Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tsugaru Shamisen

I love Tsugaru Shamisen. A recent FB entry by Kyoto Journal inspired me to write this blog. Thank you, Kyoto Journal.

Fellow bloggers, you are not fooled by stereo types. Right? You know Japanese women can be very strong. Ahem. She can be romantic, too. This is a proof. The site below, Yoko Nagayama sings “Jonkara Women Melody” while playing her Tsugaru-style wide shamisen. A Japanese web site teaches us that the type of melody and shamisen grew together in the northeast. And Jonkara’s roots goes back to the Edo period when very poor priests sang their protest songs against the rulers to survive.

“Jonkara Women Melody”

translated, of course, by me.

Snow dances from below.

It sticks to the train of my red kimono.

The wide shamisen. Women’s travel road.

Flaming up, smoldering, bursting, and fretting

I have a man I cannot separate.

Jonkara, Jonkara

I want you to understand.

The lead-colored sky

Spring is too far from me.

If I played my wide shamisen, a string would split.

Hate, love, pain, and bitterness tangle up around my fingers.

Jonkara, Jonkara

I want you!


Luciana said...

Keiko,since this post has to do with what I wrote on stereotypes, let me tell you that I think the word romantic is a tricky one. Romanticism as a cultural movement is one thing, and romantic, as in sweet and loving is quite another.
Strong and romantic are not opposites. Quite the contrary: it takes a strong woman to tell her lover she wants him.
On the other hand,a woman who is culturally attached to the Romantic idea of love (from the Romanticism)would expect the man to guess her thoughts, would be disappointed if he actually did, and would endlessly complain to her friends her suffering of not being loved enough.
Tsugaru Shamisen is beautiful, and a great performer. She has an astonishing presence, and at the same time she´s delicate. Really nice!
Are those spatula-like objects in their hands made from real turtle shell nowadays?

keiko amano said...


Amazing! You said it all. Thank you!!!

I’ve been thinking of what to add in my comment because it is tricky subject.
I thought readers might misjudge about what I think of romance. Also, I love the spunk of Tsugaru Shamisen, but I’m not a fan of popular Enka or Minyo programs on television. In fact, they drive me crazy. Yoko Nagayama is exceptional, so she could gather those top class musicians as her backup.

Lu, you are so right into the point. Sweet and loving is quite another. I think for some women and also men, it takes great strength to be straightforward.

I looked in the dictionary and found that the spatula is a bone plectrum or a pick. Yes, the tip is turtle shell. Handle parts can be plastic or wood, and also ivory, and water buffalo although I don’t know exactly what part of water buffalo. They are very expensive. The cheapest is $300, and the top is about $3, 500. I’m sure they are not imports. Such imports are prohibited, I think.