Traditional Japanese Folk Music: Where to Start

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

Traditional Japanese Folk Music can be a great starting point for those who are interested in learning more about the genre. This type of music is known for its use of traditional instruments and for its often-simple melodies.

Traditional Japanese Folk Music- An Introduction

Traditional Japanese folk music is known as min’you, and has been around for centuries. It is often passed down from generation to generation, and has been particularly popular in the rural areas of Japan. Today, traditional folk music is still enjoyed by many Japanese people, and there are various ways to experience it.

One way to experience traditional folk music is to attend a concert or performance. There are often concerts and performances of traditional folk music in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. These events usually feature a variety of different performers, and you can often find information about them online or in local newspapers and magazines.

Another way to experience traditional Japanese folk music is to buy a CD or DVD of a performance. This is a great option if you want to be able to listen to the music at your own pace, or if you want to share it with friends and family. There are many different recordings of traditional folk music available, so you should be able to find one that suits your taste.

If you want to really get involved in traditional Japanese folk music, you could try taking lessons. There are often classes available in major cities, or you could even look for online courses. This option will allow you to learn about the history and tradition of the music, as well as how to play some of the instruments used in it.

The Different Types of Traditional Japanese Folk Music

There are many different types of traditional Japanese folk music, from the well-known shakuhachi and taiko drumming, to lesser known styles such as min’yō and enka. Each type of folk music has its own distinct sound and history. In this article, we will introduce the different types of traditional Japanese folk music, so that you can find the style that is right for you.

The shakuhachi is a type of flute that is traditionally used in Zen Buddhist meditation. The instrument has a very distinctive sound, and is often used in solo pieces or in ensemble pieces with other traditional Japanese instruments. Shakuhachi music often has a calm and relaxing quality to it.

The taiko is a type of drum that is often used in Japanese festivals and ceremonies. Taiko music is very energetic and often features fast-paced drumming patterns. Taiko music is usually performed by a group of drummers, called a taiko band.

Min’yō is a type of folk song that originated in the Edo period (1603-1868). Min’yō songs are typically about love, loss, or nature, and are sung in a high-pitched voice. Min’yō songs often features solo singing with accompaniment from traditional Japanese instruments such as the shamisen or the koto.

Enka is a type of popular music that originated in the Meiji period (1868-1912). Enka songs are typically about love or loss, and are sung in a sentimental style. Enka songs often use Western instruments such as the piano or the guitar, in addition to traditional Japanese instruments.

The History of Traditional Japanese Folk Music

Traditional Japanese folk music (Japanese: 民謡, min’yō) is the folk music of Japan. Min’yō encompasses a wide variety of genres including work songs, dance songs, religious songs, love songs, children’s songs, and ballads. Though min’yō is sometimes used interchangeably with the term “Japanese folk music”, the two terms are not synonymous. “Folk music” (Japanese: 国民音楽, kokuminkōgeki) refers to all music created and performed by the common people of a country, while “traditional folk music” or “min’yō” refers to specific genres which have been passed down orally within Japanese villages since ancient times.

Some of the most well-known and beloved traditional Japanese folk songs include “Awa Odori”, “Soran Bushi”, and “Renraku Taneko”. These songs are often accompanied by traditional dances which add to their festive atmosphere. Many of these songs and dances are still performed today at festivals and other special events.

If you’re interested in learning more about traditional Japanese folk music, a good place to start is with the three songs mentioned above. You can find recordings of these and other popular min’yō tunes on CD or online.

The Instruments Used in Traditional Japanese Folk Music

Traditional Japanese folk music is often played on a variety of different instruments. These include the shamisen (a three-stringed lute), the koto (a 13-string zither), the taiko (a large drum), and the fue (a flute). In addition, a number of other percussion instruments are often used, such as the tambourine and the cymbals.

The Role of Traditional Japanese Folk Music in Society

Music has always played an important role in Japanese society. From religious ceremonies to traditional festivals, music has been used to bring people together and express important cultural values. Traditional Japanese folk music is particularly significant, as it provides a window into the country’s rich history and diverse culture.

If you’re interested in exploring traditional Japanese folk music, there are a few things you should know. First, folk music is typically passed down from generation to generation, so it can be difficult to find recordings of traditional songs. Additionally, many folk songs are connected to specific regions or groups of people, so it’s important to do your research before diving in.

With that said, there are a few key places to start if you’re interested in exploring traditional Japanese folk music. The following albums are all excellent introductions to the genre:

– “The Folk Songs of Japan” by Kazuo Watanabe
– “The Best of Japanese Folk Songs” by Various Artists
– “Traditional Folk Songs from Japan” by Hiroshi Tsutsumi

The Popularity of Traditional Japanese Folk Music

While traditional Japanese music may not be as popular as it once was, there is still a strong interest in it among many people. This type of music often uses a variety of traditional instruments, such as the shamisen, koto, and taiko drums. It can be divided into two main categories: min’yō, which is folk music from the countryside, and urban folk music, known as uta-mono.

The Future of Traditional Japanese Folk Music

There is no denying that traditional Japanese folk music is in a bit of a crisis. In recent years, the number of young people taking up the mantle of these time-honored songs and dances has been in decline. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including the increased popularity of Western music, the pressure of school and work, and the fact that many traditional folk musicians are getting older and retirement looms.

However, there are still some young people who are passionate about keeping traditional Japanese folk music alive. These musicians are often incorporating new elements into their performances, such as rap and hip-hop, to appeal to a wider audience. Additionally, they are working hard to promote traditional Japanese folk music through social media and other channels. While the future of this genre may be uncertain, there are still many people working hard to ensure that it has a place in modern Japanese culture.

Resources for Learning More About Traditional Japanese Folk Music

If you’re interested in learning more about traditional Japanese folk music, there are a few resources you can turn to. The first is the Japanese Folk Music Association, which offers a wide range of resources on the subject, including a directory of folk music groups and festivals around the country.

Another good resource is the Traditional Folk Music website, which provides a wealth of information on the history and tradition of Japanese folk music. This site also has an extensive directory of folk music groups and festivals.

Finally, the Japan Foundation’s Traditional Arts and Culture website provides a range of articles and resources on traditional Japanese arts and culture, including folk music. This site is a great starting point for anyone interested in learning more about traditional Japanese culture.

Ten Traditional Japanese Folk Songs Everyone Should Know

Japanese folk music, or min’yō, is the music of the people. It’s often called “root” music because it’s the foundation of everything that came after it in Japan, including pop and rock. Unlike Western folk music, which is anonymous and changes over time as it’s passed down from one generation to the next, much of Japanese folk music can be traced back to specific composers and performers.

If you’re new to Japanese folk music, here are ten traditional songs everyone should know.

1. “Ai Ja Nai” by Takahashi Chikuzan
2. “Aizome” by Ohta Masakazu
3. “Buryō Kouta” by Matsui Kengyo
4. “Furusato” by Yamamoto Hachidai
5. “Hotaru Koi” by Miyagi Michio
6. “Izumo Ondo” by Hachimura Taizō
7. “Kagome Kagome” by Traditional
8. “Nagauta Shin’yōdōryoku” by Traditional
9. “Sakura Sakura” by Traditional
10. “Yosakoi Soran Bushi” by Traditional

Five Contemporary Artists Keeping Traditional Japanese Folk Music Alive

Though it’s commonly assumed that traditional Japanese music died out long ago, there are actually plenty of contemporary artists keeping the genre alive. Here are five of the best traditional Japanese folk music artists making music today.

1. Higuma Dreaming

2. Natsuki Kurai

3. Nijushiko-Doi

4. Osaka Monaurail

5. The 5, 6, 7, 8’s

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