Studying koto and shamisen / Deciding on Japan’s Traditional Culture!

Studying koto and shamisen

As the Seiha hōgaku-kai has branches throughout the country, it is possible there is a qualified instructor in the vicinity. If you need a recommendation for a local instructor, please feel to contact the Seiha hōgaku-kai with your desires: the time, the day, which instrument you wish to study, and the repertoire that interests you.

Feel free to send messages to the following e-mail address:

Lectures and Auditing!

The Seiha iemoto holds a workshop once a month in Tokyo to which all are welcome. There is a summer workshop for students planning to take the qualifying junshihan examination that is also open to all interested.

It is also possible to audit classes at the Seiha Conservatory, all of which are designed to be of interest and educational value. These classes are open to the general public.

Feel free to send messages to the following e-mail address:

Deciding on Japan’s Traditional Culture!

Qualifying Examination (Jun-shihan)

For those aspiring to professional instructor status, the Seiha hōgaku-kai has two qualifying examinations: the jun-shihan ‘semi-licensed teacher’ and the shihan ‘fully licensed teacher’, the distinction being that the jun-shihan can provide instruction for either koto or shamisen instruction while the shihan is qualified to teach both instruments.

The founder of the Seiha hōgaku-kai, Nakashima Utashito, believed that it was necessary for professional musicians to acquire technical abilities as well as a theoretic and historical knowledge of sōkyoku-jiuta. With this belief, he established a pedagogic system that combined both applied music skills with music history, and resulted in the establishment of the Seiha hōgaku-kai examination system, the first of these examinations held in 1924. The examinations have continued since then, and the 485th examination was held in March 2017. At this point, over 9,000 students seeking professional teaching qualification have successfully passed the jun-shihan examination.

Examination Contents

Applied music: Four genres are included in the performance section of the examination: classical works, neo-classical works, instrumental works, and vocal works. The examinee is also required to perform a fifth piece of their choice. For the remaining four categories, the examinee will be requested to perform one of three pieces for each category, these pieces changing each year.

Academic subjects: The examinees are tested in their comprehension of the history of the Seiha hōgaku-kai, Japanese music history, music theory, music dictation and more.

The examinations are held five or six time each year in the following locales: Tokyo, Nagano, Ise, Sapporo, Otsu, and Kanazawa. Please contact the Seiha hōgaku-kai main office for information regarding qualifications for the jun-shihan examination and exam dates.

Upon successful completion of the examination, the students are awarded with licenses attesting to their qualifications by examination as well as a plaque, which allows them to begin teaching. The student also acquires a unique professional name, and they also can participate in a variety of different Seiha hōgaku-kai sponsored performances.

The Seiha Dōjō

In 1937, the first iemoto, Nakashima Utashito, constructed a new training centre at the Seiha headquarters in Ichigaya, which he then called the Seiha dōjō.

Training at the Seiha dōjō is considered to be directly under the iemoto, and all three instruments—koto, shamisen, and seventeen-stringed bass koto—can all be studied privately. Every year, there is a New Year’s performance by the students at the Seiha dōjō designed to promote a sense of cohesion as the students can interact as a group. It also provides the students with an opportunity to meet the iemoto informally. Anybody may study here. The Seiha dōjō provides instruction in traditional notation as well as Western staff notation, and is very open to new ideas.


Nakashima Yasuko
Miyamoto Masatoki
Ōkubo Garei
Uno Utae
Nakashima Kazuko
Seki Masami



The Seiha Ensemble

In 1947, Nakashima Yasuko established the Seiha gassōdan, which she continues to direct. The Seiha gassōdan was the first ensemble of Japanese instruments and remains a vibrant presence with numerous performances. The members are all Ikuta-school performers, and perform compositions for koto, shamisen, and seventeen-stringed bass koto. The classical repertoire serves as their foundation, but they also perform neo-classic works from the Meiji period, compositions by Miyagi Michio, Hisamoto Genti, and in particular have premiered works by Hirai Kōzaburō, Yuize Shin’ichi, and other composers. The ensemble performs widely for stage, broadcasts, and also has made numerous commercially available recordings. The main ensemble is based in Tokyo; however, there are eight other ensembles based in local city throughout the country, which also function as musical training to improve the level of musical performance by traditional musicians.

The Seiha Ensemble

Region Year of Establishment Director Location
Seiha Ensemble 1947

Nakashima Yasuko
Ōkubo Garei
Takahata Masashito
Niwa Gain (Theory)

Sapporo Seiha Ensemble 1982 Miyamoto Masatoki Sappopro
Tōhoku Seiha Ensemble 1986 Uno Utae Sendai
Nagano Seiha Ensemble 1983 Miyamoto Masatoki Nagao
Tōshin Seiha Ensemble 1972 Ōkubo Garei Ueda
Matsumoto Seiha Ensemble 1960 Miyamoto Masatoki Matsumoto
Hokuriku Seiha Ensemble 1983

Takahata Masashito
Okuno Gashō

Tōkai Seiha Ensemble 1955 Kakui Utaki Nagoya
Hanshin Seiha Ensemble 1966 Niwa Gain Osaka
Address all inquires concerning auditions and other matters to the Seiha Ensemble.

Notable Performances

1959 The first performance of the Seiha Ensemble, ‘Nakashima Yasuko and the Seiha Ensemble’.
1985 The Seiha Ensemble performed for the World Exposition in Tsukuba.
1992 The Seiha Ensemble performed with Bandō Tamasaburō in Taipei, Taiwan.
1994 The Seiha Ensemble held a series of concerts in various locations throughout the United States.
1996 The Seiha Ensemble performed with Yoyo Ma and Bandō Tamasaburō.
1997 The Seiha Ensemble held its seventh concert marking its 50th anniversary.
2004 The ensemble performed for the opening ceremony of the Japan-America All Star Baseball Series.
2007 The Seiha Ensemble’s tenth concert celebrated the composition of Yuize Shin’ichi and Nakashima Yasuko as well as the ensembles 60th anniversary.
2015 The Seiha Ensemble celebrated Nakashima Yasuko’s 90th birthday with a concert of her compositions.

Qualifications for Entering the Seiha Ensemble

Auditions determine who can enter the ensemble
The Tokyo Seiha Ensemble holds auditions once a year; however, the regional ensembles are not held on a regular basis. Regardless of which audition is had, it is possible to enter the ensemble of one’s choice. There are no requirements for school affiliation or certification. Instead, the basic musicianship to participate in ensemble works is necessary, as is the willingness to participate in rehearsals.
The Tokyo Seiha Ensemble meets three times a month while the regional ensembles meet once a month.


The audition pieces are Chidori no kyoku and Kara-ginuta. The applicant may choose the part they wish to play for Kara-ginuta.
Basic musicianship is also tested.

Audition expense: The audition costs 5,000 yen

Inquiries and Applications:

All inquiries should be placed with the Seiha Ensemble Office:
Seiha Hōgaku-kai Kaikan
3 Sanai-chō Ichigaya
Tokyo, 162-0846
Tel. 03-3268-2965
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:00 to 18:00.

The International Summer School

In 2016, the Seiha hōgaku-kai initiated an international summer school, a program specifically designed for overseas’ participants with classes on Japanese traditional music conducted in English. There are very few such courses available in Japan. This intensive week-long course was first held from 7 August 2017 to 13 August, and the Seiha hōgaku-kai intends to continue offering this program every summer.

For further details, please access the following link:

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