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How to Make a Koto

Updated on August 29, 2011

Are you fascinated by anything Japanese? Well, even if you are not one of the individuals addicted to the Japanese culture, you probably still have a curious mind as to what being Japanese feels like. Certainly, a big part of their culture is their music; folk and pop alike. Japanese cultural music somehow becomes more beautiful when there is a koto used.

                The koto is a traditional and national musical instrument in Japan. It has thirteen (13) strings that are connected to thirteen (13) movable bridges that can be moved as the player desires in order to change the pitch. It has been introduced in Japan in the 7th and 8th century having only 5 strings. The use of koto in Japanese cultural music has rapidly expanded and so is the number of its strings. From 5 strings, it became 7, and in the Nara Period, it gained additional 6 strings making its string total to 13. Koto is actually the general name used by Japanese men to describe any stringed instrument like kin no koto and sau no koto. The names of their instruments evolved and the sau no koto became just so or koto.

                By now, your curiosity in the koto might have increased and you probably might want one for yourself right now. You can buy a koto in a music specialty store or in almost all department stores that sells musical instruments. However, why buy one when you can make one on your own? Perhaps, making a koto is not the simplest and easiest task but it is worth it. Your hard labour in making the instrument would always pay off in the end and you will realize that not only did you have fun making the instrument; you also did a very good job at it thus producing a personalized koto. If you want to make one, you just have to have the right materials.

Things you will need:

·         Scissors

·         Tape

·         Cardboard

·         Box (Shoe Box or any similar size)

·         Markers

·         Rubber bands

·         Construction paper

·         Puncher (for holes)


Step 1: Be creative. Get your shoe box and some papers and get ready to unleash your creativity. Cover the body of the shoe box including its lid with the papers. If you decided on some plain papers, you might want to add a little more design to it so it would not be neutral and boring. You can draw some dragons on it or doodle on it if you want. Just add some designs to make it look interesting and more attractive.

Step 2: Make a hole in the box. Use a pair of scissors to cut an appropriate sized oval hole in the lid of the shoe box. If your box now resembles a tissue box, you probably did the right thing.

Step 3: Punch some holes in the box. Use the puncher and place four to six holes around the oval. Remember to put equal number of holes on each side of the oval.

Step 4: Put some strings to the koto. Use your rubber bands in this step. Make sure to use very good quality rubber bands for them to last quite longer. Once you got some durable rubber bands, cut them using the scissors. Tie one end of the rubber band to a whole and then wrap it around the box. Tie the other end on the direct opposite of the hole where you tied the other end of the rubber band. Make sure to make the knots durable and strong.

Step 5: Trace your hands. You need some dragon claw to make your koto a bit more authentic Japanese looking and for you to be able to play it better. For this to happen, you can trace your hand on a cardboard but do not cut it just yet. Draw some claws in the index, thumb, and middle fingers. Each claw should be at least 2.5 inches long. Once you have that done, cut the claws. Then, cut some strips of paper from the construction paper that you have left. Wrap the strips around your fingers that ought to have claws. Glue one end of the paper strip to its other end to secure it in place. Once done, tape each claw to its designated paper strip in your fingers.

Step 6: If you have the claws set up and the rubber bands tight and secure and durable, you are now ready to play your very own Japanese musical instrument – Koto.

Koto In Action


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    • Soramelo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thank you KiwiTeam. Made one already?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great! Very Interesting!


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