Friday, October 30, 2009

The position of tongue in jinashi blowing

In continuation of my last post on Fujita.

When I met one of Fujita's students in Tokyo, I had a chance to play some of his self-made flutes. It was not easy to get sound out of them partly because I was not used to playing large bore flutes. But the main reason was, unlike modern jinashi makers, he did not narrow the space and control the shape of utaguchi bore using a piece of bamboo or applying tonoko with superglue. It was just a huge piece of bamboo. Then, he asked me "do you put your tongue under/behind the lower lip?" That was my first time to come across this blowing method. The function of this is to fill the space between the chin and the flute by pushing the tongue forward.

Fujita's student explains this in his website with pictures. The first picture demonstrates the embouchure in kinko and tozan styles. The third picture captures his jinashi blowing. He explains this way of blowing relaxes the body, release the tension, allows you to blow with least effort, and enjoy playing. it's good especially for older people who started playing myoan. This style is particularly good for making meri tones: It maintains the kari blowing position for meri and thus makes brighter, large-volumed sound even if it is meri. He indicates that he also learned this blowing technique from Okamoto Chikugai who was the president of Komuso Shakuhachi Study Group (komuken) and a mentor of many shakuhachi practitioners including Okuda Atsuya.

Shall we try this?

(Correction: This person Maeda Kogetsu was directly a student of Okamoto Chikugai. Whether he studied with Fujita Masaharu was doubtful. To be sure, they met a number of times with each other.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In memory of Fujita Masaharu

Recently, I found this website dedicated to the memory of Fujita Masaharu. Fujita was an extraordinary shakuhachi player/teacher. As was often the case with shakuhachi players of his time, he studied multiple shakuhachi traditions: He began with tozan and studied jiuta and nagauta. Later, he became interested in myoan shinpo. He visited many shakuhachi teachers across Japan and studied/collected many honkyoku pieces. Among those legendary teachers was Yamaue Getsuzan in Saga (my home town!) who was a student of Katsura Shozan and one of very few successors of myoan shinpo tradition. Fujita visited Yamaue in a very rural part of Saga from Yamaguchi prefecture where he lived over 100 times.

I was fortunate to have met one of Fujita’s students in Tokyo. He played some shinpo-ryu pieces for me. Shinkyorei was particularly memorable -- the purest shakuhachi sound that I’d heard.

His students attest in this website that Fujita played long flutes (as long as 3.6 with straight finger holes) with much breath strength. He used to be an athlete. Fujita’s students also make their own flutes (of course, jinashi).

The entire chapters of Fujita’s book are available on the website. They are all in Japanese. You may still enjoy some parts just by browsing, especially Chapter 9 on jinashi making. There is not much information about jinashi making. But there are many pictures of his self-made jinashi.

He composed about 60 pieces, made over 500 jinashi flutes, left 450 scores (collected and transcribed pieces) in 50 volumes, and left recordings.
In this website, you can download some of his recordings and scores (including his own compositions). You may need a PDF software that allows for Japanese fonts to appear.

Fujita passed away on May 14 in 2002 at the age of 86.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shimura & Yomei's interviews

I found this part of Shimura Zenho's (along with Christopher Yomei's) interview quite interesting. It's in the 4th clip of 6 youtube clips. To translate roughly,

The interviewer: Is the muscle employed for jinashi playing quite different from the one you use for the jiari?

Shimura: When playing wind instruments we use muscles that are hardly observable from the outside. So we cannot really tell how muscles work for each type of the flute. But I've experienced this: A flute (jinashi) didn't sound well initially. But as I used it for a year, it started sounding well. In a few years, the tones that initially didn't come out easily became vibrant. As Chris said earlier, the shakuhachi - be it jiari or jinashi - can make beautiful tone colors. So if you listen to these two different types of shakuhachi on recordings, you may not notice the differences of sound. If you listen to them in a live setting, you may be able to notice the differences slightly. The differences can only be that much. However, those are the sounds heard as a product. In reality, the process of the player becoming able to make a jiari or jinashi sound must be different. I believe the instrument develops the player. Therefore, the body of a jinashi player is the one that was formed through the jinashi shakuhachi. A jiari player develops a body that plays jiari well. You cannot attain both. Of course, you can pursue both and ultimately achieve certain levels. But there are more contradictory things than commonalities [between playing jiari and playing jinashi]. That's how I feel.

The interviewer: So the body developed for each type is incomparable from each other...

Yomei: Shakuhachi, koto, shamisen, and other instruments necessitate the use of the body. Without being aware of the corporeal domain and able to handle the body well, you cannot play good music. Western instruments have developed in the way that they have been distanced from the body, like piano, and synthesizer in particular, you use your brain to make music. It's important to feel the instrument through the body. Jinashi is the one that you need to play with the body. It's as if you play through the air hole coming from the inside of the body.


Parts of Shimura and Yomei's performances are uploaded here (thanks Jeff for the links!):

If you read Japanese, here is the program of the event. (Pasted from The interviews were conducted prior to the concert.


1 呼竹 受竹 よびたけ うけたけ      志村禅保 クリストファー遙盟


2 明暗対山流本曲 瀧落 たきおち     志村禅保(照明作 三尺三寸地無し管)


3 琴古流本曲 瀧落の曲 たきおとしのきょく

            クリストファー遙盟(山口四郎作 一尺八寸地有り管)


4 琴古流本曲 鹿の遠音 しかのとおね     志村禅保 クリストファー遙盟


*** 15分の休憩 ***

5 胎蔵界 たいぞうかい    クリストファー遙盟 (山口秋月作 二尺九寸地無し管)


6 虚空 こくう 他  志村禅保(林虎月作 地無し古管「松風まつかぜ」、「虫の音」)