For any purchase, a reasonable auditioning period is ideal and should be offered by any shakuhachi professional or enthusiast. The auditioning period allows someone with more experience, like a shakuhachi teacher, to test the instrument(s). With that said, it’s typically best to acquire a shakuhachi through one’s teacher when possible.
It’s best to buy shakuhachi from makers or sellers who actually understand what an authentic shakuhachi is and have tested the instrument they’re selling. This is because of the fact that, unlike many instrument, we cannot usually see the flaws of a shakuhachi. A flute may have five finger-holes and a root-end but these are little indication if even the most basic notes will work. An incorrectly made shakuhachi is like a piano missing keys.
Unfortunately, there have been, and will probably continue to be, fraudulent “shakuhachi” makers. I’ve played so called “shakuhachi” that couldn’t even produce the most fundamental of notes such as U-kan. Often, their customers never learn enough to tell the difference, so it’s not an issue in those cases. Some people just want to do simple playing which is fine. However, the fraudulent makers do not usually market their instruments as “just for simple playing”, they pass them off as authentic shakuhachi.
Occasionally, some of their customers decide to try and learn from a teacher like my self. When this happens they can be quite disappointed, even hurt, to find out that their so called “shakuhachi” isn’t even capable of playing a simple common note such as U-kan. So, I consider this potentially very damaging to the shakuhachi community and don’t take such frauds lightly. Feel free to inquire with me via email so as to avoid any such pitfalls.
Used shakuhachi and auctions
Buying used shakuhachi from Japanese auction sites or eBay, from people who know nothing about shakuhachi, is of course a gamble. Shakuhachi that are not shipped properly often crack in shipment when coming from Japan or from overseas in general. Cracks in shipment are doubly likely during dry parts of the year. Repairs can sometimes exceed the cost of what appears to be a bargain shakuhachi so be careful and ask someone more experience than you when ever possible.