In my opinion, competing solo in Hirosaki is not something you should jump into too quickly. When I say “you” here, I don’t mean you, I mean anyone that is thinking about competing. As Kyoko pointed out, you should have a minimum of three years of Tsugaru shamisen under your belt. You need to create your own version of Jonkara bushi, and to do that you have to listen to and play A LOT.
Sometimes it’s hard to see where you’re at when all you have to compare yourself to are the professional players you hear on CDs or YouTube, so I’m posting some instructive videos here. The first is an 8 year old girl competing after having played for just a year, the second is her a year later, and the third is a group of junior (under 16) players.
There’s a lot to learn from these videos. First, listen to how much better the girl got in that year (this is the encouraging part). Next, ask yourself if you have that kind of tone, and can play all the riffs she is playing (this might be discouraging). If you can’t, remind yourself that she is nine years old, and has played for two years, and that as an adult you’ll be competing, even in the easiest category, with people much better than her.
The third video gives you an idea of how good even ‘junior’ players can be; for adults there are basically four categories (A, B, C, and D) that range from pro-level to beginner. Even being the best player in the D-level is quite an accomplishment. I say all this not to take the wind out of anyone’s sails, but just to let you know what you are up against.
Playing in a group, on the other hand, is a great way to ease yourself in to competition, even if you can’t yet imagine playing solo, since there is a lot less pressure on each player, and newer players can play the easier parts while more experienced players handle the flashy playing.
This is just my opinion, and it would be great to hear what the other players who’ve been to the competitions have to say about this.