Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music

  1. Kyoto City University of Arts
  2. Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music

Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music


The Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music (RCJTM, often referred to as Den-on or Den-on Center) was established in 2000 with the aim of promoting comprehensive research on traditional culture rooted in Japanese society from the viewpoints of music and performing arts.

Since long ago, the traditional music and performing arts of Japan have continued to incorporate foreign elements, which has led to their current unique style. In addition to the Japanese language, they are regarded as important cultural assets both in Japan and abroad. And they have attracted attention as a source of the creation of new culture.

As the capital of Japanese culture for more than 1200 years, Kyoto is highly esteemed both in Japan and abroad. It has a great number of universities and research institutes. Based on this background, RCJTM aims to become a key center for research on Japanese traditional music by playing a central role in sharing and exchanging information and research results, which are produced through collaboration between researchers, research institutes and performers in Japan and abroad.


1. Passing cultural properties to the future: collection and preservation

RCJTM collects, arranges and preserves the tangible and intangible cultural properties of Japanese traditional music and performing arts, and the results of extensive research. These are the most essential activities of RCJTM as it strives to make use of and pass down a rich array of cultural properties such as old documents, music scores, instruments, paintings, acoustic materials, and screen materials, to the next generation.

2. Putting into practice the spirit of enthusiasm: as a center of national and international prominence

Research is not only carried out by researchers of RCJTM. Guest researchers are also invited to join them. And RCJTM conducts research and investigations in collaboration with other organizations. Performers and other related experts also participate in collaborative activities.

3. Supporting “Learning” and sharing “Knowledge” and the “Beauty” of Japanese traditional   music: contribution to society and general enlightenment

As an important resource for Japanese traditional music, RCJTM’s collected materials and the results of its research are open to the public.

  1. Planning and hosting extension lectures, seminars and exhibitions
  2. Editing and publishing annals, research reports, DVDs and other publications. (Some are distributed for free.)
  3. Compiling digital archives and the website

Research Targets

RCJTM targets music and performing arts of all historical periods of Japan from ancient to modern and the present day. They range from artistic to folkloric and are sorted by type, age, region and purpose as follows:

1. In respect to the history, current situations and future of traditional artistic music

Receiving and developing traditional music produced before the Meiji Era.
  • Ancient times: Festival songs and performing arts including musical instruments unearthed in archaeological sites.
  • Ancient times and Heian Period: Buddhist music such as Shomyo / Court rituals / Party music such as Gagaku etc.
  • Middle Ages: Buddhist performing arts such as Biwa (Japanese lute), other performing arts, and shakuhachi (bamboo flute) / Performing arts in warriors’ society such as Noh and Kyogen / Popular songs such as Imayo and Kouta.
  • Late Middle Ages: Overseas music such as Christian music, Koto music, and Chinese music / Theater music such as Gidaiyu-bushi, Tokiwazu-bishi sung at Joruri, Nagauta, and accompaniment music played at Kabuki / Non-theater music such as Jiuta-sokyoku, Shamisen music, Biwa music and Shakuhachi / Popular songs such as Kouta and Hauta.

2. Thinking of the development of traditional music in modern society

  • Research on the development and potential of traditional music
  • Research on the benefits and education of traditional music

3. Thinking of music in daily life from a broad point of view

  • Research on folk traditions and their related regions of Japan, and on music and performing arts of indigenous people.
  • Research on music and performing arts of daily life such as children’s songs, folksongs, and festival and ritual music.