What kind of shamisen is it?

So I thought, I knew what kind of shamisen I have at home. However, the more I read here, the less I am sure of what it actually is, except for the fact that it is not a tsugaru :))) I got this shamisen through ebay, secondhand, and the only info “it´s the instrument played by geishas”. It has a mitsuori sao, no grooves, no embellishments. The tenjin is missing the kamigoma and is cracked - something that was not shown on ebay, and shortly after I got it, it fell apart (any tips on what proper glue to use? :wink: ) Overall, I love it because it is my first shamisen and I plan to put it back together!

Here are some pictures of all I could find on and around the instrument. Thank you to anyone who can put more light into the matter! :slight_smile:


The only paper sticker inside. You can see that here was another one but someone peeled it off :frowning:


Markings on the kawa:

IMG_0503 IMG_0504

Doukake that came with the shamisen, it fits well.


And finally, the itomaki with extra holes :slight_smile:
IMG_5143 IMG_5144


The doukake indicates that the dou is sized for jiuta, and that skin is more than 30 years old.

It’s missing it’s kamigoma/nut and has an en sawari. En-sawari are somewhat cheaper than azuma sawari, but fulfill the same role.

How wide is the neck near the tenjin and near the dou? It’s hard to tell from your pictures, but is that a hatomune on the Sao?

The wood seems to be karin.

Hi all ! Christopher, in the first picture we clearly see a hatumone. I noticed a jiuta doukake too… Another kind of hybrid shamisen, unless the doukake is a little bit too big…

Hello Christopher and Patrick! Thank you for your reply!

Ah, yes, sorry, I forgot to include the sao measures. The whole sao measures around 99,6cm.

Here are measures at the tenjin (I took one on the top and one from side to side).
IMG_0694 IMG_0695

Measures at the dou:

And here the hatomune slope:

The sao sits correctly in the dou, there are matching inscribed number on both the sao and the dou so we can probably eliminate that a seller just grabbed whatever was under his hands and put it together :slight_smile: Something I am not sure about the doukake. I checked it again today and it does not fit snuggly, that is, it looks good but doesn´t exactly hold on unless tightened with the cords. When on the dou, the doukake has a cca 3mm gap on one side but that disappears when the little doukake “cover” (sorry, I don´t know how it´s called) is on.
Couldn´t really take a picture of it. I hope it makes sense though.

Thank you for your time and explanation! Much appreciated! :slight_smile:


Mhm, just making sure. I was 75% sure it had a hatomune, but I don’t always trust views from above.


Thanks for posting neck measurements. Just to be clear, those calipers are measuring in centimeters, right?

Is that less than 2 cm? Am I reading that right?

I am not. I need more coffee. Hold on.


Your neck’s width varies between 2.6 cm and about 2.8 cm. That’s a chuuzao.

Your body is clocking in at around 18.xx cm by 20.xx

Referencing my prior post which references my notes on dou size:

Nagauta - 19.7 x 17.88

Min’yo / Hauta / Kouta
Go Rin Dai - 19.85 x 18.03

Ichi Bu Go Rin Dai - 20.15 x 18.33
Ni Bu Dai - 20.3 x ? ( 18.48)

Gidayu / Tsugaru
San Bu Dai - 20.61 x ? (18.79)
San Bu Yon Rin Dai - 20.73 x ? (18.91)
Yon Bu Dai - 20.91 x ? (19.09)

Go Bu Dai - 21.21 x 19.39
Roku Bu Dai - 21.52 x ? (19.7)
Nana Bu Dai - 21.82 x ? (20)

We see that this is an ichi-bu-go-rin-dai or ni-bu-dai body. Both are often used in Jiuta, although they do appear elsewhere.

In Sum:

You have a hatomune chuuzao with a jiuta sized body and an en-sawari.

This could have been cobbled together from different parts, a custom job, or the like… but it doesn’t fit neatly into any modern genre’s expectation.

But hey, having a specific subtype is much less important than knowing what you’ve got and what to expect from it. An en-sawari means you’ll be able to easily adjust the sawari, a bigger resonator means a slightly thumpier, bassier sound. The presence of a hatomune instead of a squared off neck does mean you lose out on those higher register positions… but they’re rarely used outside of tsugaru.

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Hello Christopher!
Thank you for the thourough explanation, as always! :slight_smile:

The calipers part in the beginning made me laugh! I don´t use them often and when I do, I always have to adjust to where I should look for the measurment.:blush: Good thing, coffee exists.

Hmm, so it does not fit anywhere. Good to know, I was already getting confused. Too bad, there is no possibility to trace it´s history, why it was made so. Hopefully, I will be able to put it back together, still building that skin streching tool.

Anyway, thank you so much for all the input, I always learn so much from your posts!

Take care!