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The Wikipedia article on shamisen says these 3-stringed instruments traditionally had skins made from dog or cat, and that on some of the best shamisen, "the position of the cat's nipples can still be seen." Though I am a cat lover, I still can appreciate details such as this.
The shamisen, as you can see, is played with a plectrum (pick) akin to an ice-scraper, which is used to both pick the strings and strike the skin.
Shamisen Vs. Shamisen