Name: Tonkori
Type: Chordophones > Composite > Lyres > Yoke.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.2
Region: Hokkaido.
Country: Japan.

Description: The tonkori [in Katakana / Japanese: トンコリ tonkori] is a plucked string instrument played by the Ainu people of Hokkaidō, northern Japan and Sakhalin. It generally has five strings, which are not stopped or fretted but simply played “open”. There are also three-string and six-string tonkori, but they are very rare. In the Edo period, almost the same instruments existed in the Soya region of Hokkaido, the coastal region of Okhotsk and Teshio [Bifuka].

History: The instrument is believed to have been developed in Sakhalin. By the 1970s the instrument was practically extinct, but is experiencing a revival along with the increased interest in Ainu heritage.

Etymology: The term tonkori is an onomatopoeic description of the sound of the instrument. The tonkori was also referred to as the ka [“string”] The late-1800s explorer A. H. Savage Landor documented the tonkori, stating that it was referred to only as mukko [“musical instrument”]. Linguist Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney noted that /tonkori/ was sometimes pronounced with either a voiced or voiceless stop on the initial sound: [donkori] or [tonkori]. One 1962 French publication notes the usage of the spelling donkori in an earlier work,[17] while the 1969 Asian Review appears to use tonguri and tongari as alternate spellings

Citations: Bibliography: William P. Malm 1959. Japanese music and musical instruments. C. E. Tuttle Co. p. 247 ; Takashi Ogawa ~ Traditional Music of the Ainu Journal of the International Folk Music Council, Vol. 13, 1961 – Notes that at publication the instrument was only found in museums ; Alison Tokita 2008. The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 338–. ISBN 978-0-7546-5699-9 ; New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Vol. 12 pg 383f ; The Ainu Tonkori: A Manual for Learning and Guide to Performance Practice, Jack Claar, Dr. Joseph Amato ; Websites:

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