Ryoko Itabashi was born in Japan and has been involved in music since childhood. Early on, she played violin and piano, but found her true calling in traditional Japanese instruments.
The first of these was the Japanese Drum, or “Taiko”, which is played with an ensemble in a dynamic and vigorous style requiring significant physical strength. Ryoko joined the Aizu Tsurugajo Taiko Wakakomakai in 1996 and has since played all over Japan as well as Hawaii. Shortly after beginning Taiko, she also began playing the bamboo flute, which often accompanies Taiko, at festivals in Japan throughout the year. Ryoko has often played Bon-odori for dancers at the annual Obon festival, which is held throughout Japan in August.
Ryoko began learning the Tsugaru Shamisen in 2001 under the late Rinshoji Kida, who was a well-known Shamisenist in Japan. She also learned folk music for the Shamisen from Reiko Inasawa.
Photo by Lorraine Goh
Since moving to Canada in 2009, Ryoko has been playing the Tsugaru Shamisen at various venues in Montreal, Quebec and has expanded her activities to the national Capital Region since the summer of 2012. Ryoko’s goal is to continue to fulfill her lifelong dream of sharing Japanese music and culture with the world.