Higuchi Taizan (Suzuki Kodo) – Founder of Myoan Taizan-ryu
Suzuki Kodo, AKA Higuchi Taizan (1856 – 1914), was from Hamamatsu where he studied sankyoku and his regions honkyoku style the Seien ryu at Fudai-ji (temple)(西園流 譜代寺). He studied under Kanetomo Seien I, the founder of the school, who received the honkyoku of Fudai-ji 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 Suzuki Kodo 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 changed his name to Higuchi Taizan and began rearranging the Seien, Kinko, and Ikkan ryu’s honkyoku he had learned by making changes in the pitch, ornamentation, and structure of the pieces. Perhaps most notably he added the furi technique which is a quick shake of the head to create a vibrato. A similar technique can be found in the Shimpo ryu honkyoku of Kyoto of which he did learn a few pieces but included none in his style.
The bulk of his style is comprised of his versions of all of the Seien ryu honkyoku with a few Kinko and Ikkan ryu honkyoku. He rented a new space in Kyoto which he named Myoan-ji after the temple that had been destroyed years earlier during the persecution of all things Buddhist. It acted as, and remains, the base of operations for his style. His style actually contains none of the original Kyoto honkyoku from the first Myoan-ji temple (Shimpo ryu), however, his school is most often called “Myoan” after the temple he founded in Kyoto. When the names “Myoan ryu” or “Myoan” are heard today it almost always refers to Taizan’s school. “Myoan” is also sometimes incorrectly used as an umbrella term for “old honkyoku”.
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 style became very popular and spread across Japan often fusing with or eclipsing local regional Edo period styles. In places like Kyushu it is extremely difficult to impossible to ascertain what the original way of playing was like there before Taizan’s style reached the area. However, some are surprised to learn that he still had far more Gagaku students than shakuhachi students. 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 rearrangements, which includes such pieces as Kyorei, Takiochi, Mukaiji, and others.