Canada's first koto Dai Shihan to be honoured by special performance

On Wednesday, August 6th, three of the finest koto musicians in the world will perform at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, the oldest and largest Japanese cultural centre outside of Japan. The performance is to celebrate the first non-Japanese koto Grandmaster in the over 14 centuries of koto existence - Toronto's Linda Kako Caplan.
At this one-time event - third-generation Iemoto (head of the school),
Madame Junko Chikushi of Chikushikai Koto School in Japan and Chikushikai koto
Grandmaster Madame Kazuko Muramoto of San Lorenzo, California will perform
with the world's first-ever non-Japanese Grandmaster - Canadian Linda Kako
The three will celebrate Caplan's 25th anniversary of koto playing and
her recent receipt of the prestigious Dai Shihan (grandmaster) status from the
Chikushikai Koto School (Fukuoka).
Koto are one of the few traditional Japanese instruments that have
survived the move into the 21st century. The other very popular ones are
shakuhachi and taiko drums. Koto is still vibrant and very active, both with
performers and composers and is used in all genres of music from ancient music
to contemporary, jazz and to extreme avant-garde works.
Koto and koto music have been used in modern compositions by musicians
including John Williams, David Brubeck and John Coltrane and the rock band
Queen. Cellist Yo-yo Ma, flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, and violinist Itzhak
Perlman, among others, have performed contemporary and traditional pieces in
concert with several well-known koto players.
Koto Grandmasters: Highly revered koto grandmasters are the senators of
their art. In Chikushikai school, the path to Grandmaster includes the
successful completion of four levels of examinations and three teaching
levels. The last level is the Shihan (Master) exam which can be taken only in
Japan and takes place before a jury of five to seven adjudicators. It includes
about half an hour of performing portions of various pieces with and without
song, plus a three hour written theory exam. After Shihan, it generally takes
at least a decade, sometimes as long as 23 years, to qualify for nomination as
a Dai Shihan. The appointment to Dai Shihan must be approved by the Board of
Directors of the school.
August 6 performance: Eight contemporary pieces will be performed, three
of which will be North American premieres: Aoi umi - Blue Sea; Koto no aki -
Autumn in the Ancient Capital; and Yumedono - Yumedono Temple.

Date: Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Location: Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Kobayashi Hall,
6 Garamond Court, (Don Mills and Eglinton - north of the
Ontario Science Centre)

Admission: $30 for the public; $25 for students and JCCC members.
Tickets can be ordered by calling the JCCC at 416-441-2345.

Koto history: The koto, a floor harp, is a traditional Japanese stringed
instrument. Its sound is often heard as the background music in programs about
Japan and Japanese culture. This national instrument of Japan is about 180
centimetres (71 in) long and has 13 strings that are strung over 13 movable
bridges along the length of the instrument. Players adjust the string pitches
by pressing the strings behind the bridges while playing, and they use three
finger picks (on thumb, forefinger, and middle finger) to pluck the strings.
The instruments have been played in the Japanese royal court since the 7th
century, however, koto learning was controlled by guilds that allowed only men
to study and perform koto. When guilds were abolished by the Meiji government
in the 1800s, the field was opened for both sexes to perform and compose.
Koto music: Evocative, haunting, romantic, and moving are words used to
describe the expressive harp-like sound of a koto piece.

2008 is the 80th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-Canada
diplomatic relations. A non-profit organization, the Japanese Canadian
Cultural Centre, promotes the sharing of knowledge by expanding its resources
to offer greater accessibility to those interested in the history and culture
of Japan. For more information on activities and programs at the JCCC visit

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