Higuchi Taizan (Suzuki Kodo) – Founder of Myoan Ha AKA 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. He was adopted, so to speak, by the Higuchi’s, an established Kyoto family. So he changed his name to Higuchi Taizan (Taizan being his professional title). He eventually began teaching the Seien, Kinko, and Ikkan Ryu’s honkyoku in Kyoto. It isn’t clear what changes he himself made to the pieces he taught, however, as they exist today there are differences in ornamentation, pitch, and the structure of the pieces compared to the source material.
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. He named his dojo Myoan-ji after the temple that had been destroyed years earlier during the Meiji Restoration’s persecution of all things Buddhist. “Myoan” almost always refers to Taizan’s school. It’s also sometimes used as an umbrella term for koten or “classical” honkyoku. For unknown reasons he didn’t include any of the honkyoku of the Shinpo Ryu honkyku in his school which came from the first Myoan-ji, though he did apparently study a few pieces.
Taizan’s school became very popular and spread across Japan. Masters such as Jin Nyodo and Watazumi were heavily influenced by his school and received all of their Seien Ryu Fudai-ji honkyoku from it (this includes such pieces as Kyorei, Takiochi, Mukaiji, and others). His legacy of honkyoku is probably the most significant and enduring in Japan next to the Kinko Ryu. (More history of Myoan-ji and Taizan can be read on the Myoan blog page by Dean Seicho Del Bene.)