Common shakuhachi terms glossary
Tip: Use ctrl F to bring up the “find” function in your browser and type in the English or Japanese (romanji) shakuhachi term you are looking for.
Atari (当たり) – to repeat or attack a note on the shakuhachi by quickly tapping a finger hole. No tonguing is used on the shakuhachi.
Buki (吹き) – the breath (exhaling/producing a sound).
Chu Meri (中メり) – “half meri” usually achieved by only half covering a finger hole with no lowering of the head.
Dai Kan (大甲) – the third octave.
Dai Meri (大メり) – dai means “big”, therefore, dai meri is generally the deepest or lowest amount of flattening of the pitch used for traditional music.
Fuke-shu shakuhachi or Fuke shakuhachi (普化宗) – the lengths/keys of jinashi shakuhachi that were used by the original komuso monks of the former Fuke shu Zen sect. Most all Fuke shakuhachi where made in the lengths of 1.8 (D4), 1.9 (Db4), 2.0 (C4), 2.1 (B3), and 2.2 (Bb3). They were all natural jinashi with no paste in the bore.
Honkyoku (本曲) – honkyoku literally “means original music” and can refer to a single piece or to the genre as a whole. It is the most venerated type of shakuhachi music because it is considered spiritual or meditative, having been composed by the komuso monks during the Edo period. Many distinct regional styles of honkyoku developed across Japan though few have survived to this day.
Insempo (陰旋法) – the Japanese scale also known as the “Koto scale” and Miyako-bushi.
Jiari (地塗り) – fully pasted/plastered and shaped bore shakuhachi with lacquer, joints, and inlays.
Jinashi (地無し)– natural or mostly natural bore shakuhachi.
Kan (甲) – the second octave.
Kari (カり) – to raise the head and pitch, sometimes used to designate the regular head position.
Katarai – the “bouncing ball” rhythm heard throughout classical Japanese music.
Madake (真竹)– a species of bamboo from China (Phyllostachys bambusoides) common name “Japanese timber bamboo”. It has become synonymous with Japan because the Japanese excelled in its usage. It is the only bamboo type used for traditional shakuhachi.
Meri – the lowered head position usually combined with finger-shading used to flatten the pitch.
Otsu (乙) – the first octave.
Shakuhachi (尺八) – an umbrella term for all lengths of shakuhachi, however, shakuhachi literally means 1.8.
Utaguchi (歌口) – literally “song opening”, utaguchi is the Japanese word for the sharp edge of the shakuhachi which air is directed at in order to produce a sound.
Yuri (揺り) – vibrato on the shakuhachi which is achieved by moving the head side-to-side. Unlike most flutes, the throat or diaphragm is not use to create vibrato on the shakuhachi unless one is playing the Kimpu ryu Nezasa-ha style or when performing Tamane which is a fluttering tongue vibrato.