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Takeharu Kunimoto’s entry into the music world was via the mandolin, which he took up in 1974 while he was still in junior high school. But it wasn’t the lure of traditional European tunes that attracted him to the ancient instrument; it was the twangy rhythms of the blues- and jazz-fusion American bluegrass that he had heard on the radio.

In high school, Kunimoto, now 47, extended his repertoire to include the traditional three-stringed instrument, the shamisen, and from there branched into rokyoku, a form of storytelling with shamisen accompaniment, setting the trajectory of his career.

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