Ongaku is Japanese for music. Its poetic name combines 'sound' (from the word on) and 'fun', or 'comfort' (from the word gaku) to give a beautiful description of what music means to its listeners. Traditional Japanese music is quite different from the Western tradition, taking as its core the rhythm of human breathing.
The oldest forms of Japanese traditional music come from Buddhist chanting and orchestral music for the court. Its classical music (known as Gagaku - elegant music) developed in the Imperial court since the Heian period of the from the eighth to the 12th century. The sumarai too believed in the importance of music for enriching their lives and understanding, often listening to and performing music of their own.
Japaenese musical theatre - Noh (from the Japanese word for skill or talent) - had evolved a rich and lively tradition as early as the 14th century. One of the most popular theatrical forms was puppet theatre - bunraku - which flourished in the Edo period 1600-1868. It is often accompanied by the shamisen, a three-stringed traditional Japaenese instrument played with a plectrum.
Discover the elegance and grace of Japanese traditional music with our selection of fine recordings of this rich tradition.