There are many recordings of Japanese music available, so this is a token selection only. For me, the most distinctive instruments in Japan are the winds, especially the bamboo shakuhachi. The wind music is often quite dissonant. A particularly fine recording of solo shakuhachi (out of several possibilities):
Gagaku is one of the oldest styles in Japan. It consists of austere forms performed by a wind and percussion orchestra, exclusively for the Imperial Court in the past. There are a few recordings available, but this is the best I have heard:
There are many other Japanese musical styles... ancient drum ensembles, plucked-string chamber music (often with heavy western influences), theater music, etc. None has caught my attention quite like the above.
To East Asian menu.T. M. McComb Updated: 20 March 2006