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Linda Kakō Caplan - photo of Chikushi Katsuko

Chikushi Katsuko


Founder  初代目宗家

Born on July 30 of Meiji 37 (1904), Chikushi Katsuko was a child prodigy. She started playing music at age 5, beginning with the kokyū and followed by several styles of shamisen (gidayu, nagauta and hauta). Later in life, she learned a number of instruments, including koto, violin, Taishō-goto and various keyboard instruments, among others. It was her talents on the shamisen that first attracted the notice of Sakamoto Gorō, head of Dai Nihon Katei Ongakkai, one of the largest music publishing houses in Japan. In order to foster her talents, Sakamoto received permission from her family to adopt Chikushi in 1917, and he moved her to his home town of Hakata (now part of Fukuoka). Her adoption marked the start of her intense traditional musical training. She was a natural and could apparently learn difficult pieces in a matter of days, memorizing "Rokudan no shirabe" by the second day and finishing "Chidori no kyoku" in four. (She said the extra days were because there was both a song and an instrumental portion).

In 1921, Chikushi began working on the publication of new texts for koto music, employing a new concept invented by Sakamoto. It involved using horizontal lines to indicate bars and beats, so that tempo and note duration could be shown. (Up to this time, the only thing indicated was a string's number, and one's teacher provided all the rest of the information.) Chikushi could transcribe almost on sight or on hearing, and many of the transcriptions she did for Dai Nihon Katei Ongakkai's "standard" green koto book series are still in use today.

Chikushi was originally strongly drawn to the violin but, after studying it for a while, she realized that her hands were too small to reach octaves and she had to give it up. With the violin gone, her serious interest in playing koto was rekindled. She also began composing and, in 1923, completed her first koto composition entitled "Gekko gensōkyoku". The piece ran about four minutes and was originally written for koto and violin. Chikushi often played the violin part herself.

In 1924, Sakamoto brought her together with Miyagi Michio . Miyagi played them his newest composition, "Aki no shirabe", and it was this piece that gave Chikushi the final impetus to devote the rest of her life to koto music. Sakamoto's company had been granted the rights to publish Miyagi's pieces. Thanks to her ear and her ability to understand musically what he was trying to do, Miyagi specifically requested Chikushi as his personal scribe. She handled most, if not all, of his transcriptions for the company for about fifteen years.

In the early 1920s, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) was established as the Japan Radio Broadcasting Corporation. Chikushi was one of the first traditional musicians invited to perform for them. In November 1926, she played two of her compositions ("Gekko gensōkyoku" and "Kari to tsubame") on air and went on over the years to do a number of other performances for NHK, as well as for other radio and TV broadcasting companies. She wrote prolifically, developing radical new koto tunings, using revolutionary musical styles, attracting powerful sponsors and developing both local and international followings. She was the official or head koto teacher at several schools, including Tōkyō Semmon Gakuin and Tokyo Komagome Girls' School. She became very well-known as a performer, composer and recording artist.

In 1948, the powers that be of the traditional music world decided that Chikushi's playing style and fame justified her being given her own school and the rank of iemoto (head of the school). In seaching for a school name, one suggestion was Tsukushi. That was considered auspicious because of its associations with several things - with the ancient Tsukushi-style koto school (from which both the Ikuta and Yamada koto styles descend), with the historical name for the Kyushu area where the school would be based, and with the Man'yōshū, in which Tsukushi was mentioned. In order to add a modern touch, it was decided to use the alternate reading for the characters, Chikushi, and thus the Chikushikai was officially launched and publicized in 1949.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Chikushi composed numerous works, regularly gave concerts, and went on tour (both solo and with Chikushikai members). She recorded many pieces (for King Records and Teichiku Records, among others) and was featured frequently on radio and TV programs for NHK, RKB Mainichi and other stations. In 1961, her versions of "Chidori no kyoku" and "Shin Takasago" were specifically cited by the Ministry of Education and recommended as mandatory classroom material for Middle School. Around this same time, Chikushi began playing with koto performers from other schools and made an LP with Sawai Tadao for RCA Victor entitled "Chōfū no barādo" (Ballads of a Lake Breeze). In 1972, she won the Grand Prize at the Tokyo National Arts Festival.

In 1972, Chikushi was also awarded the Ranjū-hōshō, the Indigo Ribbon Medal of Honour. This is an Imperial award that is reserved for those who dedicate their life to their art. It represented the highest level of achievement in the Arts & Letters category. Chikushi Katsuko was the only female recipient that year. She was also made a national companion of the Japan Academy and was granted a formal audience with the Emperor afterwards.

Chikushi Katsuko died on October 28, 1984 (Showa 59) at 80 years of age.

Compositions and Chronology


 Joined Dai Nihon Katei Ongakkai. One of her main tasks was to transcribe the classical pieces for koto, jiuta shamisen, nagauta shamisen, hauta shamisen, gidayu shamisen, Chikuzen biwa, Satsuma biwa, etc., into a standardized notation.


 Recorded "Kanjinchō" on nagauta shamisen, and children's songs on Taishō-goto.


 Gave up violin because she realized that her hands were too small to pursue it, and her interest in koto playing became strongly rekindled. Went to Nagasaki for voice training. Would go down to the ocean and sing over the crashing of the waves at the top of her lungs, in order to build her vocal strength and power.


 Composed her maiden koto piece, "Gekko gensōkyoku".


 Composed "Kari to tsubame". Played on air for Tokyo Broadcasting.


 JVC released her record called "Kusamakura" (music by Chikushi Katsuko, lyrics by Shimazaki Tōson). Started transcription of Miyagi Michio's pieces, which she continued for 15 years. Miyagi requested her personally and told Dai Nihon Katei Ongakkai that only she could comprehend what he was doing with music.


 Composed "Ōzora".


 Recorded "Shin Takasago" for Colombia Records. Created the first tablature for shamisen sheet music.


 Transcribed various shamisen and koto suites in Kyoto at Era Chiyo dojo. Dai Nihon Katei Ongakkai published her "Koto Kumikyoku I & II".


 Composed "Tsukiyo no suisha" (lyrics by Mochida Katsuhō).


 Composed "Ajisai no hana" (lyrics by Mochida Katsuhō).


 Composed "Maboroshi wo ōte", "Tōge no shigure", "Nagare", "Manjushage".


 Composed "Akikaze no uta", "Hotaru", "Shirobara".


 Composed "Nobore aozora".


 Composed "Hagoromo", "Haru no awayuki", "Yorokobi", "Kankō".


 Composed "Furusato".


 Composed "Haru no sono", "Suma no kyoku", "Wakamidori". Moved to Tokyo and opened a koto school in Kōjimachi. Played at a recital sponsored by Ōkura Kishichirō, which put her onto the world stage and garnered her international recognition.


 Composed "Shin Kongōseki", "Yoshida shōin". Taught koto at Komazawa Women's School.


 Became member of JASRAC (Japan Society for the Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers). Composed "Kyū-gunshin".



 "Kyū-gunshin" was recommended as standard school curriculum by the Ministry of Education. She played the piece at many military plants and to help drum up war support.



 Evacuated from Tokyo to hometown of Yamaguchi. After the war ended, composed "Maboroshi no hashira" (lyrics by Kujyō Takeko).



 Composed "Sakura gensōkyoku", "Dokusōkyoku Sarashi", "Haru no kotobure", "Oka no sumire", "Minami no yume".



 Back to Fukuoka. Composed "Harusame gensōkyoku", "Kotoshi no sakura", "Kuri hiroi", "Bara ni yosete", "Wakakusa", "Koseikyoku Shinshu". Gave first recital comprised solely of her own compositions at Fukuoka Women's School.



 Composed "Kōjō no tsuki hensōkyoku". Dai Nihon Katei Ongakkai invited her to found Chikushikai and be its iemoto. Began annual summer workshops featuring her new works each year.



 Came down with tubercular spinal caries (although the disease did not have a name yet at that time). Returned to hometown of Yamaguchi for recuperation.



 Composed "Shunsetsu", commissioned by NHK. Returned to Fukuoka. Published "Sōkyoku sakuhinshū I" (containing "Hatsune", "Soyokaze", "Maritsuki", "Murasame", "Tanoshiki asa", "Kazaguruma", "Hana no warutsu", "Nagareyuku hana") and "Sōkyoku sakuhinshū II" (containing "Maiagaru fūsen", "O-Edo Nihonbashi", "Mushi no koegoe", "Manjushage", "Iwai no kyoku", "Ochiba suru koro", "Shoka no kaori").



 Composed "Kōgen no fu". Medical condition worsened. Diagnosed officially with tubercular spinal caries and needed complete rest and back brace, which she wore for the rest of her life. Built a house in Fukuoka.



 Composed "Heiwa no inori", "Sekko" from her sickbed.



 Made a miraculous recovery thanks to her students' care. Recital at Fukuoka Denki Hall.



 Began composition of "Chikushi-ji" (lyrics by Mochida Katsuhō)

Parted ways with Dai Nihon Katei Ongakukai and changed her title from iemoto to Sōke. Finished "Chikushi-ji". Given exclusive contract by RKB Mainichi Broadcasting.



 Composed "Kumo no yukue", "Ai no izumi". Opened Chikushikai office. Published the first "Chikushi dayori" monthly newsletter. Built Chikushikai Hombu (headquarters) building in Fukuoka.



 Composed "Taiko". "Chikushi-ji" release recital, broadcast by RKB. Started distance lessons using cassette tapes. Published "Sōkyoku shokyokushū Vol 1". Recital at Nikkei Hall in Tokyo. Also played "Chikushi-ji" at opening of NHK Fukuoka.



 Composed "Shirasagi", "Kōetsu ni yosete". Released "Chidori no kyoku" on King Records.



 Composed "Honō/Mizu", "Shukutenraku". Recorded "Shukutenraku", "Kankō", "Shunsetsu" at Teichiku Records.



 Composed "Ame nimo makezu", "Tonbi to karasu", "Chikumagawa ryojo no uta", "Aoshima", "Hoshi", "Shiratori", "Yosano Akiko no uta". Gave recitals and workshops in Hokkaido. Composed opera "Yūgao - Tale of Genji". Gave recitals in Tokuyama and Iwakuni.



 Composed "Masshuko", "Shiragiku", "Yuki no gensō", "Kumo no ito", "Akebono". Gave recitals in Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo.



 Composed "Hi wa noboru", "Takane no kumo", "Sakurajima".



 Composed "Ten to chi to", "Kaze kaoru".



 Published "Sōkyoku sakuhinshū Vol 3". Composed "Shiki no uta", "Yoshino Shizuka", "Na no hana".



 Composed "Sanka" for Tozan-ryū shakuhachi school's 70th anniversary celebration. Composed "Ari no kura", "Aoi nettaigyo", "Shinjiko no yūbe", "Gunbu", "Bokyō". Gave recitals in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Tokuyama.



 Moved Chikushikai Hombu to Minami-ku in Fukuoka. Composed "Oku no hosomichi", "Shinbun haitatsu", "Bara", "Ginga no gensō", "Shiranui no umi". Started annual Tokyo recitals. Released "Sakuhinshū #1 & #2".



 Built a stage in the Chikushikai dojo. Composed "Yumedono", "Fuku kaze ni", "Amakusa miyabi uta", "Kotori no sasayaki", "Himawari".



 Composed "Miyako wasure", "Haru", "Mizu nurumu", "Dokusōkyoku ichiban", "Monshirochō", "Mokuren". Gave recitals in Nagasaki, Fukuoka, Tokuyama, Fukuyama.



 Composed "Wakōdo no uta", " Nagasaki no ame", "Nihiki no koinu".



 Released "Sakuhinshū #3" and "Koto to gitā no shirabe". Built a recording studio in the Chikushikai Hombu. Composed "Kawa no gensō", "Hakata yamagasa", "Aoi tomoshibi", "Ningyō no mai". Gave recital in Okinawa to celebrate opening of Okinawa Chikushikai.



 Composed "Okinawa no uta", "Shuri kōjō no hotori", "Ai to murasaki". Gave recital in Okinawa to celebrate Okinawa's reversion to Japan. Received medal of honour in November. Released "Sakuhinshū #4".



 Osaka recital. 50th anniversary recital in Tokyo. Composed "Dokusōkyoku niban", "Fuyu no michi", "Yama wa midori", "Hanabira". Gave recital in Okinawa. Released "Sakuhinshū #5". Her son Ichirō composed "Soyokaze", "Shiroi kyanbasu", "Sangosho ni yosete".



 Recital in Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Tokuyama, Fukuyama. Composed "Seishun no uta", "Kawa giri", "Hitotsu boshi", "Shūshi". Released "Sakuhinshū #6". Ichirō composed "Minami kaze", "Otome no yume".



 Gave recital in Osaka, Matsuyama, Sendai. Composed "Shinju", "Matsuri daiko", "Minna shiawase". Released "Sakuhinshū #7". Ichirō composed "Furiko", "Kanki", "Romanchikku tsū-mōdo".



 Went to San Francisco with a group of thirty Chikushikai members from Japan for concert with California Chikushikai. Received key to the city from mayor of San Francisco. Composed "Matsushima meguri", "Shiruya kimi", "Shuku konka". Released "Sakuhinshū #8". Ichirō composed "Shū-u", "Yakei", "Haru no iro", "Sukairainu".



 Gave recital in Fukuoka, Osaka. Gave recital organized by Shizuoka Sankyoku Kyōkai. Composed "Shiba no uta". Released "Sakuhinshū #9". Ichirō composed "Risshun", "Ame ni kemuru shōbu".



 Composed "Kumo". Released "Sakuhinshū #10". Ichirō composed "Mukashi monogatari", "Machikado", "Shakuhachi to sanba".



 Gave recital in Okinawa, Osaka. Her daughter Miyoko gave recital in Tokyo. Composed "Haha ga aru", "Niji". Ichirō composed "Yuki geshiki", "Yuenchi", "Kagerō".



 Released "Sakuhinshū #11". Composed "Okinawa heiwa kinenzō sanka". Ichirō composed "Hashire koinu", "Yuki no hana".



 Chikushikai national recital/convention in Tokyo. Composed "Taiyō mitai ni", "Fujinami no hana", "Mari to kodomotachi", "Chō to kotori". Ichirō composed "Aki no omoide".



 Composed "Maihime". Ichirō composed "Machi no meruhen", "Koto no serenāde", "Furusato".



 Gave joint concert with daughter Miyoko and grand-daughter Junko in Fukuoka. Composed "Tsukiyo no sazanami". Ichirō composed "Haru no sasayaki", "Yama wa yobu", "Minami no shima no omoide".



 Composed "Kakitsubata". Ichirō composed "Yumeji", "Midori no rakuen", "Tokonatsu no sora no shita", "Tanoshii cha-cha-cha". Gave concert in Iwaki in August. Gave workshop in Tokyo in September. In October, subsequent to a routine check-up, was put into hospital. Died October 28 at the age of 80.

Chikushi Katsuko Compositions & Chronology
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