The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me


Product Details

$16.95  $15.76
Stone Bridge Press
Publish Date
5.5 X 8.4 X 0.8 inches | 0.65 pounds

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About the Author

Janet Pocorobba's involvement with Japan includes two decades of performing and lecturing on Japanese arts on two continents, in concert halls, schools, museums, and backyards. Her work has been published in the Rumpus, Harvard Review, The Writer, Kyoto Journal, Indiana Review, and others. She is currently associate professor and associate director of the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University. Janet lives in Vermont and can be reached at


"The Fourth String reconfigures the typical Japan fish-out-of-water memoir into a meditation on music and mastery, relationships, culture and narrative."

--The Japan Times

"Sometimes Janet and Sensei argue, sometimes Sensei favors other students over Janet, but each encounter offers a little more insight into music, Japanese culture, and into Janet herself."

--Education About Asia

"This memoir provides a picture of the ever present tension between the traditional and modern in Japan. It also provides great detail on the learning and playing of Japanese traditional music."

--The Asian Review of Books

"In this candid memoir, Pocorobba recounts the years she spent in devotion to her teacher and to learning the intracacies of the shamisen--a traditional Japanese three string instrument famously difficult to play."

--The Pacific Rim Review of Books

"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

"A detailed and intimate portrayal of the relationship between two women."

--Hippocampus Magazine

"Impressively well written with a distinctive narrative storytelling style, The Fourth String is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful, and compelling read."

--The Midwest Book Review

"Elegantly spare yet detail rich, The Fourth String is a beautifully crafted, moving memoir."

--Alexandra Johnson, author of The Hidden Writer, recipient of PEN/Jerard Fund Award Citation for nonfiction.

"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 memoir Yarn: Remembering the Way Home

"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

"Exquisitely written ... takes us on a spiritual quest in a new country and culture, ... the soul of a place whose past secures hope and whose present yearns for modernity."

--Rachel Manley, author of Drumblair trilogy and winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for Literature

"The intimate, evocative world unveiled in Janet Pocorobba's The Fourth String is a compelling place to visit... An effortless read by a writer who manages the impossible - capturing the ephemeral."

--Elizabeth Dowd, Noh Training Project US, Producing Director