A leading American koto performer in the traditional and jazz arenas, Reiko Obata studied under masters in the U.S. and Japan, including composer and virtuoso Shinichi Yuize in Tokyo. Reiko has a master's degree in music from San Diego State University and a daishihan (grandmaster) degree from the Seiha Conservatory of Japanese Music.  She is founder and director of the Obata International Koto School, the first online distance learning koto school.

Obata has been featured multiple times as a soloist with orchestras, including Orchestra Nova under the direction of Jung-Ho Pak for KPBS-TV. She has also performed with guitarists Jimmy Patton, Fred Benedetti, and Bob Boss; pianists David Ward-Steinman and Kamau Kenyatta; trumpeter Derek Cannon; Dallas Symphony principal flutist Demarre McGill and jazz flutist Louisa West; saxophonist/flutist John Rekevics; bassists Bill Andrews, Marshall Hawkins, Tony Muhammad, and Gunnar Biggs; drummers Russell Bizzett, Kevin Koch and Richard Sellers; percussionist Jonathan Szanto; San Diego Symphony cellist Mary Oda Szanto; harpists Melissa Morgan and Miguel Lopez; shakuhachi virtuoso John Neptune; and the late jazz saxophonist Hollis Gentry.

Obata has performed for television, radio, film, and live theatre. Film music includes performing koto and bass koto on "Monkey King 2" (2016) with film music producer Christopher Young (Spiderman, Killing Fields). Other film music includes Byron Barth's "The Art of Zen Shiatsu," Vivian Price's "Transnational Tradeswomen," and Tales Alive's "Chieko and the Pine." Obata has been a featured performer at harp and folk festivals. She is a former World Music and Music Appreciation college instructor. 

Performance venues include the Venetian-Las Vegas, LINQ-Las Vegas, Warner Brothers Studio, California Center for the Arts, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Convention Center, Petco Park, Sea World, Safari Park, San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden, Anthology, Barona, Viejas, Pechanga and Pala Casinos, La Costa Resort & Spa, Terranea Resort & Spa, and the Temecula and Idyllwild Jazz Festivals. Clients include KPBS, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Japan Airlines, Union Bank, Wall Street Journal, SIGGRAPH, and artist Hisashi Otsuka. Events include Kyoto Prize Symposium, World Baseball Classic Semifinals/Finals, America's Cup, and National Flute Association Conventions.

Reiko has recorded multiple CDs of her own compositions and arrangements, including "Serenity," "Sound of Kiri," and a self-titled jazz koto CD with her band East West. She produced the first English language koto instructional DVD "You Can Play Koto." Obata also produced and arranged the first all-Western notation koto books "Japanese Melodies for Koto," "Funeral & Memorial Songs for Koto," "Christmas Songs for Koto, Vols. 1 & 2," "Classical Wedding Music for Solo Koto" and "Classical Wedding Music Duets."  She also authored and published the first English-language koto reference book, "The Koto Player's Reference Manual."

For more information or to book koto performances, Contact Reiko.


  • Reiko Obata - Koto

    Japanese American koto performer Reiko Obata based in San Diego, California plays traditional and contemporary Japanese koto music. To book a performance, Contact Reiko.

  • East West Jazz

    East West Jazz is a multi-instrumental jazz band featuring Reiko Obata on the koto, blending traditional sounds with jazz and contemporary music.

  • Kotos and More

    The #1 English-language online shop where you can buy Japanese Koto and many other Japanese traditional instruments and accessories. Ships worldwide! Owned by Reiko Obata.