Getting a shamisen from Japan


Hello Bachido community! I am so glad I finally joined! I am new to the shamisen and besides listening to this awsome instrument, I have been looking at different options on how to get one home. I was wondering if anybody has recently gotten a shamisen through Yahoo Auctions (sent internationally) and if so, what is in it? My main concern is about the paperwork involved due to CITES regulations. But seeing how shamisens at Y Auctions are listed as junk, I just had to ask… :wink: Thank you for any info!


Hey there, welcome.

Your primary concerns with CITES will be ivory, tortoiseshell, and rosewood.

Avoid those and you’re fine, get them and you’ll need documentation proving they’re a certain age.

Outside of that, dog leather is technically prohibited due to a non-CITES law aimed at controlling certain Chinese imports. I’m not sure if it covers personal items.


Hi Christopher, thank you! Yes, I guess it’s the only way. I wouldn’t go for anything with ivory or tortoise shell but it’s rather the wood part that is more tricky for me to recognize. I didn’t know about the dog skin though, glad you told me! Once again, thanks! :slight_smile:


Generally speaking, instruments marked as 花梨 (Karin) or 紅木 (Kouki) are… fine. Neither is common, and the latter is especially rare. In fact, (or Red Sandalwood) is on CITES - but worked items aren’t prohibited yet.

紫檀(Shitan) used to be in the clear. Although it’s a rosewood, it’s not the long desired, horrendously uncommon Brazilian version. However, in the last year or so all rosewoods (Brazilian and otherwise) have been added to the appendixes, requiring documentation to prove acceptability. We can thank the explosive consumption in China for that.



As an addendum:

Generally speaking, those three (花梨,紫檀, and 紅木) are the primary woods you’ll encounter. Very occasionally you’ll see other woods used, such as 白紅木 (a traditional wood for Kouta shamisen) or Purple Heart (also used on the Bachido Sakura shamisen).

Some custom jobs utilize maple, so you may see that as well. Keep your eyes peeled.


I have a shamisen for sale. If interested, contact me.


Thank you Christopher! Your explanation made things a lot clearer. Now I will know what to look for (and learn some new kanji along the way!). I’ll keep watching and hopefully, one of these days… :wink:
p.s. Sorry for the delay in replying.


Hi, can you give me more information please?


Oh, and if you can email me at as I don’t check bachido every day.

thank you!