Michiyo Yagi studied koto under the late Tadao Sawai, Kazue Sawai and Satomi Kurauchi, and graduated from the NHK Professional Training School for Traditional Musicians. Between 1989 and 1990 she was Visiting Professor of Music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, U.S.A. During her tenure she premiered numerous modern compositions for koto and came under the influence of maverick American composers such as John Cage, Conlon Nancarrow, and John Zorn.
Her solo koto CD Shizuku was produced by Zorn and released on the Tzadik label in 1999. In 2001 she recorded Yural with her koto ensemble Paulownia Crush for the East Works label. Under the auspices of the Japan Foundation, Michiyo toured Russia with Paulownia Crush in the fall of 2004. Subsequent CD releases include Seventeen (Zipangu, 2005), entirely recorded on the giant 17-string bass koto, and Live! at SuperDeluxe (Idiolect/Bomba, 2006), a trio performance with bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. A studio recording with Dresser and Rothenberg, a duo album with Sharp, a “Nordic” session with Eivind Aarset and Raymond Pellicer, and live recordings of the touring trio Brötzmann/Yagi/Nilssen-Love are forthcoming. An eclectic performer who continually challenges conventions, Michiyo has made frequent appearances on Japanese TV and has performed at the Kongsberg Jazz, Moers Jazz, Punkt, Musique Actuel Victoriaville, Archipel, Bang on a Can, Tokyo Summer, and Vision Festivals.