The Shakuhachi

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Kakua was the first Japanese to study Zen in China. Meditating constantly, he lived on a remote part of a mountain. Whenever people found him and asked him to preach, he would say a few words and then move to another part of the mountain where he could be found less easily. The emperor heard about Kakua when he returned to Japan, and asked him to preach Zen for his edification and that of his subjects. Kakua stood before the emperor in silence. He then produced a flute from the folds of his robe, and blew one short note. Bowing politely, he disappeared. This is the origin of the shakuhachi.

The shakuhachi is a Japanese flute, made of thick bamboo, and held vertically like a clarinet. In Japan it has a repertoire of ancient, completely solo pieces called Honkyoku. The eerie sound of a solo shakuhachi, which has writers reaching for the words 'ethereal' and 'haunting', is gradually becoming familiar in the west. A Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky was one of the first recordings to become popular outside Japan, in the early 1970s. It featured Goro Yamaguchi's full-length versions of two classic solos, and is still one of the best shakuhachi albums. Like a gull watched from a cliff top, Yamaguchi's flute soars and dives from one giddy tremolo to another. The music seems to have the endless freedom of an improvisation, yet it is played with a classical sense of poise. Sadly, Yamaguchi died in January this year at the relatively young age of 65.

In the 1980s Peter Gabriel prefaced his hit song "Sledgehammer" with a breathy snippet of shakuhachi. While hardly equivalent to George Harrison playing the sitar on Beatles records, Gabriel's little snatch of Zen reflected a growing interest in non-western musics, a trickle soon to become a flood. I remember a 1980s recording session where I was playing Far Eastern wind instruments for a pop album. Even though the shakuhachi is my main instrument, I was asked not to play it, because Peter Gabriel "had already done it". The shakuhachi started popping up as a preset huffy flute sound on synthesisers, and ambient dance music went overboard on Japanese flute samples. By 1993 the editor of Keyboard magazine, Dominic Milano, was desperate to stop the rot: "Trash the arpeggiators. Eradicate all Native Dance patches. Shoot the next person who asks you to use a shakuhachi sample."

The shakuhachi was not alone in suffering from sample overkill -- the didgeridoo is still recovering from being 'discovered' in the 90s. But how come I never see shakuhachi players busking in tube stations? The origins of the shakuhachi are delightfully shrouded in legend. One such story is at the top of this article. Here is another:

Once upon a time in Japan a famous old teacher announced to the people of his city that he was going to die. Carrying a coffin on his shoulder, he walked to the city's East Gate, accompanied by crowds of lamenting followers. But on arriving at the gate, the teacher noticed a blackbird on his left, and in the face of this ill omen postponed his death. The following day he set off again to the West Gate, only to be confronted by another bad omen. The same thing occurred next day at the South Gate. By the fourth day no one believed the teacher any more, so he made his way alone with his coffin to the North Gate. Later that day a traveller arrived in the city centre, who said, "At the North Gate I met a crazy monk who asked me to nail him in his coffin." The people all ran to the North Gate and tore off the lid, only to find the coffin empty. Then above them in the sky they heard a bell ringing. One of the teacher's pupils was very sad and played a flute in answer to the bell in the sky.This is the origin of the shakuhachi. Or at least the origin of the solo piece "A Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky".

If you ever get a chance to look closely at a Chinese end-blown flute, you may be looking at the prototype from which the Japanese shakuhachi evolved. Probably around the sixth century AD bamboo flutes arrived in Japan from China, and then spent the next millennium being redesigned into the chunky creature played in Japan today. First the flute was reworked to include the root of the bamboo, and on most shakuhachis this root can be clearly seen. The root-end is conical inside,so while the flute is thicker at the root, the bore actually tapers to become narrower at the lower end. The trunk of the root end normally turns upward a little, forming a bell which naturally projects and amplifies the sound. Then the mouthpiece was redesigned from a small U-shaped notch to a wide crescent shape. The sharp edge of this broad crescent splits the player's breath and creates the note. Finally the finger holes, four on front and one for the thumb at the back, were made larger. So by the 17th century the Japanese shakuhachi player had at his disposal large finger holes, an unusually wide mouthpiece to blow against, and a heavy piece of bamboo with a lump of root on the end. In the hands of the right player this could inflict a lot of damage on the opposition, and there are indeed tales of ex-samurai employing the instrument as a club in self-defence. Denied the use of their samurai swords, these wandering priests (the Komuso) needed some protection against the violence of the 17th and 18th centuries (Japan's Edo period).

Speaking musically. the redesigned flute is built not only for volume, but also to maximise the tonal variation possible, from a pure note to an icy blast of breath noise. Bigger fingerholes also enable a lot of sliding and trilling exploration of the areas in between the notes of the scale. Contrast the modern design of the western flute, with its complex engineering system for closing pads: here the priorities are speed in any key, volume in a large orchestra, and straightforward tonal purity. For myself, as a classically trained flute player shifting to shakuhachi, one of the attractions is that the music invites you to explore as many different sounds and timbres as possible, rather than always producing a clean tone. Another pleasure is the intimate contact with the natural bamboo material.

Ideally the flute should be slightly bowed in shape towards the bamboo root. If the bamboo is not already curved like this, a maker will sometimes put a bend in it, to make it look 'more natural'. A shakuhachi is traditionally made from fine madaké bamboo (phyllostachys bambusoides). The ideal plants have a relatively small diameter and grow in poor soil on the sides of mountains. The shakuhachi maker must harvest the bamboo during the winter, before the sap rises. The Japanese aesthetic takes into account size, shape, colour, root structure and nodal configuration when considering the look of the shakuhachi. The instrument that I bought from my teacher had the root shaved off and a big splash of black marking on the lower half. I was sorry about the root, but very pleased with the dark bamboo -- it looked like it had barely survived an arson attack. Every instrument of course is different and has its own character. back to the top

"The Encyclopedia Of Musical Instruments: The Shakuhachi" is a book which documents the construction of the shakuhachi in colour photos, all the way from digging up the bamboo to applying the finishing touches. The book is a collaboration between two of Japan's finest shakuhachi makers, Kozo Kitahara and Ikuya Kitahara, and three Japanese ethnomusicologists. The word "shakuhachi" is actually a description of the length of the standard flute, using a traditional Japanese measuring system: shaku and sun. A shaku is about 33 centimetres, and divides into ten sun. Hachi is Japanese for eight, so "shakuhachi" is an abbreviation for one shaku and eight sun. In English this standard size can be called a 1.8 shakuhachi, and is about 54.5 centimetres long. Also common is a 1.6, or "shakuroku", sounding one tone higher. The smallest size you are likely to encounter is a 1.4, or "shakuyon", very hard to make from a tuning point of view. Then there are larger sizes commonly used for certain solo pieces, 2.2 down to 2.4 and beyond. The main limitation on a big flute is that human fingers can only reach so far. The late Zen priest Watazumido built all his own flutes, and on the larger models used to close the lower holes with his toes.

Bamboo is one of the strongest natural fibres on earth. The bad news is that it splits. Even in Japan, a dry winter (and winter there is usually dry) can wreak havoc among the traditional flute community. And just the sight of a central heating radiator sends a shudder down the shakuhachi player's spine. The usual solution is to bind the instrument along its length with bamboo or nylon fishing line, and then keep it oiled and well wrapped to maintain a constant humidity. The American shakuhachi maker Monty Levenson has a more radical method: he has designed a bamboo shakuhachi with an epoxy resin bore.

This bore is precision cast, based on measurements of the best instruments. Since using this method Levenson claims that not one of his instruments has been returned in an unplayable condition, and he guarantees them for life.

The shakuhachi is by no means an easy instrument to play, though perhaps not as hard as its reputation in Japan insists. All Japanese know two things about the shakuhachi: one, that it's tough to play, even if you are Japanese, and two, that it takes three years to shake your neck correctly -- kubi furi san nen -- this proverb refers to the shakuhachi player's way of generating vibrato, by shaking the head. The first time I watched a shakuhachi player I was astonished by the jerking and shuddering of the musician's head, because not only vibrato but also much of the tuning is adjusted by head movement. The problem for the beginner is simply making a note. The student goes red in the face and dizzy from hyperventilation while trying to acquire the knack. Fingers and arms may seize up and become numb from being overtensed in unfamiliar positions. Finally, when you try to leave the traditional kneeling posture, your legs will be dead from lack of circulation. Thus you may pass the first few weeks of practice, only rarely making any sound at all. If you survive this first period, there are no nasty side effects, and after an hour's practice the bright red marks on the lower lip will fade away faster than the average lovebite.

The ideal place to practise is supposed to be beside running water, a stream or waterfall. Though to get an inflated impression of your own ability, it's far more satisfying to play inside a reverberant church. The five holes of the standard shakuhachi produce the notes D, F, G, A and C. This pentatonic scale is one of the two Japanese scales, the other being D, E flat, G, A and B flat. To produce all the notes and shadows of notes between the main holes, the student has to learn the system of half-holing and changing embouchure called meri-kari. Kari is for raising the pitch, and can simply mean pushing your chin forward and blowing a good clear sound. My teacher Miyata described this position as trying to puff a feather off your nose. Then meri lowers the pitch, through a combination of partially levering the finger off the hole and slightly dipping the chin. For the beginner, this infallibly causes the note to disappear altogether, and gradually you realise you are doomed to spend months struggling with particularly unpleasant notes like the dreaded E flat, in its Japanese guise of tsu-o-meri (F-big-meri). To compensate for this misery, you soon discover you can make a tremolo glide delightfully up and down in pitch by raising and lowering the chin, to the envy of all other flute players around the world.

Other pleasures lying in wait include weird yodeling trills like koro-koro (= rolling), and the air-blasting attack called mura-iki, in which your samurai-like breath savages the bottom D before leaping, like a ninja, to the very top of the flute's range.

The student spends years accumulating techniques of articulation, vibrato and glissando, some of them named and written on the score, others passed on orally by the teacher, maybe invented by that teacher. It's normal for each teacher to write out pieces of music for his students; my teacher had an old Banda manual copier, so all our music was mauve in colour. The teacher may construct his own version of the old solo pieces, which can differ radically from those of other teachers. Each student strives to reproduce in every tiny detail the teacher's performance, knowing that once you have attained a high standard, you too will be free to rewrite the classic repertoire. The notation is specific to the shakuhachi, and if you work alongside a koto or shamisen player, all the scores will be mutually incomprehensible to the different instrumentalists. This has the advantage of creating a protective vagueness during disputes about the exact contents of a particular bar.

The shakuhachi uses a very simple notation system of representing each finger hole by a syllable, so although the score will seem indecipherable to an outsider, it's actually a kind of doh-re-mi system using a tiny handful of symbols. There are three main schools of shakuhachi in Japan, plus many splinter groups. The original Kyoto sect of beggar-priests, or "Komuso" (of whom more later), became the Meian school. Tokyo teachers called their school Kinko, after Kinko Kurosawa. He was a Komuso shakuhachi player in the 18th century who was commissioned by a temple to collect together all the pieces being played at over 100 Komuso temples throughout Japan. Kinko spent three years on the road assembling and revising the 36 Honkyoku pieces which now form the core repertoire of the Kinko school. In the early Meiji period (the 1870s) a third school appeared, called Tozan, aimed at teaching shakuhachi to the general population, rather than just priests. But in the Meiji reforms the other two schools lost their priestly privileges, and so they too had to open up their teaching to anyone who wanted to learn. These three schools now employ slightly different notation and small details of their instruments can be different. The hard insert in the flute's mouthpiece has a different shape depending on whether it is Kinko or Tozan.

My own teacher, who was Kinko school, and who held modern views, insisted that the niceties of distinctions between schools was not a musical issue that he had much time for. However these divisions and their attendant rivalries remain an element of the traditional music scene. Apart from Honkyoku ("main pieces") the shakuhachi repertoire consists of Gaikyoku ("outside pieces"), Shinkyoku ("new pieces") and Minyo or folk music. Gaikyoku is all the chamber music played together with koto (a long zither, playing a similar role to a piano in the west) and shamisen (a banjo-like lute, originally covered with catskin). The most common genre is Jiuta, in which the koto player also sings; songs alternate with passages of instrumental display. Here the shakuhachi's job is to play a version of the basic koto line. In this chamber music all the parts are variants on the same melodic line, and this type of musical organisation is called homophony. Shinkyoku is a general term covering all pieces written since Meiji (1870), and includes much chamber music written under influence from European musical movements such as Impressionism. The discovery of western scales sometimes encouraged Japanese composers to wallow in romanticism and sentimentality, and some well-loved pieces sound like Debussy dragged backwards through a vat of syrup. Other composers, like Somei Satoh and the late Toru Takemitsu, have forged a more confident musical identity, less infected by kneejerk respect for western ways of doing things.

Folk music is in robust good health in urban Japan, and the shakuhachi plays its part by providing accompaniment to Minyo singers. The folk style is highly ornamented, rolling out a backdrop to shadow the passionate outpourings of the vocalist. This style of song has no metric rhythm, but the long phrases twist and tumble like waves rushing towards a beach. The shakuhachi player is the surfer riding the singer's virtuoso lines. Modern Japan dates from the Meiji reforms around 1870. The new government abolished the Komuso beggar-priest sects, and also their monopoly on the use of the shakuhachi. Since then a combination of western influence and a more secular society has resulted in the shakuhachi becoming more of a musical instrument and less of a religious tool. Tuning has been standardised, and performance practice has become more geared to a concert presentation that we would find familiar in the west. In fact Japanese musicians have been so keen to do things properly that these days we might find their recitals a little formal and stuffy even by our own classical standards. But part of the fascination of the shakuhachi is that it comes trailing clouds of Buddhist holiness, a long religious tradition in which it was an aid to meditation and enlightenment for the seeker behind the veils of everyday reality. Buddhist monks chant sutras as a basic form of devotion, and certain sects played the shakuhachi instead. Everything in the instrument's background is touched by Zen.

There is the emphasis on conscious use of breath (also mentioned in Eugen Herrigel's classic book Zen In The Art Of Archery. There are the names of many Honkyoku pieces which come from the world of Zen: for example Koku, which is literally "sky" but also means "sublimity of the mind". There are Zen concepts in the musical aesthetic, such as Ma (the silence between notes), and Yin-Yang duality (represented by the two pentatonic scales). Religious use of the instrument lingers on in modern Japan, and it is possible to hear monks perform a piece in unison, or to study with a teacher of the Meian school, who will emphasise that this activity is religious, not musical, and certainly not for entertainment. Religious players in a temple will scorn musical refinements: they make their flutes themselves in as natural a way a possible, in one section of bamboo rather than cut in two halfway down, and with no lacquer on the inside. Each instrument is tuned differently. Fingerholes are never partially covered, and the note is simply adjusted by raising or lowering the head. The group playing is meditative, and no more aims at musical sophistication than chanting monks aim to harmonise as a choir.

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An old Zen text:

Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in and just before turning up -- the beneficence. As breath turns from down to up, and again as breath curves from up to down -- through both these turns,realise.


Since 1982 Britain has been fortunate to have Yoshikazu Iwamoto as our resident Japanese shakuhachi player. He has taught at Dartington College of Arts and York University, and is currently a "Visiting Fellow In Japanese Music" at Durham University. A modest and retiring personality, Iwamoto is however a powerful performer on stage, and his solo recitals have attracted some glowing comment. The Times reviewer praised his "fine use of vibrato, pitch bending and fervent snorting." The Financial Times wrote: "In Koku ("Empty Sky") he generated the beginnings of that marvellous sense of close, unearthly focus, microscopic yet timeless, which characterises the great shakuhachi performances."

Like most Japanese musicians, Iwamoto grew up in a musical family: "Every member of my family was playing a traditional instrument of some kind. My father played the Chikuzen biwa (Japanese lute) at quite an advanced level. At the beginning of the twentieth century there was a huge surge in the popularity of the biwa -- if you bumped into three people on the street, one of them would be a biwa player! My elder brother played shakuhachi. I found his sound so beautiful, and he could see I was interested, so when I was thirteen he began to teach me. Then at the age of eighteen I moved from Tokyo to Kyoto, and began a very serious study of classical shakuhachi with an old master called Baisen Onishi. I became one of his last students. Onishi was a very special link to the old world of shakuhachi -- his playing was quiet and conservative, not fashionable or showing off at all. In fact he trained as a Komuso priest, and played shakuhachi on the streets as a Komuso for five years. Several generations ago he was well known, but our memories are short and these days hardly anyone knows of him."

These Komuso priests are the key to the Zen tradition that lies beneath the solo shakuhachi music. The Chinese characters for Komuso mean "Priests of Emptiness and Nothingness". These wandering beggar-priests wore straw baskets over their heads, preserving an anonymity in keeping with the music they played on the shakuhachi. Their playing was both a means of collecting alms and a form of religious devotion, akin to chanting sutras. Their history has been traced back to the 14th century, but in the 1600s a Zen sect called Fuke-shu appeared in Kyoto, composed of master-less samurai reduced to begging. By a cunning use of forged documents, the Fuke-shu obtained the exclusive right to solicit alms by shakuhachi playing. In return they acted as spies for the government, passing on information about the activities of other ex-samurai. It was these beggar-priests who sometimes resorted to using the shakuhachi as a stout weapon.

By studying with Onishi, Iwamoto had glimpsed the straw-hatted Zen tradition of the Komuso, that barely survives in modern Japan. Back in Tokyo, Iwamoto continued his studies with Katsuya Yokoyama, possibly the greatest shakuhachi master alive today, and one whose music spans from the classics to the heady techniques of contemporary composition. In fact, Yokoyama's stunning recording of Toru Takemitsu's 1960's composition "November Steps" was my own first encounter with the shakuhachi, and poured petrol onto my smouldering interest in Japanese music.

From this point on, Iwamoto studied exclusively with Yokoyama ­ Japanese tradition dictates that the student should follow one teacher only, and not visit any other teacher even socially, let alone take the odd lesson. This can lead to a strange division of the performing world into tightly closed factions around each teacher, but Iwamoto sees a value in this traditional approach: "In Japanese art in general this principle is important. When you study the shakuhachi, the problem is not only the movement of the fingers, but the passing on of the 'breathwork'. This means how you breathe, into the shakuhachi and in your daily life as well. This seems to be possible only through a very close association with the teacher. If you tour around from one teacher to another, this kind of closeness seems to disappear."

I recall my own weekly lessons with Kohachiro Miyata. All the students would attend at Miyata's house at the same time, so most of the evening was spent amongst the other students. Eventually my turn would come, and I would pass through the sliding door into the teaching room. I would stay there for as long as the sensei (teacher) felt I needed to be taught, finally rejoining the others. A big advantage of this system was the informal contact with more advanced students, who could gently explain points from my lesson which had left me completely flummoxed. Iwamoto agrees: "During the lesson the teacher concentrates on finger work and technique -- but then comes the teatime break, and that's a very important time! The other students are sitting around and chatting, so any topic about the shakuhachi can come up. That's a vital moment for nourishing your understanding of the music."

I mention that I was often taught strictly by example, and musical points were not explained. Iwamoto: "When something is not explained, quite often there is a reason. It has to be understood in some way -- why was it not explained? Was it because I was not good enough, or because it was simply beyond explanation? That kind of subtlety is very important."

During my own lessons, Miyata would sometimes offer me a 'cup of tea'. This tea was poured from a whisky bottle, a present to teacher from an eager student. Drinking spirits on an empty stomach hardly improved my nervous tackling of the classical repertoire. In his 17 year stay in Britain, Iwamoto has boldly taken the shakuhachi into fresh musical worlds, and particularly values his collaborations with

British composer Frank Denyer, whom he first met in the US in 1975. A new album of their work together, titled Finding Refuge In The Remains, has been released this year on the Etcetera label. Iwamoto has also performed with several electro-acoustic tape works, and was on stage for the English National Opera production of Stephen Sondheim's musical Pacific Overtures. His most recent CD release (The Issue At Hand, on the Matchless label) is an extraordinary two and a half hour unbroken improvisation alongside pianist John Tilbury and percussionist Eddie Prévost, two veteran improvisers from the highly respected trio AMM. Even though improvisation is not really a part of the shakuhachi tradition, Iwamoto recalls his teacher Yokoyama organising improvised performances at the Tokyo National Theatre. "His aim was that we should be free with the instrument, and he felt that improvisation would help you develop your musical imagination. Yokoyama was also inheriting the spirit of his teacher Watazumido, who was a unique figure, and not properly appreciated in the shakuhachi community."

Watazumido founded his own Zen sect, built his own flutes, and performed Japanese music in his own wild, inspired style, almost closer to free jazz than the highly disciplined approach one might expect. There is a story of him disrupting a week-long Zen meditation by leaping about the room, blowing into people's faces through a miniature shakuhachi kept on his key chain. Watazumido seldom gave concerts in public, and his audience would sit through an hour or so of Zen lecture and martial arts demonstration before they heard any music. But his playing was wild and unforgettable, returning Japanese music from the niceties of the concert platform to the untamed medieval spirit of the samurai and the Zen "Priests of Nothingness".

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Katsuya Yokoyama

Master of the dynamic honkyoku style inherited from his teacher Watazumido. Also famous for his premiers of contemporary works such as Toru Takemitsu's "November Steps". Teacher of Yoshikazu Iwamoto.

Hozan Yamamoto

Pioneer in expanding the possibilities of the shakuhachi, while maintaining the traditional Tozan school lineage. Has collaborated with Ravi Shankar, Gary Peacock and Jean-Pierre Rampal. As happy performing in a jazz club as in a concert hall.

Goro Yamaguchi

Until his death in January this year, he was Japan's youngest ever designated "Living National Treasure". With his mellow tone full of subdued power, Yamaguchi was a highly acclaimed interpreter of classical Kinko school Honkyoku (solo) and Gaikyoku (ensemble) music.

Reibo Aoki II

A powerful player with a highly disciplined technique and rich sound.

Kohachiro Miyata

One of the first shakuhachi masters to perform in the west, with his 1976 Carnegie Hall recital. Founder member of contemporary group Ensemble Nipponica. In the 90s he has achieved enormous crossover success in Japan with his instrumental easy listening compositions. Clive Bell's teacher.

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Katsuya Yokoyama

Zen: Classical Shakuhachi Masterworks

WERGO SM 1033/34 (2 X CDs)

In some ways the definitive collection of the solo Honkyoku repertoire. Performed by the great master Yokoyama, who was Iwamoto's teacher. 15pieces, including one duet.

Yamaguchi Goro

A Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky


Two classic solos. The album which introduced the shakuhachi to the West.

Kohachiro Miyata



Miyata was my shakuhachi teacher in Japan. Another popular collection of solo Honkyoku, this first appeared in the mid-seventies.

Ensemble Yonin No Kai

Japon: Sankyoku

OCORA C 560070

Kozan Kitahara contributes two shakuhachi solos to this fine introduction to Japanese classical chamber music.

Various artists

Shakuhachi: Japanese Traditional Music


Yokoyama plays one piece on this excellent all-shakuhachi compilation of solos, duets and trios. Includes a good essay by American player Christopher Blasdel.


The Mysterious Sounds Of The Japanese Bamboo Flute


Maverick Zen priest pursues his own highly independent path. Wild, wonderfully expressive versions of traditional pieces performed on self-made flutes, some very large.

Toru Takemitsu

November Steps

Astonishing head-on clash for shakuhachi (Yokoyama) and biwa lute with orchestra, by Japan's greatest twentieth century composer. An exciting modern context for the shakuhachi's traditional power.

Yoshikazu Iwamoto

L'Esprit Du Crépuscule

BUDA Records

No catalogue number yet, will appear Sept 99. Iwamoto says, "This album represents the culmination of thirty years of work for me." Iwamoto already has 2 albums on this French label: L'Esprit Du Silence, BUDA 92543. And:

L'Esprit Du Vent, BUDA 92640.

All solo Honkyoku trad pieces.

Such (Yoshikazu Iwamoto, John Tilbury & Eddie Prévost)

The Issue At Hand


Yoshikazu Iwamoto

Finding Refuge In The Remains (compositions by Frank Denyer)

ETCETERA KTC 1221 (1999)

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Outstanding website run by Monty Levenson, American shakuhachi maker. Photos of Levenson show him crawling around Japanese mountainsides in search of the perfect hunk of bamboo. Here you can order instruments, books, CDs, and post questions re shakuhachi matters.

This is the International Shakuhachi Society, run by Ron Nelson in Berkeley, California.

This is Ronnie Seldin’s site. He has Dan Mayers’s collection of shakuhachis for sale. This collection used to be housed in Wadhurst, Sussex, UK.

This is “Lark In The Morning”, a company selling instruments from all over the world. Type Shakuhachi into their catalogue Search Engine. They have a Tai Hei shakuhachi in D (SHK011) for $340.

Japanese website, with English section, based in Mejiro, Tokyo. Instruments, sheet music, CDs.

Site for John Kaizan Neptune, a very successful American player and instrument maker resident in Japan. Specialises in large, loud instruments with large fingerholes. This is the site of a shakuhachi discussion group, which you can join and take part in.

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The Encyclopedia Of Musical Instruments: The Shakuhachi 154 photos, 198 pages. Published by Tokyo Ongaku Sha.(Mentioned in text of article. Can be ordered from website)

How To Play The Shakuhachi by Yoshinobu Taniguchi. Beginner's manual with cassette tape.

Shakuhachi: A Tozan Playing Guide by John Kaizan Neptune. Good beginner's manual by top American player and maker. Teaches Tozan school notation, as opposed to slightly more common Kinko school.

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International Shakuhachi Society: Dan Mayers, Lorien, Wadhurst, Sussex, England TN5 6PN.

Memberships: PO Box 294, Willits, CA 95490, USA.

Volume One of the Annals of The ISS is a 196 page hardcover book containing a wealth of information drawn from distinguished members of the shakuhachi community, and is provided at no additional charge with each membership.

originally published in Songlines Magazine

Clive Bell


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