Watazumi (Wadatsumi) – Tanaka Masaru
Watazumi (correctly romanized as Wadatsumi) was born Tanaka Masaru on the Island of Kyushu in 1911. Before he left Kyushu and changed his name to Watazumi he learned the unique honkyoku styles of his region from a number of local Komuso. He also studied Taizan Ryu (Myoan ha) which had become very popular in Kyushu at the time. He was greatly admired from a young age, and with the support of the local players and community, he revived the tradition of the Itcho-ken (temple). During this time he was known as Itcho Fumon or “head of Itcho-ken”.
He eventually left Kyushu to travel Japan in order to learn the unique regional styles of honkyoku from various shakuhachi masters. He then formed his own style of playing by combining elements from the regional styles he had learned. He settled in Tokyo where he opened his school and taught a number of students. Around this time he began making his own large, unconventional shakuhachi known as hocchiku or “spiritual bamboo”. These hocchiku were much longer and wider than the shakuhachi of the Komuso monks. In this way, he was making a very bold divergence from tradition. In fact many of his peers did not consider these instrument to even be in the family of shakuhachi.
Watazumi was also a weapons drill instructor during WWII (pictured left from Myoan blog) and a former Rinzai sect Zen Buddhist monastic. During his experiences as a Zen monk he came to the conclusion that the mind and body needed emotional, and especially physical, catharsis. In his opinion Zen Buddhism did not provide for this so he left.
After leaving monastic life he created a philosophy by combining physical disciplines with awareness practices or meditation. He called this Watazumi-do or “The Way of Watazumi”. Watazumi-do could be compared to bushido and the long standing connection Japanese people have made between physical disciplines and meditation.
However, Watazumi-do never caught on as a spiritual practice. Watazumi was killed on December 14, 1992 when he was hit by a motorcycle while practicing Bou staff in the woods. He died at a hospital from internal injuries.
His style of honkyoku lives on through his students, most predominately through the efforts of the late master Yokoyama Katsuya who was regarded as the greatest honkyoku player of his time.