The gottan (Japanese: ごったん, also known as the hako ["box"] or ita ["board"] shamisen/jamisen[1]) is a traditional Japanese three-stringed plucked instrument, often considered either a relative or derivative of the sanshin, itself a relative of the shamisen.


The major difference between a sanshin and a gottan is that the body of a sanshin tends to be made of a hollowed wooden cavity covered with a type of membrane, whereas the whole of a gottan – body, neck, and all – is made up of solid wood, usually of a single type, often Japanese cedar.[2]

The gottan's musical repertoire is often light and cheerful, including many folk songs. Like the shamisen, it was used for door-to-door musical busking, known as kadozuke.[3]

Often the gottan is compared to the kankara, an Okinawan instrument related to the sanshin, due to its relative inexpensiveness (made from a used metal can) and ease of construction. The equivalent all-wood Okinawan instrument is the ita sanshin.[1]:22


  1. 1 2 Henry Mabley Johnson (2010). The Shamisen: Tradition and Diversity. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-18137-3. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  2. Experimental Musical Instruments. Experimental Musical Instruments. 1993. p. 35. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  3. Hugh De Ferranti (30 May 2009). The last biwa singer: a blind musician in history, imagination and performance. East Asia Program, Cornell University. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-933947-13-6. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
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