The sound of the Koto is one that’s hard to miss in any song or movie soundtrack, and though you may not know the instrument’s name, it is a sound that’s so distinct that you’ll be able to taste the rich Japanese flavor that saturates its harp-like timbre. The Koto is a long, flat piece of wood with strings stretched across from tip to tip. It first came to Japan from China in 700 A.D. and has since been closely tied into Japanese culture. The association we’ve built between the sound of traditional Japanese instruments and Japan itself has made it easy for the film industry to set the mood in any movie where Japan is involved. As soon as you hear the airy tone of the Shakuhachi, the bright twang of the Shamisen, and of course, the gentle plucking of the Koto, you know it’s the sound of Japan. So if you love the sound of Japan, you don’t need to wait for the next Samurai movie to hear it, because you can find it right here at the Venice Japanese Community Center.
The Venice Koto Club was founded in 1992 by Eiko Idota, the club’s teacher and president. Idota Sensei received her assistant teaching degree, or Jokyo, from the Miyagi School of Koto in Japan. Even with decades of experience on the Koto, Idota Sensei still studies under her master teacher, Hiromi Hashibe of the Japanese Ensemble, Kokin Gumi. She passes on the knowledge and technique she learns from her teacher to her five students every Monday starting at 6:30 PM. With instruction of this quality, it’s no wonder that the group is invited to perform at the VJCC’s New Year’s party every year. Though the Koto Club carries on a tradition over a thousand years old, they could still use a Samurai movie every once in awhile to spark the American public’s interest in Japanese music.
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