Otowa Kokoro is a koto school run by Misato Shirasawa, a koto performer and teacher who has studied first with her family, and then at Tokyo University of the Arts. Her grandmother was a koto player, and her mother after her. She followed the family tradition and learned the koto diligently from age 4.
10 years ago she moved to Nagano prefecture, and she just recently expanded her koto school and opened a koto classroom near Matsumoto Castle, where you can learn the instrument.
She offers a one time 45 minute koto experience for visitors and tourist who want to enjoy a traditional Japanese art under the guidance of a skillful teacher.
I recently visited Misato’s koto classroom and took a lesson with her!
The classroom is located near Matsumoto Castle, specifically very close to Agetsuchi bus stop. You will see a sign on the front of the building, but the entrance is on a little side door, as you can see in the picture.
The classroom is a cosy tatami room, where Misato keeps the instruments that her family passed down for generations.
Misato wrote a booklet in English for her English speaking visitors, it explains all there is to know about the koto.
The koto is an instrument that represents a dragon, which in Japan is not evil but sacred. Wa no shirabe, the traditional melodic line of Japan, is one that you cannot find anywhere else, so the instrument sounds characteristic and unique.
It is possible to use the koto to play modern kinds of music, buy Misato prefers to focus on playing traditional tunes. Like many Japanese traditional arts, the koto is a way to express your feelings.
This is Misato performing her composition. She accompanies it with a Japanese waka poem.
After the performance, Misato will teach you your first koto song: Sakura, Sakura! I am sure you have heard this tune before!
Misato will guide you as you learn it so you do not need to worry!
Otowa Kokoro was born from Misato’s desire to communicate with people from all over the world through the koto, of which she is an expert!
She is looking forward to meeting you!
This kind of experience is hard to find, and worth your while. I totally recommend it!
You can book the koto experience from this page!
If you go:
Matsumoto Castle Town Experience Center
4-11-4 Ote, Matsumoto City