* A print version of this article
in Japanese (without the graphics, sound files and web links) will be published in Chiikigaku, Vol. 3 (June 2005), 1-27. The journal can be ordered from Takefusa Sasamori, Hirosaki Gakuin University, Minori-cho 13-1, 036-8577, Hirosaki, Japan. E-mail: email@example.com.
1. Some of the styles connected with Tsugaru shamisen 津軽三味線 include folk music known as Tsugaru aiya bushi 津軽アイヤ節, Tsugaru jonkara bushi じょんから節
, Tsugaru yama uta 津軽山唄, and Tsugaru yosare bushi 津軽よされ節. The instrument would be used either to accompany the folk songs, play instrumental versions of them, or to improvise purely instrumental pieces.
2. The shamisen is thought to have arrived in Japan in the sixteenth century from China.
3. The sound box has an extra piece of dog skin attached to it called bachigawa 撥革 (plectrum skin), which helps protect it from the percussive way of playing.
4. On Takahashi see further Fujita and Takada (1986), Kuramitsu (1976), Takagi, Osabe and Yamada (1976), and Takahashi (1975, 1991a, 1991b). On Tsugaru shamisen in general, see also Daijô (1984, 1995), Groemer (1991, 1999), Sasaki and Kanazawa (2000), and Suda, Daijô and Rausch (1998).
5. See especially Agatsuma (2003, 2004) and Yoshida Kyôdai (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003a, 2003b).
6. In fact, Chikuzan turned virtually blind after contracting measles at the age of two or three, although he did not lose his eyesight completely until later. (Groemer, 1999:187).
7. The misunderstanding is based on the fact that the word buraku 部落 means a small village, but the word burakumin 部落民 (literally, village person) is nowadays used as a euphemism for the former outcaste class.
8. For the Nitabô 仁太坊 controversy, compare the account in Suda, Daijô, and Rausch with that in Groemer (1999).
9. 1886-1931; real name KUROKAWA Momotarô 黒川桃太郎.
10. Blind shamanesses said to be able to communicate with the dead.
11. Yamada is having his little joke here. SASAMORI Junzô
笹森順造 (1886-1976) is the father of one of the interviewers. He was very active in the kendo world, but never practiced the shamisen.
12. The te-odori 手踊り (or hand dance) is a highly demanding dancing style that originated in the Tsugaru region in the 1920s. It is characterized by a "tiptoe style," where the toe is rubbed on the floor, a unique step completely counter to general notions of Japanese dancing in this period, which were based on "heel rubbing." (From Suda, Daijô, and Rausch 1998:216; for a description of the dance, see 85-86).
13. Groemer (1999:284, 287) makes the following distinction between a kudoki 口説き and a naniwa-bushi 浪花節: "Kudoki. Long semi-narrative song, in a repetitive seven-syllable meter. . . . Naniwa bushi. Popular narrative genre accompanied on shamisen. Also known as rôkyoku 浪曲.
14. Kajimachi 鍛冶町 used to be, and to a certain extent still is, the "tenderloin" of Hirosaki 弘前.
15. "Yasaburô's House" ("Yasaburôbushi" 弥三郎節) is a nationally known folk song that dates back to the 19th century and originated in the present Morita Village 森田村 in northern Tsugaru. It is said to be based on an event that took place in 1808, when a woman married to the wealthy farmer Yasaburô was forced to divorce him after suffering serious abuse from his hands. Item by item she lists her grievances, from number 1 to number 15. An example: "And number six: He allowed his relatives to use me until the blood streamed from my ten fingers- that's Yasaburô's house! Yes! Yasaburô's house!" One reason for its lasting popularity may be the plaintive tune, which is much easier to sing than that of most Japanese folk songs; another, possibly, the lingering practice of domestic violence.
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