One breath, one sound
As a teacher and a crafts-person of shakuhachi, I’ve made it my life’s work to help people on their journey down this také no michi or “bamboo path”. To do this, I provide people from all over the world with lessons and instruments, in particular my Bell shakuhachi. I also help people who wish to add the shakuhachi to their meditation or mindfulness routine.
My journey began when I started making bamboo flutes in my teens as a complement to my budding meditation practice. The shakuhachi was actually the first instrument that I studied and I never looked back. My practice focuses entirely on the honkyoku from the Komuso monks and the natural jinashi shakuhachi that they played on. I also specialize in larger bass jinashi shakuhachi which many are drawn to for their deeper sound. I invite those on the path to try a free lesson with me. Contact me and I’ll be happy to schedule one for you. A bit more about me can also be found on my bio page.
My YouTube video on how to play
In the above video I attempt to teach some of the very basics of how to play. Of course, more in-depth instruction is possible in live lessons. For example, I find that most people lack support in their lips/facial muscles which is why I advocate teaching the “smiling” embouchure first. However, sometimes students might use too much tension, though this is rare. But if this is the case I will coach them on how to find the right amount of support.
Jinashi shakuhachi are the ineffable sound of bamboo. Too much adjustment and the magic is lost, not enough and it often lays obscured. Balance is the key. I only craft and play jinashi shakuhachi which are mostly or completely natural bamboo on the inside. Conversely, jiari shakuhachi are mostly plaster or glue on the inside which is used to literally sculpt the desired sound. As a result, jiari tend to sound more like silver flutes while jinashi sound like “bamboo”. Additionally, crafting jinashi to a high level is far more difficult than jiari because the maker must rely heavily on the bamboo, which varies greatly from piece to piece. Quality crafted jinashi offer an entirely unequaled experience. They are also the only practical way to craft large bass shakuhachi because jiari become too heavy due to the plaster or glue.
Honkyoku styles that I teach
Honkyoku are the most venerated pieces and are considered to be a Zen art form for the practice of Suizen, mindfulness or meditation. They were mostly composed by the Komuso monks during the Edo period and many distinct regional styles developed, though few have survived to this day. Honkyoku (本曲) literally means “original/true/real music” and the word can refer to a single piece or to the genre as a whole. I teach unique regional styles of honkyoku as well as the styles they inspired. These regional styles include Seien Ryu, Kinpu Ryu, Oshu and Echigo regions, Kyushu region, and Kichiku Ryu/Shinpo Ryu.
These regional styles inspired the fusion styles of Myoan Taizan ha, Jin Nyodo, Watazumi and Yokoyama Katsuya, Nishimura Koku, and others. Besides teaching entire styles, I also sometimes focus on just a few pieces or one piece with a student. For example, some students just wish to learn one piece, such as Watazumi’s Tamuke. In these cases, I would teach Tamuke beginning with a very simple version and, over time, we would progress to more complex ways of playing the piece. This informs a student of the possible choices they have for a piece which enables them to make the piece their own, or choose from a number of ways to play it.