This week we will be listening to music from the island country of Japan. There is a rich and varied musical tradition of Japanese music and the first clip will be the very well-known song – Sakura- played on the koto. The Koto is a stringed instrument from the family of zithers and it came to Japan from China in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is the national instrument of Japan. If you play just the black keys on the piano you will create what is called the pentatonic scale. This scale is used in the music from many asian countries including Japan and also is found in many spirituals. The number of strings on a koto can vary; this particular one has 25 strings. That would require a lot of skill and patience just to tune it!
Joe Hisashi is a contemporary (born in 1950) Japanese composer and musical director. He is a prolific composer having written over 100 film scores and also piano music. He has been associated with the animator Hayao Miyazaki for many years creating the music for nearly all of his films. Here is a clip of him playing One Summer’s Day from the anime film Spirited Away.