Jongara Bushi, and Hirosaki Taikai Questions.

I was wondering (again) about Tsugaru Shamisen Taikai,and about Jongara Bushi.

Every Jongara Bushi is different,correct?

Do we need to create a special Choshi Awase that combines to with our Jongara?

And about Taikai,what are the rules,and what is considered(techniques used,style,SPIRIT?)?

I watched a video from Kevin’s Channel showing takes from Hirosaki Taikai,I didn’t know. That they sold things there,it’s cool!

Oh, if you win,what will you win?

Are there different prize “ranks”?

This may help newcomers who will participate in 2013 taikai

Shinji san,
I do not know much about Hirosaki Taikai, but as far as I see the official cite, you are required to have Tsugaru Shamisen experience for three years or more if your age is at 16-- 44 for individual entry. Junior and senior categories do not have any experience requirement.
Group entry requires just 5 members or more.
For further details, please visit,
I am so sorry this cite is written only in Japanese.

Hi Shinji,
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.

Love the videos Gerry!

I think what makes the most difference between the girl’s two clips is that she has learned to maintain the rhythm and since that is so important in music her playing becomes so much better, together with the other techniques she has become better at.

I’d also like to add to Gerry’s statement that you should never feel that since you are an adult you should automatically perform so much better than young players. Of course, most 10-year-olds won’t have the same muscle strength and experience with their body to compete with an adult, but when it comes to 16-year-olds I would say the only thing that will differ compared to an adult would be experience and practice.

If you are older you should have had time for this, but if you started out as an adult you could obviously not have practiced that much yet. Also remember how fast Masahiro Nitta became really good.

I was playing for only a year when I first competed in the C class.
I went to Japan with Kevin and Mike Penny. We all entered the Hirosaki and Kanagi taikai solo.
It was extremely nerve-wracking, and I was pretty much a terrible mess.
However, it was the best experience of my life at the time. It was crucial in my discovery of myself, and learning to not be discouraged by supposed “failure”. Every year since, I have continued to compete, and it has been a constant push for me to learn traditional Tsugaru Shamisen, and forced me to improve.

Year one:



Year two:



Year three:



There are more, but this should give you an idea, lol.

Actually, why not, here are the rest.

Year four:



The improvement over the years is pretty apparent in the timing and rhythm.
So like I said, please don’t be afraid to play poorly. Everyone working together to strengthen the community and learn is what keeps it all going strong!

I listened to all of the videos at work. It’s really inspiring to hear such improvement! What group(s) did you compete in?

In year 2 at Kanagi, did you feel that it was hindering you in any way that there were other shamisen players playing while you played?

Grant, it is so kind of you to share all the precious videos with us! Your play is wonderful and progress year by year is amazing!!! I was so impressed and encouraged much.
Japanese here looked happy to have a good looking American here in Taikai and make it international(^o^)

Anyone knows the rules at the taikai?

What is considered when you are playing?

As for Hirosaki Taikai cite, I could not find anything like judging standard.
Here is rough translation of Nagoya Taikai items for judging standard
Full score is 100 in total

  1. Good tuning Should be well tuned at the end of play
  2. Use of maebachi and ushirobachi
  3. Otojime. Not linger not cut
  4. Correct Tsubo
  5. Clear and clean sound
  6. Volume
  7. Natural rhythm
  8. Effectiveness on complicated phrase
  9. Total natural streaming
  10. Originality

Hope this can give you some Taikai image.

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However, as Grant showed us, repeated participation and practice makes it perfect, I guess, before thinking.


If you are interested please review all the details of Tai Kai. Such a long and detailed description was just recently our big bachido topic.

I think many questions regarding the tai Kai rules and how it is set up and how to prepare have already been answered with such Long posts with answers from many bachido memebers who have already gone.

It’s all on the thread titled Hirosaki Tai Kai 2013. Started by Pat D.

Please read all the answers posted there. If you still have questions please share those but I think you will find most of what you might ask already.

Here is the topic of Hiorsaki 2013. Almost 100 replies. It’s a lot of information but that is why I say look here if you are wondering about anything regarding tai Kai and how to prepare and there is some very detailed info about the judges and how to judge etc.

Thank you. Can you elaborate about Otojime? Is it a specific technique?