“Why are shakuhachi expensive?”
With prices in the thousands of dollars authentic shakuhachi are expensive. The reason they are expensive is because of the great deal of time and work that goes into making them. As you can imagine, handcrafting high quality musical instruments like shakuhachi takes a great deal of time, skill, and labor. For example, harvesting Japanese madake bamboo is very hard physical labor. If the bamboo is purchased it is understandably expensive and hard to come by. When making jinashi shakuhachi about half of the flutes do not turn out which is only discovered after putting in hours of work harvesting the bamboo and waiting years for it to cure.
For example, out of 200+ pieces of bamboo from a large harvest about 10 were the right dimensions for jinashi 1.8 “D” shakuhachi (1.8’s are the standard size/key for shakuhachi and thus the most sought after length). Exactly 6 out of those 10 did not turn out and of the 4 remaining just 2 were exceptional. It could take many growing seasons for more 1.8’s to appear, if any do at all, and once they appear they must mature over a span of at least 4 years before they are safe to harvest. Once harvested they have to cure for at least a year. As you’ve probably gathered it’s quite a challenge to meet even a meager demand for 1.8 “D” jinashi shakuhachi. Even prices around $2,000 start to seem not only reasonable but under-priced when compared with prices for other luxury items or handcrafted musical instruments which are not nearly as difficult to make. If shakuhachi were in more demand I would expect that 1.8 “D” jinashi shakuhachi of a high quality would be upwards of $10,000.
There are people who make or sell cheap shakuhachi-like instruments; however, they do not disclose that their instruments are not fully functional shakuhachi or that they themselves have no background in shakuhachi music and therefore have no way to test their own instruments. This is especially detrimental if one of their customers decides to try and play shakuhachi music only to find out that their so called “shakuhachi” is not capable of even the most basic of traditional techniques. I have seen this cause people to give up on shakuhachi altogether from disappointment, so I do not take it lightly.
In short, a quality authentic shakuhachi is something that will become a close companion. After all, you will be investing something much more valuable than money into your shakuhachi, your time and dedication. A properly made shakuhachi will reward you with years of joy and discoveries.