John Cho: Shamisen

           In my opinion, learning the shamisen itself was not the most important part of my CIP. Of course, learning how to play an instrument (if you enjoy music) from someone who is respected among the music community is a great opportunity; but being able to be in a constant, small group of friendly people and having the opportunity to participate in a concert wearing the traditional concert clothes really fulfilled the “authentic Japanese experience” that I was hoping to get from this study abroad.

            To those who are looking to learn the language better, and to constantly have the opportunity to talk with native speakers – who often use very strong Kansai-ben; the shamisen lesson is, perhaps, the best place to do so. Because most of the fellow students are around 60 ~ 70 years old, they consider us (young study abroad students) to be a “kouhai” and are more willing to talk to you, makes jokes with you, and really get to know you better. Personally, I think my Japanese skills, especially conversational skills, have improved significantly because I was always in an environment to constantly talk with someone who uses more conversational/casual speech to you – unlike the classroom environments.

Also, being in the shamisen class allowed me to participate in a traditional Japanese music concert, which is a great “authentic Japanese experience”. To me, the fact that I, an American study abroad student, can play alongside Japanese people while wearing their traditional clothes, and go to a big celebration party afterwards gave me the feeling that I was really accepted in the community.

            For those who love music, or who would like to start learning the instrument, I would definitely recommend learning the shamisen under Iwasaki sensei.

            For a quick explanation about what the “general experience” of learning how to play the shamisen is, please look at my first post. (

2 thoughts on “John Cho: Shamisen

  1. I think it’s cool that you were able to improve your conversational skills so much, John, especially since Kansai-ben can be hard to understand.
    Are you going to continue playing the shamisen when you return to the US?

    • Lisa,

      I think I’ll still end up playing the Shamisen time to time in the US. But the priority over other instrument might be lower, because I don’t have access to any solo Shamisen pieces. I asked my teacher if she had access to any of them, so I’m waiting for her response 🙂