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Shakuhachi


Blowing Zen

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Shakuhachi


Blowing Zen

the bamboo flute

The shakuhachi (尺八) is the end-blown Japanese bamboo flute. Its' distinctive timbre or tone colour immediately reminds one of Japan and conjurs up images of samurai and geisha. The shakuhachi is often the bamboo flute sound used for fight scenes in kung-fu and action movies.

Shaku (尺) is the old Japanese measurement for foot and hachi(八) is the word for eight. The word shakuhachi therefore means 'one point eight feet', the length of the standard shakuhachi. It contains four holes on top and one for the thumb underneath. Shakuhachi makers use the root of the bamboo as a natural bell. The bamboo darkens as it matures. There are many lengths of shakuhachi apart from the standard 1.8 feet. They typically range from the tiny 1.3 to the long 3.6.

Fuke sect zen buddhist

During the medieval period, shakuhachi were most notable for their role in the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhist monks, known as komusō ("priests of nothingness," or "emptiness monks"), who used the shakuhachi as a spiritual tool. Their songs (called "honkyoku") were paced according to the players' breathing and were considered meditation (suizen) as much as music[citation needed].

Travel around Japan was restricted by the shogunate at this time, but the Fuke sect managed to wrangle an exemption from the Shogun, since their spiritual practice required them to move from place to place playing the shakuhachi and begging for alms (one famous song reflects this mendicant tradition, "Hi fu mi, hachi gaeshi", "One two three, pass the alms bowl"). They persuaded the Shogun to give them "exclusive rights" to play the instrument. In return, some were required to spy for the shogunate, and the Shogun sent several of his own spies out in the guise of Fuke monks as well. This was made easier by the wicker baskets that the Fuke wore over their heads, a symbol of their detachment from the world.

In response to these developments, several particularly difficult honkyoku pieces, e.g., Shika no tone, became well known as "tests": if you could play them, you were a real Fuke. If you couldn't, you were probably a spy and might very well be killed if you were in unfriendly territory. [wikipedia]

shakuhachi techniques

Shakuhachi players blow across the top of the instruments to get a sound. The breathing and blowing is similar to the western flute which is held horizontally. There is an insert at the top called the utaguchi (歌口) or song mouth. Shakuhachi players have to leave some holes partially open to get all the notes they need. This is accompanied by lowering and lifting the head in a technique called meri-kari (メリカリ). The head is also used to create vibrato or yuri (ユリ).

Japanese music

Japan has a wide variety of traditional music from folk tunes to more formal staged genres like kabuki and noh. There are also many different traditional instruments including taiko drums, the koto (琴) and the shamisen (三味線). The shakuhachi is used in the sankyoku (三曲) ensemble with the koto (zitter), shamisen (fretted lute) and voice.

Japanese music uses different scales to the western doh-re-mi. The miyako scale has five notes and is different going up and going down.

modern shakuhachi

New recordings of shakuhachi music are relatively plentiful, especially on Japanese labels and increasingly so in North America and Europe. The primary genres of shakuhachi music are: honkyoku (traditional, solo), sankyoku (ensemble, with koto and shamisen), shinkyoku (new ensemble pieces, composed after the Meiji period), gaikyoku (encompases sankyoku and other non-honkyoku traditional music), minyou (folk music), gendai kyoku (modern music; all non-classical pieces). The shakuhachi is also featured in western genres of music, including new age, smooth jazz, rock music, ambient, and avant garde, especially after being commonly shipped as a an instrument on various synthesizers and keyboards beginning in the 1980s. The shakuhachi can also be heard in a multitude of film and TV soundtracks and some contemporary world music. Like shakuhachi was used in Descendants Hollywood movie performed by Riley sensei.

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Calligraphy


Every stroke is so beautiful with purpose

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Calligraphy


Every stroke is so beautiful with purpose

Chinese calligraphy is a form of calligraphy widely practiced in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and many South-east Asian countries. The calligraphic tradition of East Asia originated and developed from China. There is a general standardization of the various styles of calligraphy in this tradition. Chinese calligraphy and ink and wash painting are closely related, since they are accomplished using similar tools and techniques. Chinese painting and calligraphy distinguish themselves from other cultural arts because they emphasize motion and are charged with dynamic life. According to Stanley-Baker, "Calligraphy is sheer life experienced through energy in motion that is registered as traces on silk or paper, with time and rhythm in shifting space its main ingredients." Calligraphy has also led to the development of many forms of art in China, including seal carving, ornate paperweights, and inkstones.

Chinese characters can be retraced to 4000 BC signs (Lu & Aiken 2004). The contemporary Chinese characters set principles were already visible in ancient China's Jiǎgǔwén characters carved on ox scapulas and tortoise plastrons around 14th - 11th century BCE (Lu & Aiken 2004). Brush-written examples decay over time and have not survived. During the divination ceremony, after the cracks were made, characters were written with a brush on the shell or bone to be later carved.(Keightley, 1978). With the development of Jīnwén (Bronzeware script) and Dàzhuàn (Large Seal Script) "cursive" signs continued. Moreover, each archaic kingdom of current China had its own set of characters.

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Mobile Apps


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Mobile Apps


shakuhachi tuner

prefect your tone / pitch

Of course making a sound from a shakuhachi is really hard. It took me about 2 weeks (I am a slow learner). Second hardest thing to accomplish is to play the RIGHT pitch, and then to produce the beautiful tone color. This is the very reason I create this iOS mobile app - for you to check your pitch and hopefully it can be very useful if you plan to play with other musicians.

shikoku pilgrimage

88 temples (Coming IN august 2015)

Eventually, this is something I would like to do - visiting all 88 temples on Shikoku island of Japan. Now I start documenting them by creating this iOS app to record all the temples. Sorry it is still in progress, ...

japanese temples in hawaii 

summer obon festival

During the summer time I get invited to perform at many Obon festivals in Hawaii. One way to keep me informed is to use this app and check for performance schedule. The app includes all the Japanese temples brief history as well as Bon Dance schedule and driving direction.

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Events & Blog


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Events & Blog


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