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  • Japanese: 古曲 (kokyoku)

Kokyoku (lit. "old songs") is a term used to refer to a certain group of styles or genres of shamisen music (and accompanying song) which have fallen out of currently active theatre and dance repertoires. They continue, however, to be performed in concerts and recitals.

These include most of the bungo-kei jôruri narrative styles, such as itchû-bushi, shinnai-bushi, tomimoto-bushi, shigetayû-bushi, and miyazono-bushi. These were prominent in the kabuki theatre in the 18th century, but later faded from use in the theatre, and began to be performed primarily in the context of zashiki (chamber) entertainments, i.e. performed by geisha, courtesans, or otherwise in small-scale musical performances. The shinnai-bushi style continued to be performed as shinnai-nagashi, a street busking performance style featuring two shamisen players.

Katô-bushi music is still performed today in the kabuki play Sukeroku (albeit not in any other kabuki productions), but is nevertheless also considered kokyoku.


  • McQueen Tokita, Alison. "Music in kabuki: more than meets the eye." The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, 2008. p247.