Koto player Michiyo Yagi is a national treasure like no other. Why she isn't the most famous musician in all of Japan blows my feeble mind.

She's a Japanese woman playing the koto — the most Japanese of Japanese musical instruments. She's part of an ancient tradition, yet out on her own: unchained, untouched, unmatched. Every musician that has ever lived likes to spew the same staid "I can't be pigeonholed" line, but Yagi truly lives outside the confines of any genre. She sometimes plays her instrument straight up, making listeners feel nostalgic for a time and country they've never known. At other times, she attacks it like Linda Blair double-possessed.

Her free-jazz collaborators have included some of the biggest names in the non-business (John Zorn, Fred Frith, Peter Brotzmann and Elliott Sharp among them). To say she helps keep the koto contemporary would be misleading. She doesn't keep it contemporary; she travels into the future, digs it dead out of the dusty boneyard, and righteously resurrects it.