New kind of shamisen?

While window shopping on mercari I found this:

It looks like the itomaki were replaced with guitar-type tuners, and the neo is made with leather instead of string.

Has anyone here ever seen or played a shamisen like this? Thoughts?

That is a regular second hand Nagauta, possibly in average condition, if not in bad condition, jury-rigged with an “invented” tuning peg and neo.

Here is a breakdown of its issues.

  • The dou is obscured by the Sanshin-style wrap, so you can’t really see what’s going on there. It could be severely scratched, discolored, etc. It also obscures the edges of the skin, especially the corners, so its application can be good, but it also can be awful.
  • The fingerboard looks worn, and the middle part of the sao has a different shade, which usually indicates storage problems, either uneven light exposure or moisture.
  • The new “neo” is probably inspired on some other instrument, and not really an invention, just a cheapening of the piece, which I doubt would have the same longevity of a regular neo. In my opinion, it’s quite ugly.
  • The tuning peg installation seems to have damaged the Zagane, which is a shame, because that star shaped zagane is quite rare, and strikingly beautiful. It seems impossible to reverse this Shamisen to using Itomaki. The zagane also seems oxidized. I have no idea about the durability of this contraption.
  • The tenjin tip was “shaved” due to one or more cracks, but that doesn’t feature in the description.
  • The capo is a 3D printed piece of questionable durability, judging by the piece of leather glued to the hinge. I’m assuming the creator had issues with breaking, and instead of improving the design, they jury-rigged it.
  • And lastly, that’s the worst kind of synthetic skin applied there, a plastic somewhat paperlike. Won’t last much, and you’ll end up with a lemon.

Definitely not worth the price. Not even half that.


I’m just looking, no plans to buy. I find some of the innovations interesting. The stability of guitar tuners is appealing even if I prefer the aesthetics of itomaki. The neo looks to be somewhere between the traditional silk version and new-style hard versions like this. I remember Kyle doing a build with a wooden neo (found it!) so maybe we’re seeing the beginnings of a shift in tradition. Lastly, while I agree that the wrap obscures things a potential customer wants shown in a sale listing, I like the idea of a strap that cradles the instrument without placing stress on the neck joint or drilling strap buttons into the dou.

I think it makes sense that someone would try this with a used instrument. It’s inexpensive enough that they can experiment without breaking the bank. I’m really curious how well the changes work.

I was wondering about guitar tuners the other. As cool as the mega Tsugaru pegs look, actually tuning with them is kind of a pain. :laughing: