Junko Ueda

 The Japanese epic story telling tradition of Heike Monogatari, as I believe, perfectly reflects our modern world with its dramatic episodes of universal human emotion and its Buddhistic idea of cause and effect and human life's impermanence. It is my sincere passion to perform this traditional music for a contemporary audience, sharing a space and time to discover an essence of humanity.

  • Satsuma-Biwa
    Epic Story Telling
    Junko Ueda
  • Shomyo
    Buddhist Chant
    Junko Ueda

A musical performance of Junko Ueda extends Japanese ancient sound into modern times. Both the biwa epic story telling tradition as well as shomyo Buddhist chant are unique musical treasures which have been passed on from generation to generation.

Junko Ueda (born in Tokyo, Japan) is Japanese singer and satsuma-biwa player, presenting Japanese traditional biwa epic story telling and shomyo Buddhist chant. Ueda studied satsuma-biwa epic story telling with the famous Kinshi Tsuruta (Satsuma-Biwa Tsuruta-style) and Buddhist shomyo chant with Kôshin Ebihara (Tendai school). She studied composition (under Reiko Arima, Jôji Yuasa, Sei Ikeno) at the Tokyo College of Music. She has participated the project of Reigaku Ensemble (ensemble of reconstructed instruments from Shôsô-in Imperial treasure house of 8th century) directed by the Tokyo National Theatre, Japan.

Ueda has based in Europe and has been presenting biwa epic story telling as well as shomyo Buddhist chant concert in numerous situations and at music festivals. Her traditional biwa CDs “L’épopée des Heike" (CD650 VDE/AIMP Geneva) and "Satsuma Biwa" (ARN64577 Arion, Paris / Ethnomad, Geneva) received several prizes e.g. the Grand Prix du Disque, Academie Charles Cros, Paris and Choc Le Monde de la Musique, Paris. She has released her solo CD of shomyo Buddhist chant titled ‘Meditative Flowers’ (E-records, Granada, Spain).

Since 1995, Ueda has been presenting the shomyo chant workshop and lecture. In these events, participants enjoy exploring the 1200 year old shomyo melodies and its concept and seek the wisdom and power of the breath from this ancient tradition.

Junko Ueda

Contributing for new compositions and improvisation, Junko Ueda has been working with composers, e.g. Jean-Claude Eloy, Akemi Naito, Keiko Harada and performing with e.g. cellist Yo-Yo Ma, viola da gamba player Jordi Savall, Lyonnaise progressive rock band PoiL, contrabassist Peter Kowald, Dutch Nieuw Ensemble, percussionists Ying-Hsueh Chen and Lê Quan Ninh. Also, she is specialized to perform the pieces for biwa of Japanese composer Tôru Takemitsu. Since 1988 she has been presenting a duo performance with Dutch flutist Wil Offermans. This Duo Ueda Offermans has recorded the CD "How to Survive in Paradise" (CD732 VDE-Gallo Swiss) and has been touring world-wide (Europe, Asia, North and South America), performing own compositions and improvisations. She has been active as a producer for several inter-cultural projects including 12xHolland and Body & Soul Xperience Caravan.

Featured Video

Heike Monogatari, Duo Ueda Offermans
Live recording of a Heike Monogatari arrangement by the Duo Ueda Offermans at the Copis Miyoshi Concert Hall, Saitama, Japan. Includes the traditional pieces Dan-no-Ura and Gion-shoja. Ful version (26 min).

• see more videos in the Video Gallery

Press Review

  • Junko Ueda, a master in musical silence... a musical beauty, which is not known in Europe...
    (West Deutsche Zeitung, Germany)
  • A voice full of mystery and solemnity, yet sensuality... performing her instrument with an amazing precision and variety...
    (Le Monde, France)
  • Breath taking beauty... her audience are caught within two seconds...
    (De Volkskrant, Holland)
  • Traditional solo recital
    Traditional solo recital, Opera Lille, France
  • Solo Recital, Geneva
    Traditional solo recital, Musée d'ethnographie, Geneva
  • Shomyo Recital
    Shomyo recital, Croisée des Cultures, Geneva
  • Yo-Yo Ma - Junko Ueda
    Yo-Yo Ma & Junko Ueda, AOI Concert Hall, Shizuoka, Japan
  • November Steps
    Shomyo workshop, Ateliers d'ethnomusicologie, Geneva
  • Shomyo Recital
    Shomyo Recital, Konsertkirken, Copenhagen
  • November Steps
    November Steps (T. Takemitsu), Odense Symphony, Denmark
  • Junko Ueda satsuma-biwa Recital
    Traditional solo recital, Maison de Cultures du Monde, Paris

PDF Download

Click the image to download the A5 flyer (PDF-format).

Music Festivals

  • VinterJazz, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Romanischer Sommer Köln, Germany
  • International Sacred Music Festival of Bogota, Colombia
  • Festival des Musiques Sacrées du Munde,’Sacrées Journées de Strasbourg’, France
  • 19th Festival de l'Imaginaire, Maison des Cultures du Monde, Paris, France
  • Copenhagen World Music Festival, Denmark
  • Festival Electr()cution, Brest, France
  • Academie Internationale d'Ete de Nice, France
  • Mantica Theatre Festival, Cesena, Italy
  • 17e Rencontres Internationales de Musique Médiévale du Thoronet, France
  • Festival Trob'Art, Troubadours du Monde, St. Michel de Grandmond, France
  • 8ème Festival International du Luth, Tétouan, Morocco
  • Festival Ethnomad, Geneva, Swiss
  • Voice Expeditions, Amsterdam, Holland
  • Festival Suoni dal Mondo, Bologna, Italy
  • Traditional and Sacred Music Heritage of Humanity, Yerevan, Armenia
  • Lute Festival, Rasa Utrecht, Holland
  • Singapore Festival of Arts, Singapore
  • New Music Festival, Middelburg, Holland
  • Musica Contemporanea, Bogota, Colombia
  • Musique Action, Nancy, France
  • Festival d'été de Québec, Canada
  • Why Note, Dijon, France
  • Sigma de Bordeaux, France
  • Musica Strasbourg, France
  • Warsaw Autumn, Poland
  • Festival d'Autumn, Paris, France
  • Oude Muziek Festival, Utrecht, Holland
  • Wratislavia Cantans, Wroclaw, Poland
  • Inventionen, Berliner Festival Neuer Musik, Germany
  • ISCM, World Music Days, Zurich, Swiss
  • Rheinisches Musikfest, Köln, Germany
  • Gaudeamus International Composers' Workshop, Amsterdam, Holland
  • Midem, Cannes, France


  • CD Meditative Flowers:
    Junko Ueda performing repertoire from the 1200 year-old Japanese traditional Shomyo Buddhist chant.
    CD Meditative Flowers:
    Junko Ueda interpretando canciones budista tradicional japonés de Shomyo, un repertorio del siglo VIII.
    CD Meditative Flowers:

  • CD Satsuma-Biwa:
    solo CD by Junko Ueda performing traditional biwa music as well as a modern-style composition by Toru Takemitsu.
    CD Satsuma-Biwa:
    CD solo de Junko Ueda interpretando música biwa tradicional así como una composición moderno de Toru Takemitsu.
    CD 薩摩琵琶:

  • CD Japon - L'épopé des Heike:
    Junko Ueda with traditional satsuma-biwa repertoire from the Hieke Monogatari, recorded at Hiei-zan Temple, Japan.
    CD Japon - L'épopé des Heike:
    Junko Ueda interpretando canciones budista tradicional japonés de Shomyo, un repertorio del siglo VIII.
    CD Japon - L'épopé des Heike:

  • The Biwa Vocab is a vocabulary catalogue and sound library of the satsuma-biwa by Junko Ueda.