This is a Japanese harp-like musical instrument called a Satsuma biwa.
The Satsuma biwa has five strings and high frets.
It has a semi-hollow body that is made from mulberry tree wood, and is played using a giant pick.
Satsuma biwa players sometimes hit it like a drum, so the body needs to be very strong.
The concept of the Satuma biwa is not to play for an audience, it’s to be played by samurai for meditation before going to war.
The huge pick can be used as a protection from ninja during playing.
I went to Satsuma biwa player Nobuko Kawashima’s live concert.
She played some traditional music:
“Takamori Saigo” 西郷隆盛
“Gion-shoujya of Heike monogatari” 平家物語の祇園精舎
The biwa is an unusual instrument.
It can also be used to create sound effects, so the player is like a storyteller.
From the biwa you can hear something like a horses gallop, things being burnt by a flame, fighting of a battle, and so on.
It’s sound are very wild, emotional and melancholy.
Nobuko Kawashima HP: http://manabiwa.com/index.html