I like to compare shamisen with a basic stir fry. Stir fry is a combination of vegetables and meat which are simply chopped up, thrown into a wok and all cooked together. Nothing technically fancy, but the amount of flavor can be huge depending on the ingredients you put in. An ideal balance of ingredients should result in the most amazing stir fry. For example; cool cucumber, spicy pepper, sweet carrots, slightly bitter bok choy, and sour citrus would encompass all the senses on the palate. Of course, you can put in whatever you like when cooking for yourself. (E.g, taking my pop’s approach: dumping on the chili pepper, covering any flavor with fire)

That’s why I find shamisen and food so similar. Like ingredients in a simple stir fry, there are so many flavors we can add to our three strings. A whole menu of ingredients are at my fingertips and I have the power to make turn my shamisen jams into a sensual experience. This is a liberating concept, because just like cooking for yourself, nobody can demand what flavors you should or shouldn’t use. The flavors you add come from your personal taste, and that should be respected and celebrated!