a traditional stringed instrument made of ivory



Masters of the shamisen—a traditional stringed instrument—use an ivory bridge and pick to produce what they say is a superior sound. “It’s a very slight difference that experts alone can hear,” says Sayo ne-san, a geisha at the Asakusa Geisha Union, in Tokyo. Japan has consumed ivory from more than 260,000 elephants since 1970.
Photograph by Brent Stirton, Getty for National Geographic