Higuchi Taizan (Suzuki Kodo) – Founder of Myoan Taizan-ryu
Suzuki “Taizan” Kodo, AKA Higuchi Taizan (1856 – 1914) was born in Nagoya where he studied sankyoku and his region’s honkyoku in the Seien ryu. He studied under Kanetomo Seien I who received the honkyoku of Fudai-ji (which was destroyed during the Meiji Restoration) from two komuso named Gyokudo and Baizan. He also studied in the Kinko ryu under Grandmaster Araki Kodo II (Chikuo) and in the Ikkan ryu which was a branch of the Kinko ryu under Takigawa Chuka.
In Meiji 1885 he moved to Kyoto to teach sankyoku music, however, he failed to become successful most likely because Kyoto already had a very established sankyoku community. He was adopted, so to speak, by a the Higuchi’s, a Kyoto family, so he changed his name to Higuchi Taizan (Taizan being his professional title). He eventually began teaching the Seien ryu honkyoku as well as some of the Kinko and Ikkan ryu’s honkyoku. He made some changes in the pitch, ornamentation, and structure of the pieces and his school further evolved or diverged from teacher to teacher over successive generations. Perhaps most notably he most likely added the furi technique which is a quick shake of the head to create a vibrato, usually done after an Atari or “repeat”. A similar technique can be found in the Shinpo ryu honkyoku of Kyoto of which he did learn a few pieces, but included none in his school.
He rented a new space in Kyoto to act as the base for his school which he named Myoan-ji after the temple that had been destroyed years earlier during the Meiji Restoration’s persecution of all things Buddhist. It remains the base of his style and a major gathering place to this day. As mentioned previously, his school actually contains none of the original Kyoto honkyoku from the first Myoan-ji temple (Shinpo ryu), however, his school is most often called “Myoan” after the temple he founded in Kyoto. When “Myoan ryu” or just “Myoan” is heard today it almost always refers to Taizan’s school. “Myoan” is also sometimes incorrectly used as an umbrella term for “old honkyoku” or “koten honkyoku’, however, this is inaccurate and very misleading. To avoid confusion the original Myoan-ji is often called Kyu Myoan-ji or “Old” Myoan-ji.
Higuchi Taizan instigated the revival of honkyoku in Kyoto and founded a new Myoan-ji which stands to this day and is a hub of activity for shakuhachi events and “pilgrimages”. Taizan’s school became very popular and spread across Japan sometimes effecting or even eclipsing local regional styles and schools. For example, in places like Kyushu it is extremely difficult to impossible to ascertain what the original way of playing was like there before Taizan’s school reached the area. Masters such as Jin Nyodo and Watazumi were heavily influenced by his style and received all of their Seien ryu Fudai-ji honkyoku solely through his school, which by then had developed quite differently from the source material of the Seien ryu (this includes such pieces as Kyorei, Takiochi, Mukaiji, and others).