Hidejiro Honjoh has been trailblazing a new musical path for the shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese instrument, in Asia, Europe, and North America. At Bates, he will be presenting a program consisting of traditional edo-period hauta songs and new works. This recital is sponsored by Bates Learning Associate Program.

The shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese instrument for whom many Westerners’ closest point of reference will be the banjo, is long past its gestation. Since the mid-16th century, when it became a staple in accompaniments to theatre, dance, and song, the shamisen has looked more or less the same: historically, players have held the instrument while sitting on their knees, striking string and soundboard with a bachi, a plectrum or large pick, for a stark, percussive sound.

Shamisen virtuoso Hidejiro Honjoh has performed with the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra, Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Krasnoyarsk Chamber Orchestra, Baltic Neopolis Virtuosi, and Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, and was the first shamisen player to be featured as a solo recitalist at London’s Wigmore Hall.

He has also collaborated with the International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Intercontemporain Soloists, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble NOMAD, and the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. He has played chamber music with Kari Kriikku, Claire Chase, Norio Sato, and Souju Nosaka, and collaborates with dancer Motoko Hirayama and designer Leeroy New. Mr. Honjoh has commissioned new pieces from composers including Vijay Iyer, Gabriel Prokofiev, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and Yuji Takahashi, and has recorded with composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Dai Fujikura. He was the recipient of the 70th Arts Festival New Face Award by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and was the first shamisen performer to receive the prestigious Idemitsu Music Award in 2014 and the Kyoto Aoyama Music Award in 2018.

In 2016, Mr. Honjoh was chosen as the Japan-United States Arts Program/Asian Cultural Council Kimpei Nakamura Fellow. He currently serves as a part-time lecturer at Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music.

Hidejiro Honjoh began playing the piano in childhood and the shamisen at age 15. He graduated from Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music and the Institute of Japanese Traditional Music. He studied under Hidetaro Honjo, the head of Honjo School, and was approved to use the name Hidejiro Honjoh; he also studied Tsugaru shamisen under Yusho Hasegawa and shamisen under the late Katsuyoshika Kineya.


Tsuna wa Jōi (Tsuna’s Command) – traditional

Neo – Dai Fujikura (1977-)

Tori mo Tsukaika (Could the bird be a messenger?) – Yuji Takahashi (1938-)

Improvisation – (featuring Annabelle Plum, voice; Hiroya Miura, piano)

Mikrokosmos No.52, Book II – Béla Bartók (1881-1945)

Knights’ Crossing – Hiroya Miura (1975- )

Yoru no Ame (Night Rain) – traditional