Music was an important part of life in Japan´s royal courts from the 500s to the 1500s. at first music at court consisted of a single musician singing a story while playing along on a stringed instrument. In Japan these musicians were often blind priests. Later, groups of musicians and others performed gagaku, or elegant music, at the emperor´s court.
Gagaku featured storytellers, dancers, acrobats, and the world´s first orchestras. All members of the court learned to play the instruments used in gagaku.
Some of the most famous and beautiful instruments are the following:
A sho is a mouth organ made of 17 bamboo pipes.
2. 篳篥（ひちりき） Hichiriki
A hichiriki, or bamboo flute, was used to play the main melody in Japanese court music.
It is a18 cm bamboo flute with 7 holes in the front and 2 in the back. The reed is held in the mouth.
3. 竜笛（りゅうてき） Ryūteki
Four stringed instruments (Heian period)
2. 琴（きん） Kin
Seven strings. Imported in the Nara period, fell out of use during the mid-Heian period. We revigorated in the Edo period but is not widely used today.
3. 和琴（わごん） Wagon
4. 箏（そう） Sō
Arriving from China in the 7th c. At that time there were 12 and 13 stringed instruments in China; it was the 13-stringed instrument that was imported. Made from paulownia wood.
5. 三味線 Shamisen
A shamisen is a long-necked lute.
Play the shamisen by yourself. Click on this link.....
1. 太鼓・大鼓（たいこ） Taiko
A large drum with a painted surface. Originates in China. Struck with a soft mallet.
2. 羯鼓・鞨鼓（かっこ） Kakko
A double-headed, small drum. The drum surface is animal skin. The cords running parallel to the drum can be manipulated to alter the tension of the drums surface, and so the sound of it. Struck with the hands.