Friday, November 27, 2009

Nishimura Koku & Watazumi Fumon

This is what I heard from one of Nishimura Koku's students.

One day, Nishimura happened to sojourn at the hotel where Watazumi (Fumon) was also staying. These two players were somewhat similar in what they did: Both played long ji-nashi flutes. They named their own flutes and styles of playing, "kyotaku" and "watazumido," respectively. Also, both embodied great influences of the last komuso Tani Kyochiku. Whereas Nishimura was thought of as the master of shakuhachi in the West (western Japan), and Watazumi was considered as the master in the East (eastern Japan). [Just ignore the fact that Watazumi was also from West Japan originally].

At the hotel, both Nishimura and Watazumi were informed that two great shakuhachi masters were staying there. It was Watazumi who took action first. He sent a messanger to Nishimura and asked Nishimura to visit Watazumi for greetings (maybe, more like salute). Nishimura, as older than Watazumi, became quite disgruntled. Eventually, these two great masters didn't see each other and never encountered again in their lives. According to Nishimura's student, Nishimura was mokkosu, which means "stubborn" in Kumamoto dialect. Kumamoto people are known as being mokkosu.

Both Nishimura and Watazumi established philosophies of shakuhachi "do" or way of life. Both are great. To me, one major difference between Nishimura and Watazumi, apart from their performing styles, is the degree of influences they left on their students. Whereas Watazumi's influence is identified in his students' musical dexteriority, Nishimura's students always talk about their memories of Nishimura - beyond musical impacts - and we can easily tell what Nishimura means to their lives. Their bonding was formed around Nishimura's spiritual influences.

Nishimura's students emphasize that studying with Nishimura was more about life learning and becoming a true human being. Even now, after Nishimura’s death, playing the shakuhachi for them is a reminder of Nishimura’s teaching. For many of Nishimura's students, the connection and bonding with Nishimura has been central to their shakuhachi learning experiences. While students of other well-known teachers tend to speak of the “musical” influences of their teachers, Nishimura’s students tell me that their music-life integration has been achieved by respecting, adoring, and worshiping Nishimura.

I am always impressed to discover how one person, a music teacher, can make such a deep influence on people.

[Here, I am exclusively referring to Japanese students. I know that Nishimura had some foreign students. But I don't know them personally.]

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