Japanese Craftsman Built Me A Shamisen | My Japan Journey


Previously For those of you who don’t know this gentleman behind me this is the older of the two Yoshida brothers To ask officially Today is a bit of a special day. I’m coming out to have a new shamisen built All right, so I’ve been here for a little while now We’re doing the Japanese thing of sitting back Getting to know each other having tea And I have yet to get to take a look at single Shamisen. And this is really what it’s about because in Japan There’s something called ‘Wa’, or harmony that kind of needs to be built before any kind of transaction can happen so we’re taking time just chatting getting to know each other, learning about each other’s business and life and everything we do and Really excited to see what kind of ‘Sao’ or ‘Neck’ he’s gonna bring out When it comes to choosing a shamisen the ‘Sao’ or neck is everything It not only contributes to most of the costs but also has the greatest impact on the sound Once the neck has been chosen. The rest of the shamisen is built around that neck they’ve brought out eight different ‘Sao’ or next for me, and it’s… The ones over here are like…people don’t spend this much on cars. Let’s just put it that way So right now I’m torn between these two. Let me show you All right, so it’s just about nighttime now and for reasons that I can’t even begin to explain because it would take forever I’ve decided to go with this one. It’s legitimately getting dark out that the Sun has gone down behind the mountains. I have decided All right, so it’s the beginning of December right now and I’ve come back out to the Shamisen maker’s shop Let’s kind of see the progress of things. I’m gonna get a little bit of a tour of the shop He’s gonna walk me through a bit of how the Shamisen is made. It’s gonna be a fun day That’s gonna be the body to my shamisen right there. This is it right here This is to help the inner acoustics of the shamisen There are some that are smooth inside but these ones have a much better sound and are usually reserved for higher level shamisen This is like a mini one right here All right so I just learned that after the body’s made the shape starts to change and it makes it so that it doesn’t hold the skin as well And so, one of the things that need to be done about a year after the actual ‘Dō’ is made The ‘Dō’ is selected to match the shamisen by the way, so it was made about a year ago But now we have to kind of grind and reshape some of the wood to make sure that it actually holds when the skin is put on so that’s what we’re doing right now. The body or ‘Dō’ was the first piece of my shamisen that I got to see Komatsu-San work on It was really incredible to see him work We worked on it for the better part of an hour. It had to be just right There’s no going back once a mistake is made Let me show you this So, I think it’s a pretty obvious statement that every Shamisen starts from a piece of wood But this wood… There are three main types of wood that Shamisen are made from just so you know There’s a really soft wood called ‘Karin’. It was like a mid-range wood called ‘Shitan’. And then there’s ‘Kōki’. And Kōki’s what the really good Shamisen are made of It feels like I’m knocking on a rock. This thing really is heavy Well, I could talk about this one piece of wood forever because I have never actually seen the wood that the Shamisen are made of This is pretty cool I’ll show you what I have seen which is like the base that they’re cutting from Okay, I put on a slightly wider lens for this next part And I want to show you something really cool It’s because the kitchen floor just opened up I’m way more excited about this that I probably should be up until a moment ago, this here was just the kitchen floor This area here, is something people really don’t get to see All of these are Shamisen ‘Sao’ necks I don’t know why I grabbed my neck and all of these, are the ‘Tanjin’ the top part Komatsu-San admitted that he does have a favorite. In fact one that he would probably never sell And he was kind enough to show me the difference in how the sound resonates through the more expensive wood compared to the cheaper ones I do think there’s something beautiful about the fact that he has one that he just doesn’t want to sell it unless there’s somebody that really understands it One of the original offers I got was to actually have my shamisen made from scratch but there’s a lot of risk in that Having the shamisen made from scratch, you never really know what you’re gonna get until it’s done So my tuning pegs my ‘Itomaki’ are very special. The original, there’s only two cents in the world But I have them remade for me. This is… Oh you know what? I’ll just show you These right here Now very excitingly we’re gonna be prepping the body of my shamisen to be skinned Shamisen are traditionally skinned with animal skin, and I’ve never really been a big fan of that But Komatsu-San has developed a synthetic shamisen skin. That sounds almost exactly the same Alright guys, so today is the day! I am currently out in the mountains of the area of Sagamihara To pick up my new shamisen And I couldn’t be more excited So as we get all the parts together for my shamisen There’s still one last part of the process is the ‘Itomaki’, the tuning pegs Being fit to the shamisen The process for each peg took an incredibly long time with a constant cycle of minor adjustments and checks until finally It’s mind-blowing to me The incredibly delicate level of expertise that goes into every little piece of the Shamisen To see something as simple as the ‘Itomaki’ have that much effort put into them. It’s just… I don’t even at words. This particular shamisen breaks into three pieces and the joints are actually connected by gold because it’s a soft enough metal to match up with the wood and hold it nice and tight and Then it was time to finally start assembling the shamisen The excitement was real Once the body was fully assembled It was time to pick out the parts and accessories that would give the shamisen its look and personality once all put together Now it’s just time to start putting it together so Komatsu-San is Helping with that because obviously he’s going to be a lot better at it than I am Alright, so that’s it. I’ve got my new shamisen. Now, I just need a couple years to get used to playing it

100 thoughts on “Japanese Craftsman Built Me A Shamisen | My Japan Journey

  1. I may have hidden a beautiful and wonderful surprise somewhere in this video. (Did… anyone stick around to see it?………)
    So much love to Shamisen Komatsuya for putting in a month of work and allowing me to film something we dont often get to see.
    And thank you to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU who takes the time to watch this. And so much more to those of you who waited for it.

  2. This is such a beautiful and moving story, and the wonder and joy on your face when you see your new Shamisen is heartwarming – I had tears. You should be making more documentary style videos – this was beautifully done. Can't wait to hear you play it – so happy for you. Thank you for sharing this moment!

  3. What a BEAUTIFUL shamisen, Norm! I can truly see your passion for this instrument and music. Thank you for sharing because I had no idea what shamisen was until I started following you a couple years ago.

  4. Such a beautiful instrument! I can't even fathom the amount of craftsmanship that it took to make that. Woohooo so exciting! I can't wait to hear you play!

  5. I'm a newcomer to your channel. Came across your channel while perusing for ideas for when I visit in April. It's been a little over 10 years since I last visited Japan and I've been wanting to go back for another visit. So I figured for my 50th year I'd do it. Now, you and the Yoshida Brothers. Wow. I first discovered them some years ago. I can't remember when. Shamisen music is rather unique. What they've done with the instrument is amazing. You apprenticing with them? Wow! I'm impressed. Can't wait to hear you play! 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing this with us. It's amazing to see craftsman like this in action. I loved his comment as you departed "Give your practice everything you can and share a nice song with me next time". Also, having a Yoshida Brother mentor/teacher… WOW!

  7. We finally got moved into our house in Cali, and I have been spending the day catching up on your videos while I clean and organize the house. I saved this one for last because I know it's something you are so passionate about, and it really shows. You did such an amazing job documenting this process, and it's so awesome to see the genuine excitement on your face at this pivotal moment in your life. Can't wait to hear you play.

  8. Creating art wether it be music, a painting or in this case a shamisen requires passion. Thankyou for taking the time and effort to share your enthusiasm and passion in this personal adventure. May that continue to develop and embrace you with your upcoming journey with your shamisen. 😊 Great things all round. 👍🏽

  9. A most excellent Video. I know what a big deal that was to be in that shop and having that kind of access. I played Jazz in Japan for about 8 years in the 80's. Thanks for sharing !

  10. I'm glad you were able to take us along for such an emotional journey, what an incredibly unique thing to witness. I'm looking forward to hearing you play your new shamisen 😊

  11. Thank you for taking us behind the scenes. You can truly tell your love for the instrument and the culture behind it. Beautiful!

  12. I really like the shamisen and the Yoshida Brothers Music I have 8 Yoshida Brothers CD's . I am really a big fan of the Yoshida Brothers .

  13. Very beautiful! The founder of my kobudo school in Okinawa, his profession was making sanshin. So, I can appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making your new shamisen. In his home, he too had a collection of prized necks he kept, but never used to build new instruments.

  14. These handmade in Japan videos you have are just the best, real craftsmanship is so uncommon in the west, so refreshing to see.

  15. I am blown away by how emotionally connected I felt watching this wonderful video and so greatful that you shared the beautiful journey with us 🙏🏻 Such craftsmanship is a rare and fine thing, the excitement, love and joy radiating from you both is intoxicating. Thank you. 🇬🇧💖🙏🏻

  16. BRO what a piece of art that is,,just love the craftmenship of the JAPANESE no matter what they make.. wish i was 35 years younger and better health i would travel toJAPAN to study,,lovely country,,, lovely people,,, thank you very much for the videos

  17. Hey man,

    I'm an Amateur Musical Instrument Maker and you're 'desk' video caught my attention, and from that I saw this. I absolutely love your enthusiasm and what you're showing here is so rare for us to see – Violin and Guitar Makers are everywhere on the Internet, but this is harder to come by, and it's so inspiring and different. I've already got a few ideas just from this video.

    Thanks! And all the best to you =)

  18. I have an old shamisen. I have plinked around on it, but I have no idea how to actually play it or if it's set up correctly. It also breaks into pieces. I need a case for it.

  19. There is wonderful craftsmanship found in people from every part of the world, but it's hard to think of what can be said about the Japanese that hasn't already been said when it comes to their craftsmanship with many things. It's too bad that we don't have more things imported from Japan to the US as their art and craftsmanship with many products may be second to none, and while I first watched the video on the desk that was made for you there in Japan, even though it was kind of ordinary looking to me, the real beauty of it was in the time and work put into the quality making of that desk because it was truly built better than most all of the furniture found here in the US. I think it's safe to say that the Japanese are in fact, true artist in every sense of the word.

  20. You know what makes me attracted to follow Youtubers?

    Things like this; just sharing some of the passion that you have around a particular collection of details, and being a great learner of it. Your excitement and this wonderful video about a Japanese culture has just smitten me once again.

    Thank you and congratulations on your new shamisen.
    (When will you do a collab video with elder Yoshida? That would be fun.)

  21. I've just read an interview you gave last year . You are really …interesting . I thought you were French Canadian the first time I heard you speak , I'm I wrong . I am French Canadian. It makes me happy to see that you respect and appreciate the traditions in Japan. The fact that you were able to learn Shamisen as an apprentice of the Yoshida Brothers is amazing .

  22. This is one of the most gorgeous instruments i have ever see, it just radiates all the passion and hard work that was put into it

  23. I've had the great privilege of working in a concert grand piano factory in Ryuyo. The same level of care, love and beautiful craftsmanship is threaded right through Japanese musical instrument making.

  24. Man, I binged a bunch of videos today because of the desk video. There are a lot of Japan-related channels, but yours is unique perspective as an apprentice of a specific cultural framework as well as an awe-filled admirer of various aspects of Japan. Many thanks. I can't wait for your latest video.

  25. The higher end Shamisen are what 300,000 yen -400,000 yen? That's what between $2000-$3000 US dollars? High end violins cost about that. This would be something to prize and hopefully it will be past down to your children and so on. If you can afford it, I say its your money so buy want you want. Often people in their older years look back with regret that they didn't buy something they had wanted or did something they have always wanted to do. No regrets in life! Go for it!!

  26. Maybe you will never see this Mr. "Tokyo Lens", but thank you very much. I appreciate this video more than I can express. First of all, the Shimasen you got is beautiful! And I would also die for learning such craftmanship from such a master (Sensei?) as Mr. Komatsu. I am a young man and the sad reality is, that no one of the people in my age care about traditions or craftmanship, they are slowly dying around here, as most of the people are going to university. But this…. I can't find the right words for it. I can't put my thoughts in words. It's just so beautiful. Again, thank you very very much for sharing such a beautiful art with us and also thanks to Mr. Komatsu for showing his beautiful craft!

  27. You can really hear the difference in the sound of the necks it’s the first time I’ve truly been able to discern higher quality in an instrument

  28. Not gonna lie I cried a little bit, as a musician I get how much love for the instrument you both have and the bond between the instrument and the performer is one of the best things in the world.

  29. Necks costing more money than CARS ?
    I'm pretty confused right now.. a new car is in general 20k euros for a basic mid size with no options. So more money than peoples spend on cars gotta be at least 40k for someone with a confortable income ?
    I own a really nice shotgun that my parents bought me years ago for my 18th birthday, the stock is made out of 4 star walnut (the roots, I don't know the exact word but it's "loupe" in french). The gun costed just under 3k.
    I'm not knowlegeable about music at all, even if I'm interested by the craftmanship behind the instruments, could someone explain to me why the cost is so high ?
    Or maybe I'm stupid and it was an hyperbole, my english isn't that good and I don't always catch subtlety..
    Please someone answer ^^

  30. I am s a woodworker who studied Japanese joinery and methods for a year using Japanese chisels, saws and hand planes as well, bamboo and ink for marking out. Your video's bring back fond memories of those classes. I improved my sharpening skills in the process. Craftsmen need to be more celebrated in general, so I appreciate your enthusiasm.

  31. Amazing vid. Can see how passionate u are explaining every intricate part. Thank you I felt like I was there sharing it too

  32. I love the fact that between the low, middle, and high quality necks, the highest quality is not the "most" resonant, but rather the "best" resonant. It is something far more subtle and nuanced than volume alone. Rather, it is the way that the material reacts to the the vibration of the string…I have never played a shamisen, but I have played many other string instruments, whether bowed or plucked, acoustic or electric. It is hard to describe, but you know it when it happens.

  33. I own a small post production studio in Japan. I've been here for 22 years. Almost half my life. The thing that amazes me every day and what I think made Japan my home was the devotion to perfection. It's hard to put into words, but this video shows the dedication I see every day. Great video.

  34. I've seen how much Shamisen go for, but with the Gold inlay on the Mitsuori joints, two part Koma and more.

    I bet this cost twice as much and then some.

    Must have been almost 10k, but the experience of seeing it from start to finish and feeling of just having such a custom and personal instrument is priceless.

  35. Stunning … your respect, love and emotional commitment shine through. Thank you so much for sharing ❤

  36. Your passion, the emotion we all get to see in each of your videos, really says a lot about you as a person, and a lot about your character. I first found your channel watching the amazing live edge desk you had made. I have been a huge fan ever since. I don't know why you don't have more subscribers with how much passion goes into your work. My hair literally stood on end watching you react to different parts of the build. My dream has been to move to Japan one day. It just feels like the place my soul needs to be. One day. Thank you, for everything.

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