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.

The Same Moon -- cover detail

At a book launch party in April 2019, some friends asked me to play the koto, so they could take a photo. But they 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.

[photos to come … ]

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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