Shamisen Wood

I doubt anyone has found a source for Kouki wood in the US. One problem is that it is endangered; the other is that Kouki is a Japanese name. A cross reference for wood names would be helpful, perhaps in the “Learning Center”. Along with the Japanese common names, Chinese and Western names should be included. The list should be based on the botanical name, since common names are often applied to multiple species. Here's some inputs:

Dalbergia luovelii: (China) lushi heihuangtan, hei suanzhi, (large-leaf) zitan; (UK/US) Rosewood

Pterocarpus indicus: (Japan) Karin; (UK/US) Amboyna

Pterocarpus santalinus: (Japan) Kouki; (China) tanxiang, (small-leaf) zitan ; (UK/US) Red Sanders, Red Sandalwood (NOTE: not to be confused with genus Santalum, aromatic Sandalwood)

Pterocarpus soyauxii: (UK/US) African padauk, African coralwood

Mechanical properties such as strength and hardness might be added as well.


we're slowly building up such a thing and there are links to janka scales etc but i think a way to upload a pdf or similar file might be useful


Good idea, Dan. You're right, this should be included. I'm just feeling so overwhelemed with so many Bachido projects started that it'll have to be something in the queue (haven't been able to even get the tuning section made)

In older version of SoJ, I think I said that the best wood was “kouki” and had really vague suggestions of alternatives. However, I've replaced that, taking any mention of kouki out altogether (If it's impossible for most people to get anyway, why mention it?) Knowing the hardness of comparable woods, it's been switched to this.


did somebody ever try to use local - and not endangered - woods such as cherry or walnut?


Hi Kay,
Recently, local woods are starting to pick up favor. Only very slightly (because the desire of endangered are still locked into the paradigm), but fortunately, Japanese newcomers to shamisen don't care about fancy wood and would prefer simple local woods. So, I think eventually all shamisen will move in that direction. :-)


thank you, kyle! with thinking about the long time the japanese lived in a self chosen isolation, i wonder if the first shamisen were made from local wood. have you ever seen such an “early” and historical shamisen?

Edited Mar 12, 2017 by Kay Kraschewski
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