I'm trying to buy a shamisen, and I need help

Hello guys! I’ve been very interested in shamisen lately and decided to buy one, but finding a good seller who ships to my country is hard, especially when you are on a budget. Anyways I found this product: Tsugaru Shamisen Special Set – Itone Japan which seems nice, but again I know very little so if any of you would find something wrong with this product or site, that would be appreciated. Suggesting other products would be great help too. Looking forward to any replies, and a great thank you to anyone who decides to help out! (And sorry for my bad English, it isn’t my first language)

Hello, welcome.

Itone is Shamisen Rakuya’s website for foreign customers - they’re a legitimate business here in Toyama. Takuya, the owner, has done skin repair on two of my shamisen!

Right now, I see two shamisen sets angled at people starting out. The one you linked and Standard Shamisen Set – Itone Japan

Aside from the price difference, they have a lot in common. If you’re working on a budget, you might prefer the cheaper option. You should check with the shop about what is exactly different though.

In terms of quality… both are fine.

The shamisen are made from padauk. We usually call it “karin” here in Japan. Karin is the standard wood for shamisen bodies (dou). It’s common to find it used for cheaper shamisen necks too. The neck is a nobezao. Nobezao do not break down into three pieces. It is common for cheaper shamisen (and absurdly expensive shamisen) to be nobezao. They are easier to make but more prone to warping over time. They may have better sustain than mitsuori-sao shamisen (which break down into three pieces).

The skin is a synthetic called hakuho. You can hear Takuya play it in the video. Sounds pretty okay, yeah? One of my instruments has a hakuho skinning on it. I prefer my natural leathers, but hakuho has its merits.

It’s reasonably durable, although you must take care with heat (don’t leave it in a hot car!). As synthetics go, it’s sound is fairly neutral. I do here that synthetic bite in the percussion, but the string sounds are all nice enough.

The bachi packaged with your link looks like the TOA Orca. It’s a resin/plastic bachi. It’s extremely comfortable to use.

The koma looks like standard tsugaru-fare. Not too tall, made of bamboo (and perhaps bone), and likely easy to play on.


Buying from Itone isn’t a bad choice. You’re buying from an actual shop, so there’s going to be some support if you have issues in the future.

If you want to shop around, you can look here on Bachido, over at Ezofuji_japan / Traditional instruments store – EzoFujiJapan, or dig up MurasakiMusic on etsy.

All have used instruments available. Bachido also has New stuff made by Tokyo Wagakki - which is all excellent.

If you want more support or guidance in choosing an instrument, you could get in touch with Shamisen Tanaka - but he’s not cheap.

Other options include Shamisen Katoh, Shamisen Kameya, or my other local stores: Seion (Muramatsu-ya) and Seki-ya(technically a prefecture over :V).

If you want to play the lottery, there are numerous shamisen on the secondary market available in auctions. Sometimes you win big, sometimes you get horribly burned.

Happy hunting :slight_smile:

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Thank you really much for the in depth review and guide, I’ll absolutely refer back to your reply later too! You really eased my worries about trying a new instrument (although I have experience with classical guitar, it is still something new). And I’m grateful for the recommendations for alternative sites and people.

Thank you again for your help, and have a wonderful day!

:+1: Itone Japan and EzoFuji Japan (Nitta-san’s shop), they’re both fantastic. I’ve purchased shamisen-related items from both and my orders were always shipped quickly and safely.

That last shop “is currently not selling on Etsy” and that’s for the best IMHO. :unamused:

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