All through history, the people's joy exploded each year at these Matsuri where festive drums ring out through the night.