Ishi Koto (the title of the official ranks within the Todo-za (the traditional guild for the blind)) (石川勾当)

Koto ISHIKAWA (year of birth unknown) was a blind musician who was active during the early nineteenth century in Kyoto (jiuta shamisen (traditional Japanese shamisen music) player, so or koto (a long Japanese zither with thirteen strings) player and composer).

The year of birth is unknown. The details on his biography are not known well.

He was an active virtuoso of jiuta-shamisen during the Bunka and Bunsei eras and composed some good songs of Kyoto-style tegotomono (a form of Japanese chamber music). His style was conspicuously stately and Parnassian among his contemporary composers. Many of his songs were unconventional and very long and in particular the instrumental parts 'tegoto' were long, complicated and extremely difficult to play. His tuning of songs was also elaborate.

One of his works called "Yaegoromo" (An Eight-Fold Garment) was too difficult even for ISHIKAWA himself to play and lost hearts and minds of kengyos to be nearly obsolete. However, kengyo MIYAHARA in Kyushu regretted it and encouraged kengyo YAEZAKI who was the best player of so (or koto) to play "Yaegoromo" excellently. Thanks to this, the song came out of the crisis of abolition and after that came to be played widely as an ensemble.

He was also good at making kaede (accompanying melody) of existing songs and even now some of them are played favorably. The kaede of "Tamagawa" (Tama river) is very famous for its excellence. He was supposed to have come from quite a prestigious family because of his magnificent works which were composed by researching Noh or Hyakunin Isshu (one hundred waka poems by one hundred poets). Although he was a super performer of shamisen, he was disliked because of his talent, had few disciples and was poor and unhappy over the course of his life. He lived in an off-street house east of Kyoto city Senbonkamichojamachi.

In his later years he is said to have led a simple life in Rakuhoku and the year of his death is not known. From the atmosphere of his works, he is imagined to have characteristically hated compromise or convention. However, it is right to say that the works of ISHIKAWA were the pinnacle of jiuta tegotomono and as the first-class works not only in jiuta but in shamisen music, even now they have never lost a high evaluation.

[Original Japanese]