Listen to an old Japanese nationalist playing the shamisen in Yasukuni Shrine
I took a walk at lunchtime today up to Yasukuni Jinja – the Shinto shrine that former Prime Minister Koizumi’s ‘private’ visits to caused so much trouble for Japan’s relations with its neighbors. It is late autumn now, and the shrine grounds were covered with fallen bright yellow ginkgo leaves, and the air filled with the distinctive odor of the fallen and rotting ginkgo nuts.
Something caught my ear as soon as I crossed Yasukuni-dori Avenue to get to the shrine: the sound of the Japanese shamisen: a three-stringed instrument something like a lute. Upon entering the grounds, the first thing I noticed was a couple of right-wing sound vans (i.e. black vans packing massive speakers on top that the right wing harangues the citizens from) parked there. They were not in action though – just parked.
Not far from them, sitting on the base of a stone lantern was an old man plucking the shamisen. He was wearing a shirt plastered with nationalist slogans. I took a pic of him, and pulled out my MP3 recorder and recorded a minute or two of his playing. You can hear the sounds of the shamisen by clicking on the link at the top.
After listening to him I wandered on, taking in the leaves, as were a couple of Japanese Catholic nuns who were taking in the cool golden afternoon.
I had to be back at the office so reluctantly left the sunny grounds behind me, and the grizzled old shamisen player, plunk plunking away into the distance.
Read more about Yasukuni Shrine here.
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Japan Tokyo shamisen Yasukuni
Monday, December 18, 2006