The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me

No. Pages: 256
Dimensions: 5.5x8.5
Format: Paperback/softback
Price: 16.95
ISBN: 9781611720464


This memoir explores the intense and unlikely relationship that grows between a Japanese master and an American student, both exiles from their own cultures who find refuge in the three strings of the Japanese shamisen. As they confront each other, and themselves, each learns what gives their life purpose and what belonging truly means.

Part travelogue, part portrait, The Fourth String offers a rare glimpse of a relationship seldom seen today: its beauty, its dangers, its hidden and difficult pleasures.



“Moving and provocative, The Fourth String charts a profound journey into the heart of another culture. What does it mean to teach and be taught? What does it mean to transform and be transformed? Are teacher and student finally, above all, comrades? This memoir --part biography, part autobiography, part portrait of an alchemy -- is as transmuting as its subject, and a joy to read.”
Gish Jen, author of The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap
"An insightful and deeply generous book written by a woman as open to surprises within herself as she is to the revelations she discovers about her temporarily adoptive country of Japan. Janet Pocorobba is by turns curious, funny, sensitive, and always, always brave."
Pamela Petro, travel writer and author of Travels in an Old Tongue, The Slow Breath of Stone, and Sitting Up With the Dead
"The Fourth String is a piercingly insightful memoir of a young woman's search for herself by diving into the demanding traditional art form of the shamisen in a country renowned for keeping outsiders at arms' length."
Liza Dalby, author of Geisha, Kimono, Tale of Murasaki, and others
"The Fourth String transports you into the exquisite minutiae of thoughtful, aesthetically oriented "gaijin" life in Japan."
Leonard Koren, author of Wabi- Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, Gardens of Gravel and Sand, and others
"An eloquent and insightful story about Japanese music and culture. Her observations shed light on our longing for beauty and purpose."
Kyoko Mori, author of the memoirs Yarn, The Dream of Water, Polite Lies and others
"With lyrical prose and elegant precision, Pocorobba tells a gripping story of teacher and student, practice and dreams, and the ways we listen to our own music and discover our true self."
Hester Kaplan, author, Unravished, The Tell, The Edge of Marriage, and others



Janet Pocorobba has studied and performed Japanese music in the U.S. and Tokyo for over 20 years. She has been featured in Japanese media and was cited as one of five distinctive foreign women studying traditional arts in Japanese Cosmo. She has been a student of the shamisen, drums (Katada school), and dance.

Currently she is Associate Professor of writing and Associate Director of the Lesley University low-residency MFA program in creative writing in Cambridge, MA. Her work has been published in the Rumpus, Harvard Review, The Writer, Kyoto Journal, Indiana Review, The Journal, Provincetown Arts, Metropolis, American Athenaeum, and others. She lives in Calais, VT.