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Page 1









TSUGARU SHAMISEN AND MODERN JAPANESE IDENTITY




GE
RALD T.

McGOLDRICK





A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS

FOR THE DEGREE OF

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY




GRADUATE PROGRAM IN MUSIC

YORK UNIVERS
ITY

TORONTO, ONTARIO


MARCH

2017


© Gerry McGoldrick, 2017





Page 2




ii


ABSTRACT



The
shamisen,
a Japanese plucked lute dating back to the seventeenth century, began to be
played by blind itinerant male performers known as
bosama

in the late nineteenth century in

the
Tsugaru region, part of present
-
day
Aomori prefecture in northern Japan. By the early twentieth
century it was used by sighted players to accompany local folk songs, and from the 1940s
entirely instrumental versions of a few of the folk songs were bei
ng performed.
In the late 1950s
the term
Tsugaru shamisen

was coined and the genre began to get national attention. This
culminated in a revival in the 1970s centred on Takahashi Chikuzan, who had made a living as a
bosama

in the

prewar period. In the wake

of the 70s boom a contest began to be held annually in
Hirosaki, the cultural capital of the Tsugaru region. This contest nurtured a new generation of
young players from all over Japan, eventually

spawning other national contests in every corner
of the co

Yoshida

face of
Tsugaru shamisen
. From about 2000 a new
Tsugaru shamisen

revival was under way, and
the music could be heard as background music on Television p
rograms and commercials
representing a modern Japan that had not lost its traditions.



-
five
years of direct experience with the
Tsugaru shamisen

community, this disse
rtation examines how
since the millennial revival the music has come to index a Japanese identity that is modern but
still essentially Japanese. It explores ideas developed in the 1930s by thinkers like Watsuji

nfluence popular conceptions of modernity and
tradition in Japan. It traces the one
-
hundred
-
year recording history of the music and the
proliferation of national contests in recent decades and compares the revivals of the 1970s and
the millennium to demons
trate how a genre that previously indexed rural, traditional Japan has
come to represent the modern nation.




Page 152




141

Kanagi often seems to be a step towards the ultimate goal of winning in Hirosaki, Tokyo, or,
more recently, Aomori. Agatsuma Hiromitsu, who won Kanagi

rst contest

at age fifteen,
said

in his biography

that he felt

at that point

that he
still
needed to win at Hirosaki to be considered
the best in Japan

(Honma 2001, 109)
,
and after twenty
-
seven years
,


unofficial
status as
a second
-
tier contest rem
ains.


3. Tokyo's
Tsugaru Shamisen

Concours

National Contest

History


The first
Tsugaru shamisen

Concours

National Contest

(
Tsugaru
-
jamisen Concours Zenkoku
Taikai

between the upscale Ginza shopping district and the Imperial Palace in the centre of old Tokyo,
where it has been held ever since, generally on the first Sunday in April.
47

Not coincidentally,
this is when the cherry blossoms tend to bloom in Tokyo, so most

years


able to see
the blossoms in Hibiya park as they can a month later in Hirosaki. The four
-
storey concert hall,
built in 1929 with a 2,074 seat capacity, is one of the oldest and most prestigious in Tokyo
(Hibiya
-
kokaido).


The conte
st

was organized by the Japan


Association (

), with an
executive committee composed of many of the biggest names in
Tsugaru shamisen
,
including

ial



Miura 1998
). The number of young
Tsugaru shamisen

players had been growing steadily through the 1990s
,

thanks in no small part



47

This contest is usually referred to by participants as the Hibiya contest but for the sake of clari
ty I refer to it as
the Tokyo contest throughout this dissertation.




Page 153




142

to the contest in Hirosaki. As much as that contest had helped to f
oster a new generation of
players, there had been grumblings since its inception about unfair judging practices, described
above in the section on Hirosaki, and addressing this problem was a large part of the impetus to
create this new contest in Tokyo.


F
unding


The contest's organizing body, the Japan


Association (

), is the
largest


organization, with over 40,000 members, and a sizable headquarters in the south
of Tokyo that, among other things, oversees a number of national

-
related contests each
year (Hughes 2008,

278). They are listed as the main sponsor in each year's programme and on
the contest website (

2010). As with Hirosaki, funding comes from several
different sources including official sponsors, advertisers, entrance and participation f
ees, and
merchandise.


The entrance fee for audience members is about 5000 yen for reserved seating on the first
floor, about 3000 yen for general admission to the first floor, and about 2000 yen for general
admission to the second floor. Contestants
pay a fee of about 5000 yen to enter the contest.

In the
early years the contest had four other co
-
sponsors: two other


organizations, the Japan
Native Place


Association (

), and the All
-
Osaka

Association

(
Zen

Osaka




2001 only the newspapers have stayed on as spo
nsors. Unlike Hirosaki and Kanagi, there is no
local government sponsorship, perhaps because the incentive to promote this traditional art form
is not as strong outside of its area of origin.


The programme is a glossy twenty
-
four page magazine
-
sized
booklet, the last eight pages of



Page 304




293

KICX 8161/8162.


Various. 2003.
National Tsugaru
-
jamisen Tournament 2002 in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture.

Columbia. COCJ
-
31932.


Various. 2006.
Tsugaru
-
jamisen best
. King Records KICW
-
8375/6.


Various. 2006.
National Tsugaru
-
j
amisen Tournament 2006 in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture.

Columbia. COCJ
-
33827.


Various. 2008.
Tsugaru
-
jamisen best
. King Records KICW
-
9049/50.


Various. 2008.
<Dai 27kai> 2008 nen Tsugaru
-
jamisen zenkoku taikai

(<The 27
th
> 2008 all
-
Japan
Tsugaru shami
sen

contest). 21
Tsugaru Samisen

NETWORK JAPAN.


Various. 2009.
Tsugaru
-

(
Tsugaru shamisen

contest best). King Records
KICW
-
5076.


Various. 2010.
Tsugaru
-
jamisen best
. King Records KICW
-
9269/70.


Yamada Chisato, Sawada Katsuaki. 1991.
Ja
m Session of Tsugaru
-
shamisen: Music of Japanese
People
. King Records KICH 2024.



. 1995.

Jonkara
. King Records KICH 2161.



. 1998.
Tsugaru
-
jamisen
. Columbia COCF
-
15288.


Yamada Chisato, Shibutani Kazuo. 1998.
Jonkara: Tsugaru
-

amada Chisato
VS Shibutani Kazuo

(Jonkara:
Tsugaru shamisen

Teacher
-
student performance: Yamada
Chisato VS Shibutani Kazuo). Columbia COCF
-
14768.


Yoshida, Ry

ichir


and Yoshida Kenichi . 1999.
Ibuki
. Victor Entertainment VICG
-
60297.



_______. 2000.
Move
. Victor Entertainment VICG
-
60396.


_______. 2002.
Soulful
. Sony Music Entertainment SRCL
-
5330.


_______. 2002.
Storm
. Sony Music Entertainment SRCL
-
5370. CD single.


_______. 2003.
Frontier
. Sony Music Entertainment SRCL
-
5565.


_______. 2004.
Renaissanc
e
. Sony Music Entertainment SRCL
-
5978.


_______. 2005.
Yoshida Brothers
. Sony Music Entertainment SRCL
-
5952.





Page 305




294

_______. 2005.
Rising
. Sony Music Entertainment SRCL
-
5866. CD EP.


_______. 2006.
Hish




Shamisen Dake no Sekai
(Soaring: The World of Shamisen Only). Sony
Music Entertainment SRCL
-
6440.


_______. 2007.

(Nationwide Tour 2006
Soaring: Completely Live Recordings). Sony Music Entertainment SRC
L
-
6526. double CD.


_______. 2009.
Another Side Of Yoshida Brothers
. Sony Music Entertainment SRCL6939.


_______. 2009.
Prism
. Sony Music Entertainment SRCL
-
6864.


_______.
2012.
Yoshida Kyodai Best vol. 1: 1999
>|
2004

.
Sony Music Entertainment

MHCL
-
20144.


_______. 2012.
Yoshida Kyodai Best vol. 2: 2005
>|
2009
. Sony Music Entertainment MHCL
-
20145.


_______. 2014.
Horizon
. Sony Music Entertainment MHCL 2459.


_______. 2015.
Prana
. Sony Music Entertainment MHCL
-
2516. CD EP.


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