At the 2010 Hirosaki National Tsugaru Shamisen Tournament, I met Dmitris, a left-handed member of a group led by Shibutani Kazuo, one of the most highly respected shamisen masters in Japan.

What did Shibutani-san do when this left-hander wanted to join the group? Did he force him to play right-handed? No, Shibutani-san reversed the shamisen’s string order so Dimitris could play with his natural hand, along with the whole group!

Dmitris shredding with his fellow players!

So, when I heard one foreigner tell a left-handed shamisen enthusiast that they were insulting the Japanese tradition, I had to laugh.

What’s the moral of that story? If someone gives you a hard time for playing shamisen left-handed, just tell them, “one of the most highly respected shamisen masters in Japan accepts left-handed players, and I’m simply following the master. If you think you know better than him, please tell him why he’s wrong. Surely you can find him on Facebook.”

The amazing Shibutani-san and his awesome group!

Now that we are free to use our soul hand and can laugh at those who object, let’s turn our shamisen into a left-handed riff machine!