YOKOHAMA--As Japan’s only hardingfele luthier, Keisuke Hara is on a mission to spread the popularity of the traditional Norwegian violin-like instrument.

Saying, “I will play it a little for you,” Hara, 32, wielded the bow, with soft and deep tones spreading through his studio in Naka Ward here.

While each of the fiddle’s sounds can be identified clearly, the timbre of the hardingfele is rich and thick.

The hardingfele has strings even under the bridge that supports upper strings. Lower strings resonate when upper strings are played, producing unique sounds that remind listeners of the magnificent nature that abounds in northern Europe.

“I want to create a hardingfele that can produce gentle and rich tones unique to the instrument, which was born and developed in the nature of Norway, such as fjords, forests, and cold and clean air,” Hara said.

Hara initially worked as a violin maker.

He decided to become a luthier during his high school days, when he would play tunes by popular bands such as the Southern All Stars and Yuzu with a guitar. When reading a book introducing various occupations, Hara found an illustration showing a luthier and thought working as a violin maker “would be nice as I like to work in silence.”

Hara enrolled in a violin-making school in Britain and began working at an instrument shop in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, after graduation.

It was around the time that he saw a hardingfele for the first time in a magazine that shows the mechanisms of sympathetic strings and the instrument’s body decorated with flowers and other patterns made of shells and bones.

“The hardingfele is a well-balanced instrument, and one would never tire of looking at one,” Hara said. “I thought making hardingfeles would be interesting.”

Hara spent two years learning how to make the hardingfele in Norway from 2015 and then started working as “the only Japanese luthier” to make and repair the instruments this year.

He said he is always struggling to create the hardingfele’s higher arches than violins, carve out wood while maintaining its strength and decide which wood piece to use because boards from even the same wood can differ in hardness.

“There are no answers to the creation of musical instruments, so I have no choice but to change the method each time,” Hara said.

This past summer, Hara’s hardingfele won a luthier award in a traditional instrument competition held in Norway. His skills in working with the wood he used in making his fiddles were highly praised, giving him confidence.

Hara is also involved in promoting the hardingfele since there are only a few players in Japan.

He has held events across the country where he explained that the hardingfele originates from a baroque instrument with sympathetic strings, showed the making process and played the hardingfele for those who are interested in traditional instruments and northern Europe.

Earlier this year, Hara organized a gathering in Oslo targeting Japanese living in Norway. Such activities have resulted in new orders, and he is currently working to make the instrument for new customers.

The hardingfele, which is also called the “country violin” in Norway, has been loved and played in daily life for generations, though formal scores did not exist.

To contact Hara, visit his website at (https://www.keisukehara.com).