Have to know about Japanese traditional harp “KOTO” 知っておくべき日本伝統楽器「琴」の魅力

✧Japan Life/Eng✧
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Hello I am mi 😀

Do you know Japanese harp, KOTO?? Have you listened to this sound?? Koto is a Japanese traditional instrument whose sound heals us.

Actually I am an associate grand master of Koto. I have played the Koto for about 10 years since I was an elementary school student. I love it very much, so I’d like to introduce Koto today.

 My state …

  • I am an associate grand master of Koto.
  • I have practiced it for 10 years.
  • I had played Koto as a volunteer at a nursing home.
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What is KOTO??

Koto came from China about 1,300 years ago. It seems that Chinese Koto was mixed with Japanese old instrument similar to Koto. In ancient Japan, normally, aristocratic class people played the Koto. After that, Koto was spread as temple music, and then professional musician played it in Kyoto. From Kyoto, Koto was spread to all Japan.(Reference:http://www.okoto.jp/information_en/the-history-of-koto/)

Koto is expressed a Dragon. We call Koto’s head “Ryu-to(head of a dragon)”, Koto’s body “Ryu-ko(front of a dragon) and Ryu-fuku(back of a dragon)”, “Koto’s tail “Ryu-bi(tail of a dragon)”.

There are two schools. Ikuta style生田流 and Yamada style山田流. The difference is the form of Koto pick. Ikuta style → a square pick, Yamada style → a triangle pick. When we play the Koto, we sit down right in front of Koto, then put 3 Koto picks on your fingers and pluck the strings.

We have to turn Koto depending on the song by ourselves. It means we have to change the position of bridges to turn by ourselves. Listening to correct interval skill is significant for playing the Koto.

The musical score is written in Kanji

Koto has 13 strings which made from silk or nylon or Tetoron. From the front, 13th→1st string. The musical notes of Koto are written in Kanji.

First, I explain about number in Kanji.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Ichi Ni San Yon Go Roku Nana Hachi Kyu Ju
11 12 13
斗 (十一)  為 (十二) 巾 (十三) 
To(Ju-Ichi) ( Ju-Ni ) Kin( Ju-San )

Originally, 11,12,13 is “十一、十二、十三”, but we use “斗、為、巾” in the Koto musical score.

It’s difficult to understand this Kanji score at first time to play the Koto even Japanese, but it will get easier after practice. I prefer Kanji music note than normal music note now.

There are also musical symbols such as staccato, forte, piano, accent, and tremolo, etc. Press the string to raise semitone.

Playing koto with wearing Kimono is traditional style

When practicing the Koto, we wear just casual outfit, but when playing the Koto in front of audience, we wear Kimono which is Japanese traditional outfit. Playing the Koto with Kimono is very traditional style.

It’s difficult to wear Kimono by myself, my grand mother or mother always helps me to wear it. haha It’s cool to wear it by myself, but I can’t yet( ;∀;)

I think there are just few Japanese people who can wear Kimono by themselves.

Koto concert

Koto sound heals us

This is a part of my video that I played the Koto. I played my favorite songs, one song is “Shinsen cho Bukyoku 神仙調舞曲”, the other one is “Haru no Sugata 春の姿”. These are 1 min short videos.

Would you like to try??

If you are interested in playing the Koto, there is some places that you can try to play it, but I don’t know many places.

Yume Academy Ginza school 夢アカデミー銀座教室(in Tokyo)

50 min ¥7,500 /  75 min ¥9,500

Soshuan 筝春庵(in Kyoto)

80 min ¥6,000


I also would like to teach how to play the Koto to beginners and foreigners in the future. If I start Koto school, please come to my school! haha

When I played the Koto in front of older people in a nursing home, they were impressed the sound and praised me. I was really happy that Koto sound healed them. Also Koto let them remember their old memories, they said.

When I played the Koto in a nursing home.


During I am playing the Koto, I’m so happy. I feel like this is Japan. I want many people know how beautiful sound Koto has.

Follow mi~!


  1. Claudia G says:

    I’m beginning to learn Koto while living in Japan, and I’m super excited every time. I however am looking for free music sheets, books, and possibly purchasing a Koto in the future (for now I’m using the schools). Do you have any recommendations on books in English, etc?

    • mi mi says:

      Thank you for your comment and sorry for my late reply.
      I’m afraid that I have no idea about English book…I haven’t seen it before.
      Anyway I’m really happy that you love koto as well. Please keep playing☺️

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