Mysterious auction shamisen

Hi friends!

I recently won an auction for a used tsugaru shamisen and it’s finally arrived. It’s a handsome boy but it has a couple things that I’m wondering about… I’m fairly certain it’s a tsugaru: the base of the neck is 3cm, it has the extended fingerboard and the chunky itomaki? Pictures below!

Anyway, my biggest concern is that the skin that it came with doesn’t feel like a natural skin. I have a nagauta shamisen where the skin is more like a rough, papery texture (I’m assuming this is a natural standard skin) but the tsugaru has a very plastic-y type with a strange vinyl layer?? When I feel the inside of the dou, it actually feels very rough-papery and solid despite the weird smooth, plastic outer surface. When it’s played, it sounds robust but something just doesn’t add up… Has anyone had experience in this before?

Also, it came with a black bachi with what I can only guess (and hope) is bekkou. The handle of the bachi is cracked though. Any ideas how to repair this?

I did some searching from the website on the sticker and I’m wondering if the skin is a result of this infochart:

There’s mention of some double layer patented technique for the skin.

Hi there.

Natural skin generally looks and feels like tightly pulled leather, as that’s what it is! Generally speaking, a close inspection will reveal pores or even nipple holes.

Based on your pictures, I do not think that’s a natural skin. The exterior texture looks much more like what we see with ripple and similar, modern synthetics. Take this appraisal with a grain of salt, as I am not there to view it in person.

Your bachi is likely waterbuffalo horn and bekkou. The lamination on the horn is breaking down, which has caused the splitting you see. I cannot advise on repair.

Nichiwagakki is the original vendor for your neck, but as for the actual maker… I am unsure. This particular model [down to the purple, cloth doukake], or something very much like it, is sold from lots of shops.

Thanks so much, Brown for your insight!

The shamisen also came with an adhesive dou gomu from maybe 5+ years. It was so crusted over and falling apart… It took a couple days to scrape it off and run off the extra adhesive with alcohol… The dou doesn’t look damaged but that was my biggest worry about using alcohol on the wood surface… whew*