A Japanese koto tuned to become an Okinawan kutu.
  • Okinawan: 琴 (kutu)

The kutu is the Okinawan name for the 13-string zither called koto in Japanese. It is the only major example of a Japanese instrument being adopted into the repertoire of Okinawan classical music.

It may have been first introduced into Okinawa in 1701.[1]

The kutu as it is used in Okinawan music is physically identical to the Japanese koto, but is simply tuned differently. It is most commonly played as accompaniment to the sanshin, sometimes, traditionally, alongside the kûchô (the Okinawan version of the kokyû fiddle). However, there is also a small repertoire of solo Okinawan kutu songs, mainly danmono pieces in the style of the Yatsuhashi school of Japanese koto, along with several other Japanese koto pieces of unclear origin. One of the most common pieces in this solo repertoire, also commonly played on classical sanshin, is a danmono piece entitled Watarizô-Tachiutushi.

Though classical music was traditionally practiced exclusively by men (and though men continue to be quite active in the classical sanshin tradition), today it is overwhelmingly women who practice kutu.[2]


  • Thompson, Robin. "The Music of Ryukyu." Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, 2008. p309.
  1. Miyagi Eishô, Ryûkyû shisha no Edo nobori, Tokyo: Daiichi shobô (1982), 129.
  2. Thompson. p313.