The powerful strumming style of the Tsugaru shamisen
Tsugaru Shamisen Izakaya (Pub)
The sound of the Tsugaru Shamisen transcends words, reverberating within the souls of all who hear. Long ago, the stringed instruments were the livelihood of blind musicians in Aomori Prefecture’s northwestern Tsugaru region.
Here, shamisen players endured bitter cold and heavy snowstorms, trekking from home to home to play for their suppers, dependent wholly on their musical talent and the generosity of strangers. Knowing how the musicians of old suffered to pass down their rich traditions, the mournful tone of Tsugaru’s shamisen becomes even more heartrending.
Usually played with a powerful strumming style, the Tsugaru Shamisen is also associated with a long legacy of improvisation. The first blind shamisen players made their music without following scores, relying instead on raw and masterful improvisational skills. Even now, a shamisen player’s technique is imbued with their individual styles and emotions, with unique rhythmical variations said to resemble jazz and blues.
Several spots in Aomori put this unique musical tradition center stage, offering guests good food and drink as they listen to authentic Tsugaru Shamisen performances. One such establishment is Tsugaru Joppari Isariya Sakaba, a Japanese pub that resembles an old farmhouse. Every evening at 7:00 p.m., not a single seat in the house is empty as the shamisen master begins to tune his strings. During winter months, the shamisen’s passionate notes ward off the intense cold with intimate, heart-stirring performances.
On a special night out in Aomori, savor delicious local cuisine and sake as the traditional songs of Tohoku offer solace to weary souls.
Enjoy lively shamisen while indulging in good food and drink
A night in Aomori with senses heightened by flavorful drink
- Tsugaru Joppari Isariya Sakaba
- 2-5-14 Honcho, Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture 030-0802
- +81 17 722 3443
- http://marutomisuisan.jpn.com/isariya-tugaru/#top(Japanese Only)
- Open hours:
- 17:00 – 24:00
- About 15 minutes on foot from JR Aomori Station
- Along with Aomori’s local sake and local cuisine, it is a pub where you can enjoy Aomori with the senses and enjoying the sound of the Tsugaru Shamisen.