Sunday, November 15, 2009

The spirit of komuso

There is always something to learn from history...

The piece "kumoi-jishi" (a festive song in the kumoi scale) was once called "yabu garashi" (killing or sneaping bush) in Fukuoka. Komuso monks typically strolled in town in two as a group. They often stop by houses, especially in front of rich people's residences. When Komuso monks were unhappy about the amount of a donated alm, they often brought more monks and played "yabu-garashi" in front of the house. Disturbed, the head of the house eventually gave more money instead of saying "get away." He probably got more embarrassed than annoyed. Because these komuso's playing was so loud (and out of tune?), it was felt as if it could destroy a bush planted at the gate of the house.

This explanation corroborates with the conventional rule of when "kumoi-jishi" should be played. It's been said that this piece is not supposed to be played in the morning. People don't want to wake up with a cranky feeling.

Not many people have achieved this level of proficiency that komuso monks aimed at. Do more robuki, cultivate a beautiful spirit, and disturb your neighbors.

(Source of information: Recordings of an interview with Tomimori Kyozan. For more info about these recordings, visit

You may also want to check more "formal" explanations of the piece:


  1. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Hi Jon, it's me you met in NYC in 2007. We experience together termites, Thai restaurant, with Aunt Jenny. :)

  3. hello! i thought it was you! how are you? i am doing ok. i had to leave NYC. my email is and i have a facebook at

    have you made any interesting flutes lately?

  4. facebook