I consider the Shamisen the "king" of Japanese instruments in the same way that the violin is the "king" of european music. It's everywhere, folk music, classical art music, Kabuki, and recently shows up in pop every now and then.
I'm a shakuhachi player and play mostly traditional Sankyoku music. "Three voices", the traditional ensemble is Shamisen, Koto - a 13 string zither, and Shakuhachi, a bamboo flute. It's a great joy to study with and play with the string players.
Wow! Does that ever bring back memories of bar-hopping in Koza, Okinawa in the early 1970s. I was just learning to play guitar back then and the mama-sans at the bars would play their Shamisens when it got late and business slowed. When they tired of playing they'd let me try it. There was a method to their madness, the more I drank the better I played - at least to my ears.
My mother was a very talented samisen (& koto) player. She had a custom made instrument. The skin is traditionally cat skin. I always felt sorry for the kitty whenever I looked at her shamisen. I wonder what she ever did with it.
Here's the Yoshida Brothers playing "Kodo". Many oldtime gamers might recognize the song: