Chikkin (竹琴)

Chikkin is a koto (a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument) with three strings, which was invented by Chikkin (Yosaburo) TAMURA from Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, in August, 1886. Tamura taught it in Kanda Kamakura-cho in Tokyo.

The sound box of Chikkin was constructed from a thick bamboo stick in the length similar to Yagumo-goto (two-stringed zither), which was cut in half lengthwise, with the opening of the U-shaped form covered with paulownia board and strung over with three strings. Koma (bridges) and tenjin (a bar mounted on the head of a stringed instrument to wind up a string around) resemble the one of Yagumo-goto. After setting Chikkin on a stand and tuning three strings in the same way as Shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese banjo), it is played by holding the strings down with suikan (a green pipe) fitted on the middle finger of the left hand and plucking the strings with a diagonally-cut pick called otoritsume fitted on the forefinger of the right hand, in a similar manner to Yagumo-goto.

Tamura mastered the technique of Shingaku (Qing-era Chinese music) and regarded the worldly music originated in Japan as low-grade music, so he invented Chikkin in order to change the bad habit. He wrote many new songs and performed at Izumishima-jinja Temple in August, 1886. It is also said that he moved to Tokyo to receive a patent for his invention, and was honored with Command Performance for the Empress Dowager in December 1888 and the Empress in April 1889, which made Chikkin become popular for a while. After the Sino-Japanese War, its popularity rapidly declined.

[Original Japanese]