Three months ago I was about to buy a Sakura Shamisen and since it was a big economic investment I tried to find as much information about as well as any extense review apart from the Bachido videos. As far as I recall I couldn't find much coming from any Bachido user, so after having played the Sakura Shamisen for 3 months now, I am glad to bring some light for those wondering weather or not to buy the instrument.
To begin with and as the most important aspect I'm going to talk about the skin and its sound. I ordered mine with fibersen since here where I live in Barcelona, the weather is very humid and for what I know, keeping a natural skin with such weather conditions is pretty hard and sound will start deteriorating really fast, specially if you plan to play outside on one of this sunny, hot and humid summer days. Of course you can extend the skin life if taken care seriously but I didn't want to be worrying and being paranoid all day thinking if the skin is allright and if I'm keeping the shamisen in a good place.
After taking the instrument outside many times now and having played it on different temperatures and weathers I have to say that after three months the sking has kept tight and sounding really nice and strong. Maybe it is not as tight as the first day but I understand this normal in all shamisens when bought brand new and recently skined. I have played along with other natural skin shamisens and the Sakura sounded as nice and even louder than the others. I don't know how to describe it but as the others sounded more mellow and softer, the Sakura wiht its fibersen sounded definetly more crisp and loud, sometimes overtaking over the rest. Anyway, and as I said before, with time it has turned more into this softer sound, resembling more to those natural skin shamisens though keeping its crispiness and punching sound.
A few weeks ago, I even had the chance to meet and play along with Kenichi Yoshida here in Barcelona and even himself was surprised by the look and sound of the instrument. He grabed it and made it sound like a top dollar shamisen so no doubts about the sound quality of this instrument.
As for the construction of the isntrument I would say that the wood looks lushious, specially on natural light, which emphasizes the beautifull purple tone of the wood. Maybe some of you have also had doubts on this shamisen for not being a futozao but chuzao size shamisen. Regarding this issue I must say that as Kyle says on the presentation video, this characteristic doesn't stand any drawback in terms of comfort when playing any style you want, specially tsugaru pieces. Though it is a heavy instrument, this lack of wood makes it lighter than other futozao shamisens I haved played with, probably making it easy to carry.
Is it all perfect then you say? Well, there are a couple of minor issues, one being pretty stupid in fact. The first one is that the beautiful itomakis get dirty with sweat and dirt almost just by looking at them (And as I said this is actually a really stupid drawback and nothing to take really into account). The second one and this is the only important, is the height of the strings. The action of these are pretty high in comparison with other shamisens I played with, on which the strings where almost touching the sao making the playing easier, not having to apply that much strenght on your left hand. I recommend using the lowest possible koma, although with time, you get used really fast and I am even starting to think that having the strings higher contribute to a stronger and precise technique, much like when Goku trained on an altered gravity chamber so when he went back to Earth he felt lighter hahaha.
Anyway, here are my sincere thoughts on this amazing instrument with which I am so happy. For those with and adjusted budget and wanting to get a new top quality shamisen without spending a fortune, this is definetly your choice.
Greetings to everyone and see u around soon. Ah, y saludos a Tsugaru Ronin también por supuesto!