I’d like to start playing shamisen! Though I don’t know how to start. Where should I seek to purchase my first instrument?
If you want to learn about the instrument and what is required to play watch Crash Course 1 (free) in the “School” section, especially the "Know Your Shamisen: and “Preparing Your Shamisen” sections.
My budget is (paste here a “poor student” joke) around 200$.
You might want to consider building your own, in which case the Shamisen of Japan book is essential. It will take time and effort but the result will be an actual Tsugaru shamisen.
If you’re more interested in starting to play search online for “Shamisen Box mini.” A basic set (shamisen, bachi, no azuma-sawari, instruction book) costs about $170 + shipping which is perfect for your budget.
I also found quite cheap, used one on eBay. And to my inadept knowledge it seems fine…
The 3rd photo shows a gouge in the sao. I would not buy that unless you have woodworking skill.
I’m sure an experienced luthier could fix it I but why pay for a costly repair instead of spending more on an instrument in better condition?
The Shamisen Box mini is slightly less expensive through the maker’s global website. They also offer the Shamisen Box (upgraded materials) starting at US $220.00 + shipping.