Improvised shamisen strings (when you can't get them)


I don’t live in Japan and can’t get things shipped from Japan to here.

Is there anything that I could use as a string in a pinch? Like things that can be bought at hardware stores, etc.

I have run out of 2nd strings and have a show in Friday.


I’ve read that fishing line could work, as long as the thickness is relatively the same as your ito. A quick search should get some dimensions. You might want to play around with the different thicknesses to make sure they fit in your itomaki nicely and sound good. Good luck!


Probably try to tie fishing line to the end of what string I have left and roll it onto the itomaki.


I’m pretty sure shamisen Katoh does international shipping. Why not send him an email?

I can ship them for you if you trust me with pay-pal or something. (I promise I wont steal your 1000 or so yen… :p) According to JP post website its just 290 yen to send a “small package” to Kenya.



Thank you, that’s kind. If I lived in a country with a dependable postal system, I would just order them, but unfortunately, I live in Kenya. No guarantee that it would actually get to me haha.

Thank you.



Hi Pete,

Did you ever find a replacement for shamisen strings?
I’m thinking of trying nylon guitar strings and seeing if that will work.

Thanks in advance,



I have used (and still use for that matter) nylon guitar strings on my shamisen before, both for the first string and the second string. It has a warmer and slightly different tone than twisted silk strings, but I think they work great. I forget the exact sizes I use for the first and second strings, but they should be standard nylon classical guitar string sizes - I just brought in the silk strings for size comparison when buying them at a local music store. They are dirt cheap, and while a bit on the short side, they last forever. I have been using them nearly exclusively now on my cheaper shamisen to save money on silk strings. I have also made my own twisted synthetic strings from nylon, polyester, and kevlar as well, but these aren’t really something that someone would use in a pinch, since it takes some extra equipment and a lot of practice. But I would say that monofilament nylon classical guitar strings are a great alternative to silk strings, regardless if you need them in a pinch or not.


Braided nylon fishing line works pretty well if you can find it there.


I have had success using even the lowest grade fishing line.


I’m convinced that nylon classical guitar strings are simply the lowest grade fishing line with a 5000% markup


They are.