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Let's play Koto, a traditional japanese harp,in Soushunan! Soushunan is an old traditional wooden house built in Kyoto, near Nijo Castle. Ms.Harumi Shimazaki, who is a professional Koto player, will teach you how to play Koto.
- Touch traditional Japanese musical instrumental
- Learn Japanese culture and traditional music
- See a 110-years-old wooden house
Soushunan (15 minutes on foot from Nijo Station)
What you need to bring
- English (Beginner)
- 日本語 (Fluent)
The most memorable experience in Japan
Taking a private koto lesson was the most memorable experience of my whole Japanese vacation. The lesson is in a traditional Japanese house in a neighborhood near Nijo Castle. Harumi was very welcoming and encouraging. Although the lesson lasted only a few hours, I learned a lot. I enjoyed playing koto with Harumi. The highlight was her playing a song at the end of the lesson. I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who wants to immerse themselves into Japanese culture.
What a great experience!!
I'm so glad I got to take a koto lesson with Harumi-san! She is a wonderful teacher and I had a great time!
A Kyoto must do!!
What a beautiful experience! Me and my girlfriend went along and had a wonderful time learning the koto. Harumi was really good fun to play with and be taught by. She was patient and funny! She took a real interest in us and making sure that we got the most out of the lesson. The house was beautiful and very traditional and she gave us some background on both the house and the instruments. Although in the suburbs its easy to tie in with other sights and attractions, both the castle and the fire ramen restaurant are in easy walking distance. If I would go back to kyoto I would definitely do this again despite having done it once. It was a real joy to play the instruments with such a helpful patient teacher. THANK YOU HARUMI!!!
Excellent fun and unique in so many ways
My partner and I arrived at the suburban music studio and were pleasantly suprised to see that it is indeed a charming traditional house! After chatting with Harumi at a low table, we walked through some sliding doors to the Koto room and had an excellent time learning about how the Koto is played and practising a traditional song. Harumi even invited her mother (who is also a Koto teacher) to help with the lesson and we had a great time. At the end, Harumi played a song for us and we were truly awestruck by her mastery of the Koto and the beauty with which she played. 10/10 experience and would recommend this to all travellers interested in Japanese culture and learning something unique.
Geraldine Siaw Hong
Excellent Teacher Harumi Sensei
It's my pleasure to visit Harumi Sensei's house to learn Koto. She is nice and kind with patient when teaching me Koto. It's a great experience to learn Koto, and have chance to listen two beautiful pieces performed by Harumi Sensei. Thank you for your hospitality, I enjoy the learning and experience sharing time. I Hope I can visit again very soon.
Beautiful instrument | Lovely teacher and experience
My partner and i have always loved the sweet, soulful sound of the Koto. We were very excited to learn about Harumi-sensei's lessons here in Kyoto. She is an excellent teacher and her mother (also a teacher) joined with us. We learned the history of the koto and were able to play one song by the end of our lesson. I don't know if we will have a chance for another lesson while we are here, but hope to come back and learn another tune. Definitely, a unique experience in Kyoto and nice break from the temples and tourist trail.
L'accueil et la leçon étaient génial, Harumi est vraiment adorable, patiente et enseigne parfaitement son instrument. Le koto est un tres bel instrument qui mérite d'être essayé voir plus si affinité ! je recommande absolument ! encore merci pour ce bon moment :)
Our koto lesson with Mrs Harumi Shimazaki was a very precious and moving
experience. Please please also read what Dory my wife has written (in
French) about this same lesson, in which she adds quite a number other
very touching details which I have not mentioned here.
It was very helpful to have coordination via email (we were glad to have
our rented mobile WiFi device) with the Voyagin office to fix the time and place of
To be on the safe side we had arrived much earlier than the scheduled
time. A kind neighbour helped us find the exact location of the dwelling
of Mrs Shimazaki and told her that we had arrived.
Harumi graciously proposed to give us the lesson immediately. But we
felt we should not disrupt her schedule, so we went off and returned for
our lesson at the appointed time. Also present were Harumi's mother and
Of course in the short time available we could only take the very first
steps towards producing some of the very beautiful sounds of the koto.
Nevertheless we could gain some initial familiarities with the various
subtleties of different kinds of plucking and touching of the strings
which can produce a range of different and touching effects.
I suppose it was of some help that we have some limited familiarity
with western music, being (very) amateur players of the violin and
Harumi chose to teach us to play a simple version of the celebrated
Japanese melody "Sakura" (Cherry blossom). This included reading the
notes of this melody from a page in which they were written, using
traditional Japanese musical notation, some elements of which we
could just begin to understand. She was very patient and
attentive, and also during some parts of the lesson she gave us
free rein to improvise and explore for ourselves, and thus experience some
small part of the wide range of sounds and effects that the koto can
Another particularly beautiful and moving part of the lesson occurred
when Harumi sometimes joined by her mother on the second koto, played
a number of pieces for us, with, as we felt, great skill and devotion.
As a touching souvenir of this remarkable lesson we were given the
above mentioned pages which we had used when beginning to
Throughout the lesson Harumi and her mother and daughter, all made us feel
very welcome indeed in their home. We found ourselves also speaking with
them of other things, beyond the subject of our lesson. We hope we did
not abuse their hospitality by staying too long. They certainly did not
show any kind of impatience with us.
It must be quite difficult to make the translation between Japanese
musical notation and European musical notation, but maybe somewhere,
sometime a friendly website can be set up to do this, if it does not
exist already. Then people like us can be invited to visit that website
before and/or after our lesson.
En consultant l’internet pour préparer notre premier voyage de découverte du Japon, j’ai eu la chance de trouver un site qui proposait une leçon de koto, cet instrument si fin et si délicat, qui nous fait rêver à des voyages lointains et exotiques. Sans avoir trop d’espoirs sur notre capacité à assimiler en une leçon la technique nécessaire pour jouer un air japonais, j’étais très curieuse de voir et de toucher cet instrument. Dès notre arrivée au Japon, j’attendais impatiemment notre rencontre avec Mme Harumi Shimazaki à Kyoto.
Nous avons été reçus si gentiment par Harumi, sa maman et sa fille dans sa maison. Trois générations de femmes sensibles, gentilles et fines, toutes trois musiciennes.
Nous avons fait connaissance autour d’une tasse de thé que Harumi avait gentiment préparé pour nous, puis nous sommes allés vers une salle où se trouvaient deux kotos, celui de Harumi et celui de sa mère. Michael, mon mari, était élève d’Harumi et moi de sa maman. Harumi nous a expliqué comment porter des petits onglets d’ivoire sur nos doigts, puis nous avons commencé à gratter et pincer les treize longues cordes de nos kotos, selon les indications écrites dans des petits cahiers joliment recouverts de papiers colorés. Michael s’est montré bon élève et il était possible de reconnaitre Sakura, la jolie chanson de printemps japonaise. Moi j’ai buté longuement sur un accord, mais mon professeur a été si patiente que j’ai fini par comprendre comment appuyer sur la corde avec la main gauche et gratter deux autres cordes avec la droite !
Michael a alors essayé d’improviser sur l’instrument. Puis Harumi accompagnée de sa mère nous a joué quelques airs de musique classique ancienne japonaise et Sakura, comme elle seule peut le jouer. Partant de cet air si simple, elle a interprété des variations qu’elle a écrites avec une grande virtuosité et une grande sensibilité, nous faisant découvrir des sonorités inconnues, frêles parfois, imposantes et profondes d’autres fois. La quintessence des merveilleuses chansons célébrant le printemps et le passage du temps. J’ai alors ressenti à nouveau combien la musique pouvait nous rapprocher, Harumi, sa mère et sa fille, d’une part et Michael et moi, de l’autre. Tous héritiers de cultures très anciennes et très riches, et qui partageons des grandes difficultés dans nos vies, nos cœurs s’attendrissent en entendant le chant du printemps éphémère. Et ce moment de partage ne s’effacera pas dans nos mémoires.
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