Biwa for American


There are no stores that sell affordable biwa to American players. I’m wondering if anyone living in Japan can find a cheap, introductory model that I can buy. It’s odd because you can go on eBay and buy Chinese pipa for anywhere from $50 to $6000. Japanese biwa is nowhere for less than $3000. I’m looki for a satsuma biwa.


Hey Derik,

I’ve seen a biwa in exactly one store in Hida-Takayama - but I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the future.



Thanks very much!


Derik, I’ve seen them come up on auction, usually not eBay. Condition can be variable-- usually in need of some repair, like strings, missing tuning peg(s), sometimes cracks. Any interest? If so, when a listing comes up and I see it, I can let you know. / You can also price out Taiko Center’s (Kyoto) netshop. They have biwa listed, although I can’t say how reasonable priced or quality.


Yes I would be interested in the auction as long as it isn’t in need of serious repairs. I’ve been online at the taiko center and they are very expensive.


Please somebody help me find a quality satsuma biwa. I’ll do anything. I’ll do things a hooker on colfax in aurora, CO wouldn’t do! There’s a guy on YouTube who’s house is littered with them. Where did he get all those?!


I don’t mind buying and forwarding it for you, but please make sure there are no customs issues, such as ivory, bekko and the like. Also, its a lot of money to trust with an internet stranger :S


Holy, $#€¥! Bro you found the mother load!! Look at all these beautiful biwa!!


Some of them such as these are very inexpensive! Do you know why?


Well its an auction site, so the price will usually jump drastically a few hours/minutes before the end. Also since its private sellers (some are actually stores though) its generally cheaper than a store, but then you lack having someone with a reputation having gone over it.


Oh I see! Are there any on there that are reasonably priced, not significantly damaged, and sold by a store so we don’t have to bid?


Deric, but who will teach you biwa?


There is someone who teaches in Oakland.


Oh fantastic! Anyway, I want to know him/her. Do you know something about him/her?


The teacher?


The biwa teacher is Yoko Hiraoka


Ok ok… well, I think Hiraoka Yoko plays/teaches chikuzen biwa. She also plays koto, shamisen and juushichigen. I know her, not very well, but I do. I don’t have great friendship with her. Well, I think there are not biwa players in USA, except Yoko. I’m really not sure if you (Deric) can contact someone (Japanese sites!!!) and can organize skype lessons… but it’s difficult. Regarding my experience, when I contacted biwa players, in the majority of cases, they didn’t want to play with us in the wapop. Ah, the wapop is the project I told you about Rin’, and I posted a thread regarding it, as a request for a member, who wanted to know


Oh I see! Are there any on there that are reasonably priced, not significantly damaged, and sold by a store so we don’t have to bid?

A not insignificant number of sellers on Yahoo Auctions are stores or branches of of second-hand chains.

Even then, buy out options tend to be kind of rare; or are accompanied with high starting prices or high close-outs.

The cheapest buy-out currently listed for biwa is:

So 50,000 Yen or 444.94 dollars.

Whether that’s a good price or not is beyond me. I can parse shamisen prices, but my experience with biwa is approximately nil.

To be honest, you’re better off scrolling through auctions to try to find a few that are in decent condition and watching how the prices tend to pan out to get an idea of what you’d expect to pay from the service.

If you can’t read Japanese, make use of google translate and pay close attention to the pictures.


Per CITES, it needs to be confirmed over 100 years old to get through customs, should it be found. And getting that level of confirmation can be hard.

Instruments with it are usually listed as such, so a Ctrl F search of 象牙 should tell you if it’s there.


Thanks very much! I think I found a good one for a decent price. I found one for a really good price but it was missing the upper bridge and I don’t have the wood working skill to make one.


But why has the instrument to be more than 100 years?