The koto is believed to have been introduced to Japan from China during the Nara period (710–794). 
Use within Tenrikyo
The koto used in the Service is tuned to the Hirajoshi mode. However, the tones made from pressing strings behind the bridge with the left hand imply correspond to the Hyojo mode in gagaku.
The finger picks used in Tenrikyo are rectangular-shaped ones from the Ikuta school of koto.
Oyasama is said to have personally taught the koto to Tomegiku Tsuji beginning in 1877. The performance of the koto in Tenrikyo services has since been reserved for women with the exception between the years 1896 and 1936 when government interference restricted women from participating in the Kagura Service and playing the Narimono.