• Pico Masaki

My little koto and red picks

Updated: Mar 17

I’ve grown up in Japan with music playing piano since the age of five.

Some of you might think that if you are in Japan you have more opportunities to play Japanese instruments…but NO.

Actually it could be rare for Japanese people to learn Japanese instruments such as Koto, shamisen and shakuhachi.

When I was living in Japan I was not interested in playing Japanese traditional instruments.

Instead I’d been so fascinated by Western culture -piano, guitar, movies, lifestyle etc.

My first turning point in my life was when I was 15 years old. I hesitate to share this - I feel vulnerable - but I feel it’s important to share my path with you as it has influenced my music journey a lot.

One day I was taken to a hospital because of a massive bleeding. I had severe endometriosis at 15 years “young”. My case was very rare so that I could have bled to death if I was not taken to the hospital at the right time.

I remember I was thinking in my head “ Wow…I’m bleeding so badly…am I dying? I’m only 15! Life is so short!!” Finally I fainted.

Then I found myself lying in a hospital bed after receiving a blood transfusion.

This was a life changing experience to make me realize how fragile we are, which resonates with Japanese special cultural concept called “Monono Aware” (Pathos of things). This concept has become the theme of my music.

Time went by, my admiration for Western culture took me to Australia in 2011, then to Canada in 2017.

We tend to feel attracted to the differences.

Now I’ve been living overseas for so long, when I see temples or just landscapes in Japan it takes my breath away.

I missed Japanese culture and fell in love with it more and more…as a musician, I couldn’t stop thinking about trying Japanese instruments.

Going back to my roots...!

Among many different types of Japanese traditional instruments I’ve chosen koto because I loved the sound. I looked for koto teachers nearby but I couldn’t find any. I had to teach myself.

I went online and bought a small-sized koto and some koto picks.

(There were no shops where I could buy Koto neither in Australia nor Canada)

Koto picks need to fit my fingers.

My fingers are tiny, so I bought the black ones (normal size) and red ones (smaller size). As I had to buy them online, I couldn't try them on. So I bought both just in case.

A few weeks later the items arrived from Japan. The red ones fitted perfectly.

(Later on I was fortunate to meet a wonderful koto master in Vancouver and she told me that the red picks are for children, and I was a little embarrassed that I even performed cheerfully at music festivals with the red picks on :-)

The moment when I put the red koto picks in my fingers with a little koto by my side, that was the beginning of the second chapter of my music journey.

I have a favour of you. Please leave a comment below or email me and let me know how you feel about this post, what you think of the songs you’ve heard so far, or even just to say hi!

It would mean a lot.

To those who are connected via email address, be sure to add my address to your contacts/ safe-senders list and keep an eye out for your inbox, I'll send you another gift later💖

If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey, click here to listen to my most recent album, ‘From Darkness To The Light’.

Thanks again. Please do leave a comment, it would be my pleasure to hear from you 💖


PS. You can watch my performance videos HERE

where I regularly hold facebook live concerts.

➡︎ https://www.facebook.com/picozenmusic/videos

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