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At the beginning of the eleventh century, the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu wrote a novel called "The tale of Genji". The book is about Prince Genji, who has romantic relationships with a number of different women. But much of the book is also about music. Not least, the board zither 'Koto' is given central focus. Prince Genji falls often in love with the music played on Koto by a beautiful court woman before he ever sees who is playing.

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In the story, Prince Genji himself is also adept at playing Koto. During the eleventh century, the instrument had seven silk strings, just like similar instruments in Korea, China and Viet Nam. During the course of several centuries, the Japanese instrument developed in both size and playing style, and today a koto is around two meters in length, usually with 13 strings resting on individual movable bridges.

Koto is often referred to as a national instrument because of its central position in Japanese Gagaku music - as well as in the famous cherry blossom song “Sakura”. But there is also much interest for koto elsewhere in the world; among others, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones have used the koto in recordings.

Museum24:Portal - 2024.04.15
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