First Research Recording of the Azuma School Nigenkin, a Two-Stringed Zither

Recording scene (from left to right: TOSHA Rosen IX and TOSHA Rokou)

 On November 29th, 2023, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted the first research recording of the Azuma school two-stringed zither nigenkin in the recording room of the Performing Art Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

 The Azuma school nigenkin is a school of the Japanese two-stringed zither, an instrument in which two silk strings are stretched over a wooden body and played with a plectrum. The school was founded in Tokyo in the early Meiji era by TOSHA Rosen I, based on the two-stringed zither yakumogoto used in Shinto rituals. It is said that the Azuma school nigenkin became quite popular in the mid-Meiji era, as a female master of the instrument appears in NATSUME Soseki’s novel I am a Cat.

 In March 1973, TOSHA Rosui (later Rosen VI) and TOSHA Rosetsu (later Rosen VII) were selected by the government as holders of ‘Intangible Cultural Properties that need measures such as making records,’ and in March 2002, TOSHA Rosen VIII was registered as a holder of Intangible Cultural Property designated by the Taito Ward. However, as there are now only a few people carrying on the tradition and only a limited number of pieces have been recorded on publicly available audiovisual material, we decided to make new research recordings.

 The first recording included six pieces: ‘Mado no tsuki (lit. The Moon at the Window),’ ‘Hototogisu (Lesser Cuckoo),’ ‘Hatsuaki (Early Autumn),’ ‘Kinuta (Fulling Block),’ ‘Shiki no En (The Beauty of the Four Seasons),’ and ‘Sumidagawa (Sumida River).’ All the pieces were composed by Rosen I and their lyrics were included in Azuma-ryū Nigenkin Shōgashū published in 1885. They are performed by TOSHA Rosen IX and TOSHA Rokou, members of Azuma-kai, the performing group of the Azuma school of two-stringed zither music.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue recording rare performances and precious full-length performances.

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