津軽三味線 山中信人 HP (津軽三味線奏者・津軽三味線教室講師)

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What is Tsugaru Shamisen?

Shamisen is generally classified by the thickness of Sao (the neck part of shamisen). They are “ Hosozao (thin neck)”, “Chuzao (medium neck ) ”and “ Futozao (thick neck)”  .

Hosozao ( often refered to as Nagauta shamisen ) is used for*1Nagauta music to accompany*2Kabuki theatre for  example, while Chuzao is used for*3Kouta,*4Jiuta,*5Tokiwazu,  Kiyomoto, Shinnai, etc. Lastly Futozao is used for *6Gidayu and Tsugaru shamisen.

In this way they are all different in size and performing style. Originally Shamisen was played to do Kadozuke (perfoming door to door to beg for money or rice ), or accompanied with  Tsugaru minyo (folk) songs. These days  shamisen is often played on its own, or even played to collaborate with western music. The reason behind this is  improvisation is very common for Tsugaru shamisen, which makes it easier to play along with other musical  instruments.

*1Nagauta - A type of shamisen music, literally “long song”. Developed in Edo area ( now known as Tokyo).
*2Kabuki theatre - Classical Japanse dance drama. Known for its stylized stories and eccentric make up of performers.
*3Kouta - A type of shamisen music, literally “short song”. Known for its playing style, not played with bachi ( plectrum), but with fingers.
*4Jiuta - A type of shamisen music,  develped by blind musicians especially in Kinki region (  southern- west part of Japan).
*5Tokiwazu, Kiyomoto, Shinnai - Other types of “Joruri”,
*6Gidayu - A type of “Joruri”, Japanese chanted narrative music. Puppet theatre.


You can watch Tsugaru shamisen videos here:
Senzoku Gakuen University, Traditional music digital library  or    Kobunboku


Tsugaru shamisen player “Nobuto Yamanaka”


■ Profile

Having Graduated from intermediate school at the age of fifteen, Nobuto Yamanaka moved to Hirosaki city in  Aomori prefecture by himself. He lived above the folk song bar “ Live house Yamauta” for four years to be  apprenticed to “Chisato Yamada” , until he became a master of Tsugaru shamisen Yamada style.

He has been awarded various prizes at  Tsugaru shamisen national competitions - winning 1st place in “Class C” and“Class B”and “Class A”, and winning 1st place in “Singing and accompaniment  category”- , Nobuto has alsoperformed in ten overseas countries.

His cross-genre-style performance includes being a part of a imaginative musical, collaboration with western instruments, and also performs many traditional folk songs.

In the last 16 years Nobuto also has been performing as a member of “Takio Ito & Takio band”. The band is  known  for its contemporary style,  turning traditional songs (eg, “ Nanchu Soran”) into modern versions.

Also, being a solo player, Nobuto performs at various concerts, schools and conferences, etc.

Nobuto is also a part time teacher at Senzoku Gakuen University, Department of modern Japanese music, as well  as  being a Tourism ambassafor for Kazo city.

※Achieved in winning his 2nd championship in a rowin the highest gradedivision “Class A”, at the 36th TsugaruShamisen World Tournament, held at "Hirosaki Citizen Hall" in Aomori Prefecture on May 4, 2017.


■ Performance and background

・Born in Kazo city (previously known as Kita kawabe-machi ), Saitama prefecture, Japan.
・Started Tsugaru shamisen at the age of thirteen.
・After finishing intermediate school, moved to Aomori alone to learn Tsugaru shamisen under Chisato Yamada,who  is one of the most recognised players in the field. Nobuto became apprenticed to Chisato at the age of fifteen.
・Won the 1st prize in “Class C” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition (15 years old)
・Won the 1st prize in “Class B” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition (16 years old)
・Won the 7th prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition (19 years old)
・Won the 5th prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition, (20 years old)
・Won the 4th prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition (35 years old)
・Won the silver prize in “Singing and accompaniment category ” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition ( 35years old) - played the compulsory song “Tsugaru san sagari”.
・Won the 3rd prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition ( 36 years old)
・Won the 1st prize in “Singing and accompaniment category ” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition ( 36 yearsold) - played the compulsory song “Tsugaru jongara bushi”.
・Won the 3rd prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition (37 years old)
・Won the second prize in “Singing and accompaniment category ” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition -played the compulsory song “Tsugaru aiya bushi” (37 years old)
・Won the 2nd prize in “Class A”in Tsugarushamisen national competition (38 years old)
・Won the 1st prize in “Singing and accompaniment category ” in Tsugaru shamisen national competition -playedthecompulsory song “Tsugaru yosare bushi”(38 years old)
・Won the 2nd prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen worldcompetition (39 years old)
・Won the 1st prize in “Singing and accompaniment category ” inTsugaru shamisen world competition -playedthecompulsory song “Tsugaru oharabushi”(39 years old)
・Won the 2nd prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen worldcompetition (40years old)
・Won the 4th prize in “Singing and accompaniment category ” inTsugaru shamisen world competition -playedthecompulsory song “Tsugaru JonkaraShin-Kyu bushi”(40 years old)
・Won the 1st prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen worldcompetition (41years old)
・Won the 1st prize in “Class A” in Tsugaru shamisen worldcompetition (42years old) 2ndChampionship in a row



・Performed overseas - in Spain, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Korea, Egypt, Uzbekistan andTurkmenistan.
・Last 16 years, has been perforning and making recordings as a member of “Takio Ito & Takio band”.  
・Became a master of Tsugaru shamisen Yamada style at the age of nineteen.
・Curently working as a part time teacher at Senzoku GakuenUniversity, Department of modern Japanese music.
・Tourism ambassador for Kazo city.