top of page

About Koto


The koto is a Japanese traditional instrument which has a very long history. It was first introduced to Japan around the end of the 7th century from China. 

When the koto was first imported to Japan, it was used only by the Japanese Court music (Gagaku). However, the koto spread out of Court society gradually because of a very fascinating instrument.

This wooden instrument is about six feet (180 cm) long, and is made from Paulownia wood. The original koto has thirteen strings. However, there are seventeen strings, twenty strings and twenty-five strings nowadays. 

Thirteen movable bridges called a “ji”. These are placed along the body of the instrument for each string. The koto player can adjust the string pitches by moving these bridges before playing. Tuning depends on each piece. 

The player uses three picks called a “Tsume” which were made from ivory or plastic on the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger to pluck the strings and also the player can perform without pick (Pizzicato). 

The player can use their left hand to bend the strings in the area to the left of the bridge. Pressing the strings toward the koto body causes them to go higher sound and pulling the strings toward the bridge causes them to go lower sound. Their left hand is also used to move the bridges for key changes within the piece. 

The koto is made in the image of the dragon, therefore, the parts of a koto are called Dragon-head, Dragon-tail and Dragon-tongue.






bottom of page