Sarah plays the koto

Curious about the koto?

The koto—Japanese zither—plays an important role in my book, The Same Moon, the story of when I had to run far, far away to find my way home.

Joining a koto club gave me a role to play in the small Japanese town where I spent two years … and which I still carry in my heart.

At an April 2019 launch party for the first edition, friends asked me to play the koto, so they could take a photo. But one took a video instead. Here are a few bars of “Sakura”—“Cherry Blossoms.”

Kids love the koto. This little guy used his grandma’s smartphone/flashlight to peer inside the belly of the koto. (I had told him the koto’s parts are named like a dragon’s: mouth, eyes, belly, tail, claws … )

A young child peeks inside the koto

This is what koto music looks like. It’s a form of tablature and is read top to bottom, right to left.

I was very fortunate to find a koto school when we moved to the Portland, Oregon, area and played with Seiha Miyabi Kai from 2005 until it disbanded in 2014. I still miss my sensei (who retired and moved away) and fellow koto musicians—both here and in Yamaguchi, Japan.

Click here to read “Zithering Away,” my essay exploring the koto, which was published in 2012 in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.

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