How are we already at day five? Hotsui Matsuri is coming to a close today and we’ve already been there and back again to our local Obon Festival to do some Bon Odori. So today, at the end of the day, I’m here to sit down and talk about some more traditional Japanese Instruments; because if there’s one thing we can all join together with and understand–it’s music.
This Japanese instrument is often associated with shinto religion and kagura dances. Just think about anime where you see shrine maidens dancing and you’ve likely seen this instrument. It looks like a stick with bells attached to it–usually three tiers of bells with the lowest tier having the most and the highest having the least. It generally comes in 6, 4, and 2. Sometimes it has a ribbon at the end to be danced with in kagura dances. It’s a very unique instrument and very important in religious practices, ceremonies, and dances.
Technically inspired by the Chinese konghou, the kugo is a standing harp. This harp has 23 strings and has a vertical angle rather than a gentle curve. While it doesn’t make frequent appearances in anime, and perhaps isn’t as popular as a western harp, it’s a traditional instrument that was played in ancient Japan for the courts. I feel like this kind of harp is common across multiple cultures–with many borrowing some iteration in the way their harps are shaped and played.
Den Den Daiko
Now I’m sure many of you have held this instrument before–whether it was a toy or an actual instrument. A den den daiko is a small hand held drum. It has a long handle–almost like a pan handle and a small drum at the end the size of an egg pan (if that). It’s also used in shinto and buddhist religion (see a theme). Oh! This instrument also tends to have beads on it–hanging from string at the sides occasionally.
This is a first for one of these posts because the ryuteki is a wind instrument–a flute! Or a fue in Japanese. Traditionally, this flute is made of bamboo and known to make the sounds of a dragon when they descend from the heavens. Which is why this is known as the dragon flute. There are seven holes in this flute to produce sounds, and it is most often used to play Chinese inspired music and scores.
We made it everybody! There we have another four traditional Japanese instruments. I personally tried to go for ones that aren’t as commonly known this time, or ones that you wouldn’t necessarily see easily in an anime and be like–ah yes. So with this new knowledge, I hope you all enjoyed this year’s Hotsui Matsuri! We know we did. And today we danced our butts off at our city’s Obon Festival. While we know the one in Japan is still a bit away, we hope you find a way to celebrate any way you can!