Friday, December 19, 2008

Isolation and Change

The realities of shakuhachi practice in Japan are such that cells or pockets of players have developed as a means of self-identification/justification and/or a way of continuing the peculiarities of a teacher.
The reasons that these cells (ryuha) have developed are many, but probably were inspired by the relative imobility of Japanese in history. Being an agrarian society by-in-large promotes stationary life. Crops need tending to, animals need care, land needs maintaining. The concept of distant travel was relegated to those with the luxury of time, which often equated to disposable money. Domestic travel with shakuhachi in hand was, for many years, was the mainstay of wandering itinerate monks known as Komuso or Monks of Emptiness. Theirs was not a teaching excersise, but rather a response to the call of the universe and a means of setting themselves in it. It wasn't until the post-WWII era that Japanese in general started to search out new things with their newly found disposable wealth. Along with this travel came the spread of many things Japanese to the outside world; including the shakuhachi. Naturally, any player who ventured outside of Japan would take their particular learned mothod with them and expose any who would listen. What was heard became the represented norm to outsiders. The concept of 'shakuhachi' became one thing. With that, and the realization to those new listener/learners came the idea that isolated schools of thought were not a necessity and could/should be grasped equally. Interestingly enough, to many, the original sounds of the Monks of Emptiness resonated and that is where their real learning began. The evolution then went from isolated pockets to more isolated pockets but in a culturally different setting. All of this changed with the advent of the internet. Now learners can not only purchase high quality instruments, but get online lessons from not just one teacher, but many. One wonders what the outcome of this will be. Will we see the isolationism of the past fade? Will we see the defining lines of the ryuha dissapear? The future is indeed interesting.


  1. indeed. i'm glad to be young in these times for shakuhachi.


  2. Certanly , the Future is interesting... nobody knows what will happen. Everything changes, many things disapears but, in the other way, many things will be created or recreated..... ryuha is an exemple that can continue or disapear during the time....