Fukuyama is the second largest city in Hiroshima prefecture which faces the Seto Inland Sea, where the famous piece of koto music, Haru no Umi (The Sea in Spring) is believed to be born.
The basement of Fukuyama koto production dates back to 1619 when Mizuno Katsunari, a cousin of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of Tokugawa Shogunate, built a castle in Fukuyama.
He and his successors encouraged children to learn performing arts including singing ballad and playing the koto. It was natural that people started to produce good kotos, and now, 70% of kotos produced in Japan is Fukuyama Koto.
Koto making is time consuming. First of all, good paulownia tree which has enough thickness is necessary. After cutting such paulownia trees, they should be dried for about a year.
Carving the outside and inside for good sound is the next step. The surface of the outside is burned and polished to make the most use of the beautiful texture of paulownia tree. Also, it is said that the more beautiful and complex the texture is, the more the tones of the koto is exquisite. Thus beautiful texture decides the value of the koto.
The inside is also carved carefully for good tones. Using chisels and knives, artisans make zigzag-like patterns for timbre. Then the surface and the sides are decorated by Makie technique, which put gold and silver on Japanese lacquer, and metal parts are set. Most of the procedure are done by artisans’ hands.
In Fukuyama, many koto players have been born, too, such as Kuzuhara Koutou in the middle Edo era (1603-1867). Fukuyama Koto is surely the part of life in Fukuyama city.
Fukuyama Koto was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1985.