Newsletter: Issue 6
                                                       October 2007

Well, the 2nd ESS Summer School was a roaring success, and we have
a wonderful article telling us all about from Adrian Bain. Veronique
Piron and Jim Franklin have also written an article about the Summer
School, from an organiser’s perspective, which we have decided to
provide separately from the main newsletter, due to its length. This will
be available very soon at for you to
download into the language of your choice (English, French or German).

We have some fabulous and varied articles in this issue, which really
demonstrate how interest in the shakuhachi is growing in Europe.
Adrian has, very kindly, also written about the Summer School in
Prague, and about his recent travels to Japan (for which his wife has
provided a translation into Japanese which will also appear separately
on the ESS website very soon, along with a Japanese translation of his
article on the Colmar Summer School); Alfred Lerch has written about a
shakuhachi-making workshop held at a Zen monastery in Germany;
Clive Bell has given us a review of a re-release of Yamaguchi’s ‘A Bell
Ringing in the Empty Sky’. It is truly a bumper issue!

I hope everyone enjoys reading this newsletter - please send feedback
(of any kind!) to me at        And also,
please send any articles, photos, clippings, CD/book/concert reviews,
etc, etc, for the next issue (Issue 7, January 2008) to me at the same
address. Please send by end of November at the latest to allow
time for translations to be done. (Unless, of course, you are able to
do the translations yourself which would be marvelous!).

Happy reading!



Pages 3-9     ESS Summer School 2007 by Adrian Bain

Pages 10-12   CD Review – Re-release of Yamaguchi’s ‘A Bell
              Ringing in the Empty Sky’ by Clive Bell

Pages 13-28   A Shakuhachi Adventure in Japan by Adrian Bain

Pages 29-34   Zazen and Shakuhachi Making by Alfred Lerch

Pages 34-35   Tribute to YOKOYAKA Katsuya’s mother

Pages 35-40   Prague Summer School 2007 by Adrian Bain

E.S.S. Summer School 2007                     by Adrian Bain

On my way from England, waiting for my sixth train of the day at the
French station of Colmar, a stranger came towards me and asked me in
a wonderful French accent “Shaku’achi?”. I was taken by surprise.
“Pardon?”, I asked nervously. “Shaku’achi?”, he repeated.
“Er…yes…how did you know?”. He pointed to a 2.5 ji-nashi behind me,
sticking out of the top of my rucksack. Oh! Oh, yes - a bit of a clue! “Me
too!”, he said. One became two and Rémi of Brittany and I continued
together on the last leg of our journey to the 2007 European Shakuhachi
Society Summer School.

We had arrived quite early at the
Grand Hotel in Munster and over
the    afternoon     and   evening
observed the arrival of Shakuhachi
players from all over Europe and
Japan. This influx was later
observed from the comfort of the
hotel bar. I noticed that it is
possible to recognise a Shakuhachi Furuya & Watanabe Photo by Adrian Bain
player when they walk into a room,
even without their instrument. There was a jovial atmosphere in the bar
as more and more people arrived throughout the evening, some knew
each other, many new acquaintances. I have never seen so many
Shakuhachi players!

                                   We were distributed between rooms in the
                                   hotel and surrounding cabins; many crept
                                   quietly into their new lodgings in the dark,
                                   once the bar had closed, with no idea as to
                                   who the other occupants were. At breakfast,
                                   I was talking to a new acquaintance for half
                                   an hour and then realised we had
                                   unknowingly slept in the same cabin
                                   overnight. Except that he hadn’t actually
                                   slept much due to the multi-lingual snoring
                                   of the four other strangers in the room. He
                                   was already arranging to change rooms!
    Photo by Annelies Nederbragt
                              It is thanks to Jim Franklin and Veronique
Piron that we were there at all. Only days before they were informed
that the place we were to be staying and playing at, the Maison du
Kleebach, had not completed its renovations and resembled a building
site. We could still hold our classes there, but no accommodation would
be available. How do you find accommodation for around 60 people, in

only days, near to where we would hold the classes, with transport
available and food provided? But Jim and Veronique did it! The Grand
Hotel would accommodate and feed everybody.

A pattern formed throughout the week. A problem (not of our making)
would arise, Jim and Veronique would rush around, find a solution and,
with “clink, clink” on a glass at mealtime to attract everyone’s attention,
Jim would announce the latest plans. I cannot imagine Jim or Veronique
enjoyed the week as much as everyone else did. Thanks to them, we

                                                   Every morning a caravan of
                                                   cars would leave the Grand
                                                   Hotel (I don’t think anyone
                                                   was ever left behind); it
                                                   streamed to the Maison du
                                                   Kleebach,     a      beautiful
                                                   mountain     retreat    (cum
                                                   building site). Once the
                                                   renovation    works     have
                                                   been completed, it will be a
 Trying to quieten the alarm!
                                                   superb venue for musical
                              Photo by Adrian Bain residents. While we were
                                                   there, however, rain made it
precarious walking through the building site mud, navigating between
diggers and huge mounds of earth. The building works also introduced
a spate of power cuts and fire alarm cacophony to accompany our

We commenced each day with robuki. Rooooo. It was difficult to hear
which sound was mine and soon realised I must just blow and have
confidence in my sound. Over the week, I started to become aware of
my sound in a different way, to sense the quality of my Ro without
necessarily being able to hear my own Ro from the many.

After each day’s robuki, we
would study a piece to be
played at the student’s
concert,     a     simplified
arrangement by Jim Franklin
of “Yamato Chôshi”. The
piece introduced me to some
new       and     interesting
techniques and enabled Jim
to introduce some subtleties
to us (which might take me          Robuki                Photo by Veronique Piron

another five years to utilise!).

We would then split into (usually) three sessions, offering classes for
different abilities with a rotation of teachers, offering a mixture of styles
and approaches to teaching. Often, I wanted to attend more than one
class simultaneously! Sometimes the planned class would stop on one
point: maybe twenty minutes on meri or kan or correct breathing. I
would try and scribble notes in an attempt to record the gems of
knowledge being cast to the students so freely. I would film the teacher
playing the piece we were studying. I still feel regret at leaving my
camera battery charging in my room and realising too late as Kakizakai
played a stunning “Yamagoe” to us.

                                 It is impossible to describe how the teachers
                                 helped me and inspired my study. Even
                                 though seeing and hearing the teachers (and
                                 students) made me realise the horizon was
                                 much further away from me and that my
                                 Shakuhachi journey didn’t have an end, it did
                                 not deter me, but made my resolve stronger.
                                 I should not think of the journey, just of each
                                 moment when I practice.

                                 So, all I can do (and I hope they will forgive
                                 me) is to give a short impression of each

 Kariya Sozan-san                The teaching of Furuya Teruo-san was full of
        Photo by Alain Natalis   kind, enthusiastic energy. He was always
                                 genial and with a contagious smile.

Kakizakai Kaoru-san’s teaching was an inspiration, seemingly knowing
the solution to a student’s problem before they had finished asking the

Kariya Sozan-san showed amazing skills and
dexterity. He was always the most smartly
dressed, no matter what the occasion!

Jim Franklin’s teaching was full of energy and
clarity. Even with the concerns arising from the
summer school, once he was teaching, his
focus was total.
                                                          I’ve forgotten what was
Veronique Pirons’s teaching was especially                being demonstrated!
helpful in a class where students could ask any               Photo by Adrian Bain

questions about areas that were troubling them (predictably one topic
we all agreed on was achieving kan notes). Veronique helped us with
foundation skills, demonstrating how to overcome common difficulties.

Throughout the week, Watanabe Haruko
san (Koto) and Oonishi Mizuka san (Koto
and Shamisen) accompanied the teachers
and students. Many, including myself,
found it very special to have an
opportunity to play with Koto and
Shamisen, especially with such esteemed
players. They both gave immeasurable                   Kakizakai    Photo by Adrian Bain
help and constant encouragement.

Philip Horan, from Ireland, gave a hugely popular lesson on Shakuhachi
and Irish music, playing beautifully on both Shakuhachi and a Shakalute
(an attachment to a western flute that allows it to be played vertically,
like a Shakuhachi, but utilising the western flute’s keys).

                                         Daniel Lifermann has a wonderful
                                         sound and skill; his calmness and
                                         lectures about breathing and
                                         spirituality   were    a   valuable
                                         contribution to the summer school.
 Rooooooo…      Photo by Alain Natalis
Along with Kees Kort’s zest for life blowing through his Shakuhachi and
the elegant playing of Jean Francois Lagrost, everyone was exposed to
hundreds of years of combined Shakuhachi study being expressed in
individual ways. There were so many beautiful players to listen and to
learn from. It’s interesting to note how unique everyone’s style and tone
was. Many players, many styles; each person gave freely of a
knowledge that has taken time
and determination to acquire.

With such a mix of nationalities,
the    conversation     gravitated
towards English, with many
people assisting with translations
when required. There must have
been many language translation
combinations between English,                Students’ Concert     Photo by Alain Natalis
French, Dutch, German, Czech,
Japanese…probably more.

At lunchtimes, the trail of cars would drive down the mountains, back
the Grand hotel for a large lunch, which unfortunately had a soporific
effect for the early afternoon sessions.

                                         After each afternoon session, we
                                         would again return to the Grand
                                         Hotel for a practice (or snooze)
                                         prior to a large dinner. Each
                                         night after dinner, we would
                                         attend a concert.

                                             The first concert was an open
                                             mike session in the Grand Hotel,
  Furuya-san and Kakizakai-san               when anyone could entertain
                        Photo by Adrian Bain with a piece of their choice.
                                             People of all abilities and
experience played, with different length Shakuhachi, with violin, by
score, by improvisation, traditional and modern. Even though I have little
experience, I decided to play “Tamuke”. It is a difficult piece and one I
had only been studying for a few weeks, so I knew it would be a flawed
performance, but I enjoyed the challenge of playing in front of so many
people, especially such prestigious players. My legs were shaking and
my knees knocked together, but I do know that giving a live
performance is a lesson in itself.

There was very little time to practice or review what we had studied
during the day. As a result, there were nightly echoes of Shakuhachi,
often beyond midnight. The normal residents of the Grand Hotel were
not very happy and a curfew on playing at night had to be imposed.

It was sometimes difficult with the
damp weather to practice outside,
but there were early morning calls
to rise from Shakuhachi amongst
the trees in nearby park. Walking
through the park, a careful
observer would have been able to
spot players lurking behind trees
and bushes blowing to the leaves. Students’ Concert       Photo by Adrian Bain
There were others who chose to
perform Tai Chi in preparation for another busy day.

The next evening’s concert was given by the teachers in the Town Hall,
in preparation for their public concert the following evening. It was my
first time to hear most of the teachers play continuously as a player, not
as a teacher having to stop to teach us some important point about a

piece. It was a special treat to hear Furuya play “Tsuru no Sugomori”
(“The Nesting of the Cranes”) as Munster is famed for its cranes and we
had all seen them on the roofs around.

                                  The teachers’ Concert was held in the
                                  impressive church in Munster (with
                                  nesting cranes on the roof). The church
                                  was full of locals, most of whom I doubt
                                  knew what to expect. I expect that every
                                  one of them would have been
                                  astounded by the elegant traditional
  Koto       Photo by Adrian Bain
                                  costumes, the grace of the performers
and the emotion and passion of their music. “Shika no Tône” was
breathtaking, as the first lines echoed from opposite sides of the church,
apparently from nowhere, with the audience looking around to see
where the sound was coming from. A beautiful piece written by Jim
Franklin, “Takeshin 5.1”, combined the power of the church organ
(played by Jim) and five shakuhachi. It made my hairs stand up on my
neck; it was extremely moving. The entire evening was extremely
special and I am sure the audience will never forget it.

Learning is always tiring
and as the end of the
summer             school
approached and with the
arrival of some sunshine,
the tempo noticeably
slowed. The afternoon
before the final concert
was perfect for relaxing: Students’ Concert         Photo by Alain Natalis
some were practicing,
some were sleeping in the sun, while others were chatting in groups.

The final concert was given by the students in the Town Hall. The
students performed pieces they had studied in the various groups
throughout the week. There was a mixture of improvisational,
contemporary and traditional pieces. For some students it was their first
ever live performance.

Afterwards, we all retired to a small bar for a well-earned drink and a
last chat amongst new friends before each of our departures homeward
in the morning. After all the hard work and stress experienced by Jim
and Veronique, one of life’s true injustices occurred – by the time Jim
arrived at the bar it had stopped serving and Jim couldn’t even enjoy a
well-deserved drink with us at the end of a difficult week.

The E.S.S. AGM was held during the summer school and it showed that
there is a lot of activity going on in establishing the E.S.S. as a valuable
society for us all. The E.S.S. is young and it will undoubtedly grow
strongly. The next summer school, wherever it will be hosted, will be
even better as we learn from each other.

It’s fascinating to see the range of ages and professions that attended
the summer school; a mix that might not normally meet if it were not for
a shared interest in the Shakuhachi.

There is so much - too much - to remember and it slips away so quickly.
What will I remember the most? I can answer unhesitatingly - the people.
The Shakuhachi is an instrument of friendship.

Happy Blowing,
Adrian Bain

P.S. Well…in a few weeks, I’m lucky to be going to the Prague
Shakuhachi Summer School 2007 in the Czech Republic. I can’t believe
my good fortune and the patience of my wife! I will let you know how I
get on.

There are many photos and small video clips of the summer school. As I
opted for quantity over quality, the video clips are not high quality
visually, but the sound is good. They capture some of the lessons
(useful for study) and excerpts from the concerts. There are over 4GB of
files so far, so distribution is an issue.

The new E.S.S. website is under development. It may be that we can
put the photos and video files on the site so that people can choose
what they want. Until the new site is ready, the E.S.S. website continues
to show the 2007 Summer School information. However, please check
the Events section of the site as new events are being published there.

                 The European Shakuhachi Society Summer School 2007
                           Photo by “An innocent bystander”

                   GORO YAMAGUCHI
                NONESUCH EXPLORER CD
                     BY CLIVE BELL

Goro Yamaguchi (1933-99) studied the shakuhachi with his father, Shiro
Yamaguchi, during the second world war, and quickly rose to
recognition as a leading player. In 1967 he taught for a year at
Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and while in the US recorded two
honkyoku pieces in New York: “Sokaku-Reibo” and “Koku-Reibo”. In
1969 these appeared on an LP in the Nonesuch Explorer Series, titled A
Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky (the title taken from a colourful pseudo-
translation of “Koku-Reibo”). Now Nonesuch have reissued the album
on CD as part of their gradual re-release of the whole Explorer Series.
The two tracks remain the same; the sleeve notes are unedited, though
a bio of Yamaguchi has been added; but the wonderful monochrome
psychedelia of the LP sleeve, in which a crane appears to fly through a
geisha’s hair-do, has been replaced by a 1961 photo of a tiny fishing
boat on the Inland Sea.

It’s probably hard to overstate the impact of Yamaguchi’s original LP in
the West. One has to think back to a benighted generation when not
only had no one ever heard a shakuhachi, but the idea that Japanese
music might have depth to it, that it might have a rigour that could stand
alongside European classical performance, was thrillingly new and
taboo-busting. Inviting Yamaguchi to teach at Wesleyan was a
pioneering move, and A Bell Ringing was the first widely available
recording of a completely new music. It took its place alongside Ravi
Shankar, Stockhausen and Hawkwind on the shelves of discerning
record buyers, and aspiring music-makers and composers marvelled at
its qualities. By 1977 a portion of the recording was included on a
compilation of “Earth Music” aboard the Voyager II spacecraft. Having
conquered hip record stores, Yamaguchi was off to new galaxies.

How does Yamaguchi’s record stand up now, forty years on? The first
thing you notice is the overall length: at under thirty minutes, this is what
we would now term an EP. Nonesuch clearly had no extra material in
the vaults to flesh out the CD version. Having said that, Yamaguchi’s
versions of these classic pieces are unusually long: “Sokaku” at thirteen
minutes and “Koku” at fifteen represent extended explorations. The
sleevenotes, despite being written by respected ethnomusicologist and
broadcaster Fumio Koizumi, are misleading and, when it comes to
scales, hilariously inaccurate. However there is an honourable tradition
of album notes getting these things wrong, and if a sleevenote writer
starts talking about scales it’s almost guaranteed that what follows will
be nonsense.

Yamaguchi performs both pieces on a 1.8 shakuhachi. His playing
always has poise; it is elegant and cool to the point of chilliness.
“Sokaku” (Depicting The Cranes In Their Nest) is largely static, in that
Yamaguchi stays in one small pitch area for a long time, but highly
ornamented – a picture of young cranes bickering at home and not
taking flight. After ten minutes the piece calms down and moves to the
lower octave. “Koku” spends more time in this lower octave and is
generally slower and more meditative. It’s also a warmer, more human
performance, and Yamaguchi’s playing features some lovely, subtle

Even at the date of its first release, a Western listener might have
judged that Yamaguchi’s shakuhachi style was not the only game in
town. In 1967 the New York label Lyrichord issued Japanese
Masterpieces For The Shakuhachi, an LP of five pieces from
anonymous monks at Kyoto temples (this is also available on CD). At
the time this may have seemed an inferior record: the performances are
rough and unsophisticated, the sleevenotes dodgy as ever (Fuke monks
are termed “tootling preachers”), and the vinyl pressing of poor quality.
Now things look a little different. Yamaguchi represents a shiny new
breed of player, both refining and formalising the old techniques so that
the instrument is ready to don bow tie and tails, as it were, and enter the
Western concert hall. Lyrichord’s unnamed tootlers, on the other hand,
are playing on their home ground. The two monks playing “Koku” are
inside the Meianji temple, and their temple bell is incorporated into the
track. This music has some function in their daily life, and plenty of
meaning as an activity: not a show for an audience but a spiritual
exercise. Whereas Yamaguchi’s music floats free in an empty sky,
divorced from context. What is it for? It’s for consumption, live or on
record, by the new audience, according to Western models of art music.

The effect of Yamaguchi’s record on his Western listeners is one thing,
but what about its effect on Japan? By 1969 Japan had invested pretty
much a century in a massive adoption of Western culture and
technology. Beginning with the import of brass bands, new musical
ideas had taken root: the importance of playing in tune; formalised and
fixed versions of pieces; large groupings of instruments, or orchestras;
and concert halls where the audience politely listens in silence. Any of
these notions would have astonished our old friend, the tootling Komuso
player beneath his basket hat. But by the 1960s Japanese performers of
European classical music were receiving international acclaim, Toru
Takemitsu was on the point of acceptance as a world class composer,
and the figure of the globetrotting concert hall soloist was completely
familiar to Japanese audiences. Yamaguchi’s performance, highly
polished and beautifully recorded, slots into place as an early step in

Japan’s resumption of confidence in its own traditional culture. The
Tokyo Olympics were in 1964; around 1976 my own teacher, Kohachiro
Miyata, went onstage solo at the Carnegie Hall.

There’s no question that Yamaguchi was one among a generation of
marvellous shakuhachi performers, and it’s fascinating to see how they
differ from one another. Another version of “Koku”, played by Katsuya
Yokoyama, is on the excellent The Art Of The Shakuhachi on Ocora.
One year younger than Yamaguchi, Yokoyama was 63 when he made
this record. He continued studying with the Zen master Watazumi until
the latter’s death; this must have kept Yokoyama in touch with the down
to earth Fuke monk tradition, and its concerns with matters other than
music. Yokoyama retains an unpredictable exuberance in his playing.
His crane piece (“Tsuru No Sugomori”) attacks the famous passages of
flutter tonguing and tremolos with an animated, improvisational attitude.
Thirty years earlier, Yamaguchi sounds correct and formal, a musician
on his best behaviour, as if slightly in awe of the future status of his


 “When you hear some music or hear a sound if, for some reason, you
  like it very well the reason is because that sound is in balance, or in
harmony, with your pulse. And so, when making a sound yourself, you
try to imitate the various different sounds of the universe; but what you
      are finally making is your own sound - the sound of yourself.”

A Shakuhachi Adventure in Japan                   by Adrian Bain

I haven’t been playing the Shakuhachi for very long; only since last
August. At certain times I have stopped and wondered how on earth it
all started. One of those occasions was this June, as I sat in front of
Okuda Atsuya in Zensabo, his teaching studio in Kokubunji, Tokyo.
Okuda sensei was half-way through Tamuke, playing on a large jinashi
                             nobe Shakuhachi. I was shocked at the
                             beauty and melancholy of his playing and
                             near to tears, as I asked myself what
                             unlikely set of events had brought me

                                     My Shakuhachi journey started when my
                                     wife, who is Japanese, bought me CD of a
                                     Japanese       band      called    Kotoza.
                                     Shakuhachi is played on some the tracks
                                     and it moved me. I asked her what
                                     instrument it was and she explained what
                                     little she knew of the instrument.
                                     Generally speaking, many Japanese
                                     people can be quite unaware of the
                                     heritage of their music and instruments, a
 Okuda Atsuya Photo by Adrian Bain
                                     point made in Christopher Blasdel’s book
                                     “The Single Tone”.

I bought myself a few Shakuhachi CDs and the sound started to bother
me. Something was stirring inside me. A few months later, during a
boring afternoon, I started to look around on the Internet at Shakuhachi,
to learn a little about the instrument that was subtly affecting me. I
wasn’t aware of any intention beyond curiosity. When my wife returned
from a shopping trip, I announced that I had just ordered a Shakuhachi
on the Internet. I was as surprised as she was. An odd, but important
moment for me.

A week later, it arrived with instruction book and
CD. Not knowing enough about the Shakuhachi, I
played safe and had ordered a Shakuhachi Yuu,
moulded from resin, and now I sat down with it
and a book of meaningless scores – and a
mountain to climb.

All of you will be familiar with the search for the
first note, the white knuckles through squeezing
too hard, the difficultly in concentrating on the           Kiku Day
breath while moving the fingers, the elusive kan              Photo by Andrea Day

notes, and the strange notation. Months of frustration rewarded by scant
moments of satisfaction at a small indication of progress. I was once
pleased when I saw my wife swaying to the music while I played – until I
realised she had earphones in and was listening to other music to block
out my sounds that were reminiscent of the squeal of piglets! I needed a

                          A difficulty for me was in finding a teacher. I
                          live as far east in Kent as you can get, a
                          hundred yards or so from the very edge of
                          England. London is two hours away by train,
                          but it was there that I must go. I had located
                          Kiku Day on the Internet and she kindly agreed
                          to teach me. I cannot express how much help
                          and insight Kiku provided in each lesson.

                            Then, after only two valuable lessons, another
                            potential problem loomed. I had to move
                            temporarily to Sheffield in the North of England,
  Bamboo in Kamakura        for 7 months for work, which would have
       Photo by Adrian Bain
                            interrupted my lessons with Kiku Day. The
strange and remarkable twists in life were apparent when Kiku told me
that periodically she would be travelling to Sheffield to teach. What luck!
There are indeed unexpected and wonderful patterns in the tapestry of

And so, during my time in the North I managed another couple of
lessons with Kiku and I practiced in solitary hotel rooms, aware that the
sound must have perplexed other guests as it drifted down the barren

A few Shakuhachi Yuu have been enhanced by Monty Levenson. He
improved and lacquered the bore, and added a brass and rattan joint for
added strength (and it looks nicer). I got one for Christmas. The
enhanced Yuu has a much fuller sound and improved tuning.

This June, after the seven months away from home, my wife and I were
immediately off to Japan for a couple of weeks. I intended to make the
most of my trip, centred on the Shakuhachi. It transpired that my wife’s
family, hearing that I was learning the Shakuhachi, also had a few trips
planned for me.

The day after arriving, they drove me to a town in the mountains called
Oimachi Kaneko to meet a Shakuhachi maker and player, Taizan
Ohashi. He was generous with his time and knowledge, talking, advising
and playing for me over green tea. My Japanese family were translating

and unexpectedly found themselves enjoying learning about the

Later the same day, I was taken to an interesting second-hand shop
right outside Hakuraku station near Yokohama. Specialising in
Shakuhachi, the owner, Ishida Akio, gave his time freely, discussing the
Shakuhachi and playing beautifully. He showed me many fine
Shakuhachi of varying ages and styles, some of which I tried. This was
the first time I had played real bamboo Shakuhachi!

Next on the itinerary was
a trip to Kamakura, with
its many temples, shrines
and historical monuments.
The Great Buddha is a
bronze statue of Amida
Buddha, standing over 13
metres tall. Cast in 1252,
it is the second largest
Buddha statue in Japan;
the largest is located in
the Todaiji temple in Nara. The Great Buddha         Photo by Adrian Bain
Originally the statue was
inside a temple, but is now in the open air as the temple was washed
away by a tsunami tidal wave at the end of the 15th century. I found a
quiet place amongst some trees near the Great Buddha and played Hi
Fu Mi Cho.

                                      The next excursion I was looking
                                      forward to, albeit nervously, was to Sojiji
                                      in Tsurumi, the headquarters of Soto
                                      Zen Buddhism. In 2003, when my dad
                                      died I had spent an entire day in the
                                      grounds of Sojiji, wandering around,
                                      thinking and feeling, and it gave me
  Playing to the Great Buddha
                                      solace. Little did I know then that a few
                 Photo by Mariko Mori years later I would be inside the temple
                                      itself for a day of Zazen instruction with
                                      the monks. The teachings were in
Japanese, which stretched my limited language skills, but with the help
of a kind Japanese lady, I managed to get through the day. There were
times of panic, though, when my legs seemed to be made of stone and
my fidgeting resulted in a “Please focus” whack with a stick by the

In the grounds of Sojiji is the great bell, hidden in the trees above the
temple grounds. The bell weighs nearly 19 tons, has a height of nearly
three and a half metres and a diameter of nearly two metres, and is said
to have been cast on this spot in 1913. Every minute, the monk stands
and using a rope attached to a huge
log, strikes the bell. The deep, rich
sound can be heard for miles around.

I sat in the woods near the bell and
played Shakuhachi for half an hour or
so until, with the lowering of the sun,
the insects started to feast on me. I left
Sojiji happy and relaxed.

I recommend a trip to Sojiji; it’s one I
will certainly repeat on my next visit to
A trip to Kyoto followed, staying in a
ryokan, a traditional inn, dining on
local specialities, presented as works The Bell at Sojiji Photo by Adrian Bain
of art. I had wanted to play in Kinkakuji,
the beautiful Golden Pavilion, but it seemed like there were a million
children present, on school trips. I later played Shakuhachi before the
Japanese garden in the ryokan. I was starting to become aware of the
surprised expressions when I played the Shakuhachi in Japan.

                                                    A few days later, I
                                                    had a fascinating
                                                    stroll   around    the
                                                    famous Tsukiji fish
                                                    market in Tokyo,
                                                    seeing (and smelling)
                                                    the sort of scary
                                                    creatures     normally
                                                    seen      on    nature
                                                    programmes. Nearby,
                                                    I ate the freshest of
                                                    Sushi and Sashimi,
                                                    straight from the sea
   Monks at Sojiji             Photo by Adrian Bain that day, via the
                                                    market. When lunch
                                                    had settled, for the
first time I played Shakuhachi to my wife’s family. I am pleased to say
that they were surprised at such a sound from an Englishman.

I was hoping to meet with Kiku Day, as she is currently in Osaka
working on a project for the university, but our schedules and distance
prevented it. However, before leaving England, Kiku helped me to
arrange two lessons with Okuda sensei. The first lesson takes us back
to the start of this article, with Okuda movingly playing Tamuke. This
was to be the piece he would teach me first.

                                    It was at this time that I had the feeling
                                    of disbelief. It was less than a year since
                                    I surprised myself by ordering a
                                    Shakuhachi and now I was before
                                    Okuda, feeling very emotional, having
                                    my two-week Shakuhachi adventure in
                                    Japan, playing in beautiful places,
                                    spiritual     places,     meeting     many
                                    Shakuhachi players and makers.

 A Yakuza Cat Guarding Sojiji   Okuda is a most charming and
                                interesting man. A successful jazz
             Photo by Adrian Bain
                                trumpet player, he turned all of his time
and study to the Shakuhachi, specifically the jinashi (un-lacquered and
without the use of Ji paste to finely tune a bore). His unique style is
called zensabo. Okuda helped me greatly, correcting bad habits I had
acquired while practicing on my own, offering solutions to problems I
had, and teaching in a relaxed, enjoyable manner.

I spent a fruitful two hours with this soulful player, working through the
score for Tamuke and having fascinating conversations. I was
desperate to absorb everything I could, scribbling notes, taking photos
and even camera movies of techniques and whole songs for study later.
After two hours I walked out ecstatic and exhausted at the same time.

Throughout my time in Japan, I practiced when I could, often being
chastised by my wife for disturbing other hotel residents late at night. I
would be ordered to stop playing. “Urusai!” – too loud. She doesn’t know,
but I would start again while she was in the shower. Every minute of
practice counts. Of course, with the Shakuhachi Yuu being made of
resin, I could play in the shower, I suppose!

My second lesson with Okuda, two days after the first, was just as
insightful and exhausting. As my time with Okuda was limited, he
suggested we cram as much as possible in and we started to study
Koku, a piece that Okuda said contained a great many important
techniques and should be studied diligently. I am finding it very difficult
and challenging.

Okuda said he had a 2.5 jinashi nobe (one-piece) that he had harvested
in November in Nagano ken and that he thought would suit me. I tried it
– it was huge and difficult for my short, sausage-like fingers. Yet the
sound was so mellow. I happily accepted the wonderful instrument. I
think I must have looked very strange on the train, smiling away to

Before returning to our hotel in Yokohama,
I made a planned diversion to a famous
Shakuhachi shop in Mejiro. A superb
place, full of all-things-Shakuhachi and
more. The staff were very knowledgeable
and helpful and I came away with a few
goodies for my new Shakuhachi.

Now I am home, I am struggling bravely
with the 2.5 jinashi and, curiously, when I
return to the 1.8, find it difficult to play for
a short while. Interesting problems are
present all along the Shakuhachi journey.
As I conquer one problem, plenty more
present themselves.
                                                   Jinashi Nobe & Enhanced Yuu…and
                                                   a Guest
I expect it’s true to say that the                             Photo by Adrian Bain
Shakuhachi is now a part of my life…for
the rest of my life. And I’m still not quite
sure quite how it happened.

Happy Blowing,
Adrian Bain

P.S. Well…in two days, I’m off to the European Shakuhachi Summer
School 2007 in France. It will be a novel experience for me to meet so
many Shakuhachi players, and quite daunting. I will let you know how I
get on.

                   L'aventure d'un shakuhachi au Japon
                                Adrian Bain

Je n’ais pas commencé à jouer du Shakuhachi depuis très longtemps:
seulement depuis août de l’année dernière. Par moments je me suis
demandé comment tout cela avait bien pu commencer. En juin de cette
année, j’étais assis en face d’ Okuda Atsuya dans Zensabo, le studio où
il enseigne à Kokubunji, Tokyo. Okuda Sensei était au milieu de la
partition de Tamuke, jouant sur un grand jinashi nobe Shakuhachi. J'ai
été ému jusqu’aux larmes par la beauté et la mélancolie de son

interprétation, en me rappelant l’ensemble d'événements improbables
qui m’avaient amenés jusque là.

 Mon aventure avec le Shakuhachi a commencé quand mon épouse,
qui est japonaise, m'a acheté un CD d’un groupe japonais appelé
Kotoza. Ils jouent du Shakuhachi sur certains de leurs morceaux et le
son que j’ai entendu m’a transporté. J’ai demandé à mon épouse de
quoi il s’agissait et elle m’a expliqué qu’elle savait très peu de choses
sur cet instrument. D'une manière générale, beaucoup de japonais
peuvent être tout à fait ignorants de leur héritage musical et
instrumental, remarque faite par Christopher Blasdel dans son livre
« The single Tone ».

Je me suis acheté quelques CD de Shakuhachi et le son de l’instrument
a commencé à m’obséder. Quelque chose se mettait en place en moi.
Quelques mois plus tard, pendant un après-midi ennuyeux, j'ai
commencé à regarder sur Internet à la rubrique Shakuhachi, pour en
apprendre plus sur l'instrument qui m'affectait subtilement, sans autre
raison que la simple curiosité. Quand mon épouse est rentrée, je lui ai
annoncé que je venais juste de commander un Shakuhachi sur Internet.
J'en étais aussi étonné qu’elle, notez le bien. Un moment fort important
pour moi.

Une semaine plus tard, il est arrivé avec le livre et le CD d'instruction.
Ne sachant pas grand chose au sujet du Shakuhachi, j'avais joué sur la
sécurité et commandé un Yuu en résine, et étais maintenant avec mon
Shakuhachi penché sur un livre couvert de signes inconnus - et devant
une montagne à gravir.

Chacun de vous a connu la recherche de la première note, les
articulations blanches à force de crispation, la difficulté de se concentrer
à la fois sur son souffle et sur le déplacement des ses doigts, les notes
kan évasives, et la notation étrange. Mois de frustrations récompensés
par quelques brefs moments de satisfaction à chaque petit signe de
progrès. Je me réjouissais une fois de voir mon épouse se balancer en
rythme tandis que je jouais - jusqu'à ce que je réalise qu'elle avait des
écouteurs et écoutait de la musique pour couvrir mes sons qui étaient
proches du cri aigu des porcelets ! J'avais besoin d'un professeur.

Une difficulté pour moi était d’en trouver un. Je vis dans le fin fond du
Kent et à deux heures de train de Londres, mais c'était pourtant là que
j’ai du me rendre. J'avais fait la connaissance de Kiku Day sur Internet
et elle a accepté gentiment de m'enseigner. Je ne puis exprimer tout ce
que chaque leçon de kiku m’a apporté.

Après seulement deux leçons, un autre problème s’est posé à moi, j'ai
dû me déplacer temporairement à Sheffield dans le nord de l'Angleterre,
pour 7 mois de travail, ce qui aurait normalement interrompu mes
leçons avec Kiku Day. Les hasards merveilleux de la vie ont fait que
Kiku se rendait périodiquement à Sheffield pour enseigner. Quelle
chance !

Et ainsi, pendant mon séjour dans le nord, j'ai pu continuer mes leçons
avec Kiku et j'ai pratiqué dans les chambres d'hôtel, conscient du fait
que le son qui raisonnait dans les couloirs vides devait avoir perturbé
plus d’un autre client. Certains Shakuhachi Yuu ont été améliorés par
Monty Levenson. Il en a laqué et retouché l'intérieur, et a ajouté un joint
de laiton et de rotin pour en améliorer la solidité (en plus c’et plus joli).
J'en ai reçu un à Noël. Le Yuu + a un son beaucoup plus plein et plus
juste. Au mois de juin, après sept mois d’absence loin de la maison,
mon épouse et moi sommes partis au Japon pour quelques semaines.
J'avais l'intention de tirer le meilleur parti de mon voyage, centré sur le
Shakuhachi. La famille de mon épouse, apprenant que j'apprenais le
Shakuhachi, avait également organisé quelques voyages pour moi.

 Le jour après notre arrivée, ils m'ont conduit dans une ville dans les
montagnes appelée Oimachi Kaneko pour y rencontrer un fabricant et
joueur de Shakuhachi, Taizan Ohashi. Il s’est montré généreux de son
temps et de son savoir, parlant, conseillant et jouant pour moi devant un
thé vert.

Plus tard dans la même journée, on m’a conduit dans un intéressant
magasin de seconde main près de la gare de Hakuraku, dans les
enviropnsde de Yokohama. Spécialisé dans le Shakuhachi, le
propriétaire, Ishida Akio, m’a accordé librement son temps, discutant de
Shakuhachi et jouant admirablement. Il m'a montré beaucoup de
Shakuhachi d’époque et de styles variables, j’ai pu en essayer certains.
C'était la première fois que je jouais sur un vrai Shakuhachi en bambou !

La prochaine étape était un voyage à Kamakura, avec ses nombreux
temples, tombeaux et monuments historiques. Le grand Bouddha est
une statue en bronze d'Amida Bouddha, s’élevant à plus de 13 mètres
de haut. Erigé en 1252, il est la deuxième plus grande statue de
Bouddha au Japon ; le plus grand est situé dans le temple de Todaiji à
Nara. À l'origine la statue était à l'intérieur d'un temple, mais est
maintenant à l’air libre depuis que le temple a été emporté par une
vague de marée de tsunami à la fin du 15ème siècle.

J'ai trouvé un endroit tranquille entre les arbres, près du grand Bouddha
et ai joué Hi Fu Mi Cho sur mon Shakuhachi.

La prochaine excursion que j'attendais avec intérêt, et quelque
nervosité, était à Sōji-ji dans Tsurumi, le quartier général du
Bouddhisme Soto Zen. En 2003, quand mon papa est mort j'avais
passé un jour entier à Sōji-ji, à errer, réfléchir et à me laisser aller à
mes sentiments, et cela m’avait apporté de la consolation. Je me
doutais bien peu alors que quelques années après je me retrouverais à
l'intérieur du temple pour une journèe d’initiation au Zazen donnée par
les moines. L’enseignement était en Japonais, ce qui a mis à mal mes
capacités linguistiques limitées, mais avec l'aide d'une aimable dame
japonaise, je suis parvenu à surmonter la difficulté. Il y a bien eu des
périodes de panique, lorsque mes jambes m’ont semblé être faites de
Pierre et quand mes mouvements désordonnés ont eu comme
conséquence des coups de bâton donnés par les moines, pour me
ramener à la concentration.

A Sōji-ji se trouve la grande cloche, cachée dans les arbres au-dessus
du sol du temple. On dit qu’elle pèse près de 19 tonnes, elle mesure
presque trois mètres et demi et a un diamètre de presque deux mètres,
elle a été moulée à cet endroit en 1913. Chaque minute, un moine se
dresse et en tirant une corde reliée à un énorme madrier, frappe la
cloche. Le bruit profond peut être entendu à des milles autour du temple.

Je me suis assis dans les bois près de la cloche et ai joué du
Shakuhachi pendant une demi-heure et jusqu'à ce que, avec le coucher
du soleil, les insectes aient commencé à se régaler de moi. Je suis parti
de Sōji-ji heureux et détendu.

Je recommande à chacun un voyage à Sōji-ji; lors de ma prochaine
visite au Japon, je ne manquerai pas de m’y rendre à nouveau.

Ensuite il y a eu un voyage vers Kyoto, ou j’ai séjourné dans un ryokan,
une auberge traditionnelle, j’y ai dégusté des spécialités locales,
présentées comme autant d’œuvres d'art. J'ai voulu jouer dans le
Kinkaku-ji, le pavillon d'or, mais on aurait dit qu’il était rempli de millions
d’enfants, en excursion scolaire. J’ai joué plus tard du Shakuhachi dans
le jardin japonais du ryokan, et fus de plus en plus étonné de
l’expression des gens lorsque je jouais du Shakuhachi.

Quelques jours plus tard, j'ai eu l’occasion de flâner autour du célèbre
et fascinant Tsukiji, marché de poissons de Tokyo, voyant (et sentant)
toutes    sortes de créatures effrayantes comme on en observe
normalement dans les documentaires.
Près de là, j'ai pu manger les plus frais des Sushi et Sashimi, en
provenance directe de la mer, via le marché. Quand le déjeuner fut
terminé, j’ai pu pour la première fois jouer devant la famille de mon

épouse. Je suis heureux de dire qu'ils ont été étonnés qu’un Anglais
puisse produire de tels sons.

J'espérais rencontrer Kiku Day, étant donné qu’elle se trouvait à ce
moment à Osaka en mission pour son université, mais nos programmes
et la distance m’en ont empêché. Cependant, avant de quitter
l'Angleterre, Kiku m'a aidé à organiser deux leçons avec Okuda Sensei.
La première leçon nous rappelle le début de cet article, avec Okuda
jouant Tamuke. C'était d'être le morceau qu'il m'enseignerait d'abord.
C'est là que j’ai été saisi par un sentiment d’incrédulité, il n’y avait pas
un an que j’avais commandé mon Shakuhachi et j’allais rencontrer
Okuda, plein d’émotions, après mon périple de deux semaines, jouant
dans de beaux endroits, empreints de spiritualité, et rencontrant
beaucoup de joueurs et fabricants de Shakuhachi.

Okuda est un homme des plus charmants et très intéressant.
Trompettiste de jazz accompli, il a décide de consacrer tout son temps
à l’étude du Shakuhachi, spécifiquement du jinashi (non laqué et sans
utilisation de pâte de Ji pour accorder finement l’instrument). La seule
technique qu’il pratique s'appelle zensabo. Okuda m’a aidé
considérablement, corrigeant les mauvaises habitudes j'avais acquises
en pratiquant seul, m'apportant des solutions à mes problèmes, et
m’enseignant d'une façon détendue et agréable.

J'ai passé deux heures fructueuses avec ce joueur            émouvant,
travaillant sur la lecture de Tamuke et ayant des conversations
fascinantes. J'essayais désespérément d’absorber toutes les
informations que je pouvais, prenant des notes, des photos et allant
jusqu’à filmer certaines techniques et des morceaux entiers dans le but
de pouvoir en poursuivre l’étude par après. Après deux heures j'ai quitté
le maître, débordant d’enthousiasme et épuisé en même temps.

Tout au long de mon séjour au Japon, j'ai pratiqué chaque fois que je
pouvais, et j’ai souvent été grondé par mon épouse, pour avoir dérangé
d'autres clients de l'hôtel jusque tard dans la nuit. Elle me forçait à
cesser de jouer - mais (elle ne le sait pas) je recommençais dès qu'elle
était sous sa douche. Chaque minute de pratique compte.
Naturellement, avec le Shakuhachi Yuu j’aurais pu jouer également
dans la douche, je suppose !

Ma deuxième leçon avec Okuda, deux jours plus tard, fut tout aussi
profitable et épuisante. Sachant que mon temps avec lui était limité,
Okuda m’a suggéré que nous apprenions le plus de choses possibles et
nous avons donc commencé à étudier Koku, un morceau qui selon
Okuda contenait beaucoup de techniques importantes et devait être

étudié sans plus attendre. J’ai trouvé qu’il me posait là un bien grand

Okuda m’a dit qu'il avait un jinashi nobe 2.5 (d'une seule pièce) qu’il
avait coupé en novembre dans Nagano ken et qu'il pensait qu’il me
conviendrait. Je l'ai essayé, il était énorme et difficile à manier avec
mes doigts courts en forme de saucisse mais en même temps le son
était si riche. J’ai accepté l'instrument merveilleux avec bonheur. Je
pense que je devais avoir un air très étrange sur le train, souriant dans
le vague.

Avant le retour à notre hôtel à Yokohama, j'ai fait un détour prévu par
un célèbre magasin de Shakuhachi à Mejiro. Un endroit superbe, en
plus des Shakuhachi on y trouve de tout. Le personnel était très bien
informé et de bon conseil, je suis revenu avec quelques accessoires
pour mon nouveau Shakuhachi.

Maintenant je suis de retour à la maison, je lutte toujours bravement
avec le jinashi 2.5 et, curieusement, quand je reviens aux 1.8, je trouve
qu’il est difficile d’en jouer, enfin, pendant un court moment. Des
problèmes intéressants se présentent tout au long du voyage d’initiation
au Shakuhachi. Lorsque j’en résous un, d’autres se pressent.
Je pressens que le Shakuhachi fait à présent partie de ma vie… pour le
reste de ma vie. Et je ne suis toujours pas tout à fait sûr de la façon
dont tout cela a commencé.

Bon souffle…….
Adrian Bain

P.S. bien, dans deux jours, je pars en France pour les cours d'été
européens de Shakuhachi 2007. Ce sera une expérience nouvelle pour
moi de rencontrer tellement de joueurs de Shakuhachi à la fois, et tout
à fait intimidante. Je vous ferai savoir la suite.

                Ein Shakuhachi – Abenteuer in Japan
                           Adrian Bain

Ich hatte noch gar nicht so lange Shakuhachi gespielt: erst seit letztem
August. Immer wieder in bestimmten Momenten habe ich innegehalten
und mich gefragt, wie um alles in der Welt das alles angefangen hat.
Eine dieser Gelegenheiten war im Juni. Ich saß vor
Okuda Atsuya im Zensabo, seinem Unterrichtsraum in Konkubunji,
Tokyo. Okuda sensei hatte Tamuke zur Hälfte gespielt, auf einer großen
Jinashi Nobe Shakuhachi. Ich war erschüttert von der Schönheit und
Melancholie seines Spiels, den Tränen nahe. Ich fragte mich, welch
unwahrscheinliche Kette von Ereignissen mich hierher gebracht hatte.

Meine Shakuhachi – Reise begann, als mir meine Frau – sie ist
Japanerin – eine CD der japanischen Band Kotoza kaufte. Einige
Nummern sind Shakuhachi – Stücke. Sie bewegten mich. Ich fragte sie,
welches Instrument das gewesen sei und sie erklärte mir das wenige,
das sie über das Instrument wusste. Im Allgemeinen kennen viele
Japaner ihr musikalisches Erbe und ihre Instrumente kaum. Christopher
Blasdel weist in seinem Buch “The Single Tone” darauf hin.

Ich kaufte mir einige Shakuhachi CDs und der Klang begann mich zu
beschäftigen. Etwas in mir regte sich. An einem langweiligen
Nachmittag, einige Monate später, fing ich an im Internet unter
Shakuhachi zu stöbern, um etwas über das Instrument zu erfahren, das
mich irgendwie anzog. Ich war mir keiner Absicht bewusst, ausser
Neugier. Als meine Frau von einem Einkauf zurückkam, kündigte ich ihr
an, dass ich gerade im Internet eine Shakuhachi bestellt hätte. Ich war
überrascht und sie auch. Ein seltsamer aber wichtiger Augenblick für

Eine Woche später kam sie an, mit Lehrbuch und CD. Ich wusste nicht
genug über die Shakuhachi, wollte sicher gehen und hatte eine
Shakuhachi Yuu bestellt, aus Kunstharz gegossen. Ich setzte mich hin
damit und einem Buch unverständlicher Grifftabellen - und hatte einen
Berg zu besteigen.

Jedem von euch wird die Suche nachdem ersten Ton vertraut sein: die
weissen Knöchel, weil man zu sehr aufdrückt, die Schwierigkeit sich auf
den Atem zu konzentrieren, während man die Finger bewegt, die nicht
greifbaren kan Noten und die seltsame Notation. Monatelange
Frustration wird belohnt durch seltene Augenblicke der Zufrieden- heit
über kleine Anzeichen von Fortschritt. Einmal freute ich mich, als ich
meine Frau zu der Musik tanzen sah, während ich spielte – bis ich
bemerkte, dass sie Kopfhörer auf hatte. Sie hörte auf andere Musik, um
meine Klänge auszuschließen, die an das Quietschen von Schweinchen
erinnerten! Ich brauchte einen Lehrer.

Für mich war es schwierig, einen Lehrer zu finden. Ich lebe so weit im
Osten Kents, wie nur möglich und hundert Meter oder so entfernt vom
äussersten Ende Englands. London liegt zwei Bahnstunden entfernt.
Aber gerade dahin musste ich gehen. Ich hatte Kiku Day im Internet
ausgemacht und sie war freundlicherweise bereit, mich zu unterrichten.
Ich kann gar nicht sagen, wieviel Hilfe und Verstehen mir Kiku in jeder
Stunde gab.

Dann zeichnete sich nach nur zwei wertvollen Unterrichtsstunden ein
weiteres mögliches Problem ab. Ich musste vorübergehend nach

Sheffield im Norden Englands ziehen, um sieben Monate dort zu
arbeiten. Das hätte meine Stunden bei Kiku Day unterbrochen. Die
seltsamen und ungewöhnlichen Wendungen im Leben zeigten sich, als
Kiku mir sagte, sie führe regelmäßig nach Sheffield um zu unterrichten.
WelchesGlück! Es gibt wirklich unerwartete, wunderbare Muster im
Gewebe des Lebens. Und so schaffte ich es während meiner Zeit im
Norden ein paar weitere Stunden mit Kiku zu haben. Ich übte in
einsamen Hotelzimmern und war mir bewusst, dass der Klang andere
Hotelgäste verblüfft haben musste, wenn er die öden Korridore hinunter

Einige Shakuhachi Yuu waren von Monty Levenson aufgearbeitet
worden. Er verbesserte und lackierte die Bohrlöcher und fügte eine
Metall-Rattan Verbindung hinzu für zusätzliche Festigkeit. Und es sieht
hübscher aus. Ich bekam eine davon zu Weihnachten. Die
überarbeitete Yuu hat einen volleren Klang und verbesserte Intonation.

In diesem Juni fuhren meine Frau und ich, nach den sieben Monaten
weg von zuhause, sofort für einige Wochen nach Japan. Ich nahm mir
vor, das Beste aus meiner Reise zu machen, aauf die Shakuhachi
konzentriert. Es war bis zu mir durchgesickert, dass die Familie meiner
Frau auch ein paar Ausflüge für mich geplant hatte, nachdem sie gehört
hatten, dass ich lerne Shakuhachi zu spielen.

Am Tag nach unserer Ankunft fuhren sie mich in eine Stadt in den
Bergen, Oimachi Kaneko. Dort konnte ich den Shakuhachi-Bauer und -
Spieler Taizan Ohashi treffen. Er ging großzügig mit seiner Zeit und
seinem Wissen um, sprach, beriet und spielte bei Grünem Tee.

Noch am selben Tag wurde ich später zu einem interessanten Second-
hand-shop gebracht. Gleich vor dem Hakuraku Bahnhof in der Nähe
von Yokohama. Der Besitzer Ishida Akio hatte sich auf Shakuhachi
spezialisiert. Er schenkte mir seine Zeit, sprach über die Shakuhachi
und spielte wundervoll. Er zeigte mir viele gute Shakuhachis aus
verschiedenen Zeiten und Stilen. Einige davon probierte ich aus. Zum
erstenmal hatte ich auf einer richtigen Bambus Shakuhachi gespielt!

Als nächstes stand ein Ausflug nach Kamakura auf dem Reiseplan, mit
seinen zahlreichen Tempeln, Schreinen und historischen Monumenten.
Der Große Buddha ist eine Bronzestatue von über 13 Meter Höhe. Er
entstand 1252 und ist die zweitgrößte Buddha -statue in Japan. Die
größte steht im Todaiji Tempel in Nara. Der Great Buddha stand
ursprünglich in einem Tempel. Nun ist er im Freien. Der Tempel wurde
Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts von einer Tsunamiwelle weggespült.

Ich fand einen ruhigen Platz unter einigen Bäumen in der Nähe des
Großen Buddha und spielte Hi Fu Mi Cho auf der Shakuhachi.

Der nächste Ausflug auf den ich mich freute, wenn auch etwas nervös,
ging nach Sojiji in Tsurumi, dem Zentrum des Soto Zen Buddhismus.
2003, als mein Vater starb, hatte ich einen ganzen Tag in den Anlagen
von Sojiji verbracht, war umher gewandert, hatte meinen Gedanken und
Gefühlen ihren Lauf gelassen. Das gab mir Trost. Damals ahnte ich
noch nicht, dass ich einige Jahre später im Tempel selbst sein würde zu
einem Tag der Einführung in das Zazen mit den Mönchen. Der
Unterricht war in Japanisch, was mich an den Rand meiner begrenzten
Sprachfertigkeiten brachte. Aber mit der Hilfe einer freundlichen
japanischen Dame kam ich durch den Tag. Es gab Zeiten der Panik,
dann, wenn meine Beine aus Stein gemacht schienen und meine
Unruhe zu einem Stockhieb durch die Mönche führte “Bitte
konzentrieren Sie sich”.

Auf dem Gelände von Sojiji, unter Bäumen verborgen, über dem
Tempelbezirk, gibt es die große Glocke. Sie wiegt an die 19 Tonnen, ist
fast dreieinhalb Meter hoch mit einem Durchmesser von fast zwei
Metern. Man sagt, sie wurde auf diesen Platz im Jahr 1913 gegossen.
Jede Minute erhebt sich der Mönch und schlägt die Glocke mit einem
Seil an das ein riesiger Klöppel befestigt ist. Der tiefe, volle Klang ist
kilometerweit zu hören.

Ich saß im Wald nahe der Glocke und spielte Shakuhachi, eine halbe
Stunde lang oder so, bis mit der untergehenden Sonne die Mücken sich
an mir ergötzten. Ich verließ Sojiji glücklich und entspannt.

Ich empfehle einen Ausflug nach Sojiji. Bei meinem nächsten
Japanbesuch werde ich ihn sicher wiederholen.

Eine Reise nach Kyoto folgte. Wir übernachteten in einem Ryokan,
einem traditionellen Gasthaus, aßen lokale Spezialitäten, die wie
Kunstwerke serviert wurden. Ich hatte mir gewünscht im Kinkakuji, dem
schönen Goldenen Pavillon zu spielen. Aber es schien so, als wären da
gerade eine Million Kinder zum Schulausflug versammelt. Später spielte
ich Shakuhachi vor dem japanischen Garten im Ryokan. Ich begann die
überraschten Äußerungen zu bemerken, wenn ich in Japan Shakuhachi

Einige Tage danach bummelte ich fasziniert über den berühmten
Fischmarkt Tsukiji in Tokyo und sah (und roch) die erschreckenden
Geschöpfe, die man normalerweise in Natursendungen sieht. In der
Nähe aß ich die frischesten Sushis und Sashimis. Die Fische waren am
gleichen Tag vom Meer zum Markt gebracht worden. Nach dem

Mittagessen spielte ich zum erstenmal Shakuhachi für die Familie
meiner Frau. Sie waren überrascht diesen Klang von einem Engländer
zu hören. Das freute mich.

Ich hatte gehofft Kiku Day zu treffen. Sie arbeitet zu dieser Zeit in
Osaka an einem Projekt für die Universität. Aber unsere Zeitpläne und
die Entfernung verhinderten es. Aber Kiku half mir vor meiner Abreise
aus England, zwei Stunden mit Okuda sensei zu vereinbaren. Die erste
Stunde führt uns zurück zum Anfang dieses Artikels, als Okuda so
bewegend Tamuke spielte. Das sollte das Stück sein, das er mich als
erstes lehrte.

In diesem Augenblick stiegen Zweifel in mir auf. Vor weniger als einem
Jahr hatte ich mich damit überrascht eine Shakuhachi zu bestellen.
Und nun saß ich vor Okuda, von meinen Gefühlen bewegt, hatte mein
zweiwöchiges Shakuhachi Abenteuer in Japan, spielte an wundervollen
Orten, spirituellen Orten, und traf viele Shakuhachi- spieler und
Shakuhachi- bauer.

Okuda ist ein höchst bezaubernder und interessanter Mann. Als
erfolgreicher Jazz- Trompeter wandte er all seine Zeit und Übung auf
die Shakuhachi, besonders die Jinashi. (Sie ist unlackiert und um ein
Loch endgültig zu intonieren wird keine Ji Paste verwendet). Sein
einzigartiger Stil wird Zensabo genannt. Okuda half mir großartig,
schlechte Gewohnheiten zu korrigieren, die ich mir angewöhnt hatte
während ich für mich übte. Er bot mir Lösungen für meine Probleme an
und unterrichtete in einer entspannten, angenehmen Art.

Ich verbrachte zwei fruchtbare Stunden mit diesem seelenvollen
Musiker. Wir arbeiteten die Noten von Tamuke durch und hatten
faszinierende Gespräche. Verzweifelt versuchte ich alles aufzunehmen,
was ich konnte. Ich kritzelte Noten, fotografierte und filmte sogar
Techniken und ganze Lieder um sie später zu studieren. Nach zwei
Stunden ging ich hinaus, begeistert und erschöpft in einem.

Während meiner ganzen Zeit in Japan übte ich wann immer ich konnte.
Oft bekam ich heftige Vorwürfe von meiner Frau, ich würde so spät in
der Nacht andere Hotelgäste stören. Ich müsse aufhören zu spielen.
Aber -(sie weiß es nicht) ich fing wieder an während sie duschte. Jede
Minute üben zählt. Natürlich könnte ich mit der Plastik- Shakuhachi in
der Dusche spielen, vermutlich!

Meine zweite Stunde mit Okuda, zwei Tage nach der ersten, war
ebenso voller Einsichten und Erschöpfung. Da meine Zeit mit Okada
begrenzt war, schlug er vor, so viel wie möglich hineinzupacken und wir

begannen, Koku zu studieren. Okuda sagte, das Stück enthalte viele
wichtige Techniken und solle fleissig geübt werden. Ich finde es sehr

Okuda sagte, er hätte eine 2,5 Jinashi Nobe (Flöte in einem Stück),
deren Bambus er im November im Bezirk von Nagano geerntet hatte
und von der er glaube sie passe mir. Ich probierte sie. Sie war riesig
und für meine kleinen wurstähnlichen Finger schwierig zu greifen. Aber
der Klang war so sanft. Ich nahm das wundervolle Instrument beglückt
an. Ich glaube, ich muss im Zug sehr seltsam ausgesehen haben, wie
ich so vor mich hin lächelte.

Bevor ich zu unserem Hotel in Yokohama zurückkehrte, hatte ich einen
Abstecher zu einem berühmten Shakuhachi Laden in Mejiro geplant.
Ein herrlicher Ort voller Shakuhachi Zubehör und noch mehr. Die
Bedienung war sehr kundig und hilfreich und ich kam mit einigen guten
Dingen für meine neue Shakuhachi heraus.

Jetzt bin ich zuhause und kämpfe tapfer mit der 2,5 Jinashi.
Seltsamerweise finde ich es schwierig kurze Zeit auf der 1,8
Shakuhachi zu spielen.      Interessante Probleme sind auf der
Shakuhachi Reise stets präsent. Sobald ich ein Problem löse, tauchen
viele andere auf.

Ich glaube, ich kann wirklich sagen, die Shakuhachi ist jetzt Teil meines
Lebens......für den Rest meines Lebens. Und ich weiss immer noch
nicht genau, wie es passierte.

Frohes Blasen,
Adrian Bain

P.S. zwei Tagen fahre ich zur Europäischen Shakuhachi
Sommerschule 2007 in Frankreich. Es wird eine neuartige Erfahrung
für mich sein, so vielen Shakuhachi Spielern zu begegnen, und
ziemlich beängstigend. Ich werde euch wissen lassen, wie es mir
ergangen ist.


“Seek the sound which is evoked from within….improved, polished and
   developed inside yourself. The shakuhachi demands of you your
  candid self – thus, put your whole body into the shakuhachi. Inhale
 once and expire. There is no second chance in life. Each exhalation
                 must be pure.” MIYAMOTO MUSASHI

                    Zazen and Shakuhachi making
                           By Alfred Lerch

A Shakuhachi-making seminar took place in the Hokuozan Sogenji
monastery in Liebenau, Germany on the weekend of the 31.8 - 2.9.
Although playing the Shakuhachi originates from the tradition of the Zen
Buddhism, this weekend was a rare opportunity to experience these two
traditions together. We had one hour Zazen in the early morning and
one hour in the evening with ShoE, the leader of the monastery. During
the day we built a Shakuhachi under the instruction of Fritz Nagel, an
experienced flute maker.

The idea and organisation of this weekend came from Mario Trinkhaus,
from the Zen Dojo Tegel, Antai-an. He knew the Hokuozan Sogenji and
anticipated, quite correctly, that it would be a beautiful experience to
build a Shakuhachi at this place.

I had a long way to travel from Switzerland to Liebenau, so I started
early in the morning to be there on time. I got off the bus in Liebenau, on
time, at 4 p.m. The great surprise came, as I asked for the castle
Eickhof: I had travelled to the wrong Liebenau. There are at least 3 of
them in Germany, as I now know. The long journey from Liebenau to
Liebenau was probably the test of whether I was ready to do the
seminar or not. I reached the monastery at 10 o'clock in the evening,
taking the last stretch by taxi.

Greater than these obstacles was the relief when admission was
granted to me at the gate. I only had missed the first evening, during
which Fritz had explained how we would build the instruments and the
participants had the opportunity to play the instruments he had brought.
These were approx. 30 instruments varying in length from 1.4 to 3.0,
and of all possible diameters. By trying these instruments we could
decide what size of instrument we wanted to build over the next two

For Saturday and Sunday the daily schedule was based on monastic
life. Getting up at 5.30, 6 to 7 o'clock Zazen, 7 - 7.30 work for the

monastery, 8 o'clock breakfast, at 9.00 starting to build the

First we learned to become familiar with the material and the tools.
Using a saw and files we made a mouthpiece on a short piece of
bamboo. Soon, we could hear that this work had been successful.
Surprisingly, many tones could be elicited from these short pipes. Then
we had to select our piece of bamboo. Fritz had brought a choice of
approx. 50 bamboos. They varied in length and thickness, there were
root end and non-root pieces and different types of bamboo. How
wonderful to choose from this variety. This was a unique possibility in

After choosing the bamboo, the first job was to make it hollow
throughout. We worked from the top and bottom with various tools and a
drilling machine, with self-made inserts made by Fritz. The next job was
sawing and filing the mouthpiece and the root part. For sawing the
mouthpiece Fritz showed us the right angles, and where to cut. For the
root part, each person formed it according to their own taste.

We worked all day long intensively, but in a quiet and eased
atmosphere. The door of the workroom was always open and outside
the door a covered area with two big tables offered additional
workspace. A big Japanese garden directly adjoined this.

It was a gift to enjoy this garden for two days, as comfortable as we
would be in our own homes. I felt that magic lies in a garden like this.
Every stone, every plant has a very unique charisma which draws
attention to itself. It is almost impossible to stop looking. Fascinating.

Sunday’s job was drilling the finger holes. First, we drilled our exercise
piece and then, with bated breath on our flute. Once the hole is drilled, it
is not possible to correct it anymore, at least not in the limited time of a
weekend seminar. At home in his workroom, Fritz can repair almost
everything. Doing this job started to become rather like a pilgrims way,
with different stations: marking the place to drill the hole with Fritz,
drilling the hole, burning the walls of the hole with a glowing piece of
iron, checking the result with Fritz and if ok, starting again by marking
the next hole. If it was not ok, the station of burning had to be repeated.
Eight instruments were built, each instrument with five finger holes, 40
times was the pilgrim’s way done, with hope and joy.

We built instruments from 1.8 to 2.4 and with every newly drilled hole
new tones were born. The workroom and the garden filled more and
more with these tones. This was also a very fascinating time, all these
tones in these very special surroundings, and everybody enjoying their

own instrument. Fritz even had to look for a quiet corner, to check the
intonation of the instruments taken to him. The last step was oiling the
inside of the bamboo with a rag soaked in oil. Then the instruments
were ready for the handing over ceremony.

The Ceremony was actually a concert on our newly-built instruments.
One piece on each flute was performed by Fritz, dedicated to the flute
maker. What a surprise - never had somebody played especially for me.
We could hear how wonderfully our instruments can be played. I
listened very carefully to every tone of my flute, so as to remember later.
If I can’t play like this on my flute, I now know that I can’t blame the flute.
I am very grateful for this handing over because doubting the instrument
is a big obstacle in the way of practising. This I know from experience.

I would also like to thank ShoE for her kindness and for her cooking, Mr.
and Ms. Hess for the space provided, and all participants for the
beautiful meetings. Also, thanks again to Fritz for the instruction and for
passing on his knowledge.

Fritz Nagel, Shakuhachi player and builder since 1983
Schlossstrasse 4,
86485 Markt, Germany

                      Zazen und Shakuhachi Bauen
                    Erfahrungsbericht von Alfred Lerch

Am Wochenende vom 31.8 – 2.9 fand im Kloster Hokuozan Sogenji in
Liebenau, Deutschland ein Shakuhachi Bau Seminar statt. Obwohl das
Spielen der Shakuhachi der Tradition der Zenklöster entstammt, war
dieses Wochenende eine seltene Gelegenheit diese zwei Traditionen
zusammen zu erleben. Am frühen Morgen und am Abend hatten wir
eine Stunde Zazen mir ShoE, der Leiterin des Klosters. Tagsüber
bauten wir unter Anleitung von Fritz Nagel, einem erfahrenen
Flötenbauer, eine Shakuhachi.

Die Idee und die Organisation zu diesem Wochenende hatte Mario
Trinkhaus vom Zen Dojo Tegel, Antai-an. Er kannte das Hokuozan
Sogenji und ahnte ganz richtig, das es ein einmalig schönes Erlebnis
sein wird, an diesem Ort eine Shakuhachi zu bauen.

Von der Schweiz aus hatte ich einen langen Weg vor mir, so startete ich
früh morgens um rechtzeitig dort zu sein. Pünktlich um 16 Uhr stieg ich
in Liebenau aus dem Bus. Dann kam die grosse Überraschung als ich
nach Schloss Eickhof fragte: Ich war in’s falsche Liebenau gereist. Es

gibt, wie ich jetzt weiss, mindestens 3 davon in Deutschland. Die
weitere Reise von Liebenau nach Liebenau war wohl die Prüfung, ob
ich bereit bin am Kurs teilzunehmen.
Ich erreichte das Kloster um 10 Uhr abends, für das letzte Stück
benötigte ich ein Taxi.

Grösser als die Hindernisse war die Erleichterung, als mir am Tor
Einlass gewährt wurde. Verpasst hatte ich den ersten Abend, an dem
Fritz erklärt hatte, wie wir die Instrumente bauen werden und die
Teilnehmer hatten die Gelegenheit gehabt seine mitgebrachten
Instrumente zu spielen. Das waren ca. 30 Instrumente von der Länge
1.4 bis 3.0 und allen möglichen Durchmessern. So konnte man durch
ausprobieren entscheiden, was für eine Grösse man selber bauen

Für Samstag und Sonntag war der Tagesablauf dem Klosterleben
nachempfunden. Aufstehen um 5.30 Uhr, 6 bis 7 Uhr Zazen, 7 – 7.30
Arbeit für das Kloster, 8 Uhr Frühstück, ab 9 Uhr Shakuhachi bauen.....

Als erstes liess uns Fritz an einem kurzen Stück Bambus mit dem
Material und den Werkzeugen vertraut werden. Mit Säge und Feilen
fertigten wir ein Mundstück an. Dass diese Arbeit gelungen war konnte
man bald hören. Diesen kurzen Röhrchen liessen sich schon viele Töne
entlocken, was rege ausprobiert wurde. Danach kam das Auslesen des
Bambus. Fritz hatte uns ca 50 Bambusrohre zur Auswahl mitgebracht.
In verschiedenen Längen, Dicken, mit oder ohne Wurzelstücke und aus
verschiedenen Bambussorten. Traumhaft, denn wo in Europa kann man
aus dieser Vielfalt auslesen.

Nach der Wahl galt es das Rohr erst einmal durchgehend hohl zu
machen. Mit diversen Werkzeugen und einer Bohrmaschine, bestückt
mit von Fritz selbstgebauten Aufsätzen, arbeiteten wir von oben und
unten am Bambus, bis man zum ersten mal hindurchblasen konnte. Die
nächste Arbeit war das Sägen und Feilen des Mundstücks und die
Bearbeitung der Wurzelpartie. Beim Heraussägen der Anblaskante gab
uns Fritz den richtigen Winkel an. Die Wurzelpartie gestaltete jeder
nach eigenem ästhetischen Empfinden.

Den ganzen Tag arbeiteten wir in intensiv, doch in wohltuend ruhiger
und entspannter Stimmung. Die Werkstattüre war stets offen und vor
der Türe bot ein überdachter Platz mit zwei grossen Tischen
zusätzlichen Arbeitsraum. Unmittelbar daran grenzte ein grosser
japanischer Garten.

Es war ein Geschenk, für zwei Tage diesen Garten so zu geniessen, als
wenn wir dort zuhause wären. Etwas magisches liegt in so einem

Garten, immer wieder fordert er zum hinschauen auf. Jede Pflanze,
jeder Stein hat eine einzigartige Ausstrahlung welche die
Aufmerksamkeit auf sich zieht. Faszinierend.

Die Arbeit des Sonntags war das Bohren der Fingerlöcher. Zuerst
bohrten wir wieder an unserem Übungsstück und dann, mit
angehaltenem Atem, an unserer Flöte, denn einmal gebohrt, lässt sich
kaum mehr etwas korrigieren, jedenfalls nicht im begrenzten
Zeitrahmen eines solchen Seminars. Zuhause in seiner Werkstatt kann
Fritz fast alles reparieren. Das Ausführen der Arbeit ergab einen kleinen
Pilgerweg mit den Stationen: Loch anzeichnen lassen bei Fritz, bohren,
schwärzen der Bohrung mit einem glühenden Stück Eisen, Kontrolle
des Ergebnisses bei Fritz und wenn i.O. dann wieder Anzeichen des
nächsten Lochs. Wenn nicht i.O musste die Station Lochdurchmesser
erweitern wiederholt werden. Acht Instrumente wurden gebaut, fünf
Fingerlöcher hat jedes, 40 mal wurde mit Hoffnung und Freude der
Pilgerweg begangen.

Wir bauten Instrumente von 1.8 bis 2.4 und mit jedem neu gebohrten
Loch wurden neue Töne geboren. Mehr und mehr wurde die Werkstatt
und der Garten von diesen Tönen erfüllt und man hörte die Freude der
Spieler darin. Fritz hatte sich derweilen im Garten eine ruhige Ecke
gesucht um die Intonation der zu ihm gebrachten Instrumente zu prüfen.
Der letzte Arbeitsschritt war das Einölen. Mit einem ölgetränkten
Lappen wurde das Innere des Bambus geölt. Dann war das Instrument
bereit für die Übergabe Zeremonie.

Die Zeremomie war eigentlich ein Konzert auf unseren soeben
gebauten Instrumenten. Fritz spielte auf jeder Flöte jeweils ein Stück für
den Flötenbauer. Was für eine Überraschung, noch nie hatte jemand
extra für mich ein Stück gespielt. So konnten wir hören wie wunderbar
man auf unseren Instrumenten spielen kann. Ganz genau lauschte ich
jedem Ton meiner Flöte, um mich später daran erinnern zu können.
Denn wenn es bei meinem Spiel einmal nicht so klingt wie ich möchte,
weiss ich nun, dass es nicht an der Flöte liegt. Für diese Übergabe bin
ich Fritz sehr dankbar, denn das Zweifeln am Instrument ist ein grosses
Hindernis auf dem Weg des Übens, das weiss ich aus Erfahrung.

Danken möchte ich auch ShoE für ihr liebevolles Dasein und für’s
Kochen, dem Ehepaar Hess für den zur Verfügung gestellten Raum,
allen Teilnehmern für die schönen Begegnungen. Und danke nochmals
an Fritz für die Anleitung beim Bauen und die Weitergabe seines


Fritz Nagel, Shakuhachi Spieler und Bauer seit 1983
Schlossstrasse 4,
86485 Markt,



While we were evaluating the 2nd European Shakuhachi Summerschool,
we heard that YOKOYAMA Shigeko, YOKOYAMA Katsuya-sensei's
mother, left this world.

She made all the people who met her on their way feel very deeply
impressed by her incredible vitality, her tremendous instinct of surviving,
by her sensitiveness for beauty, pleasures of life and of course music,
through which she had a great influence on her son Katsuya.

She was a koto player, but had an especially strong taste for
shakuhachi, and she widely participated in the choice of the instrument,
even in the choice of the learning, and in the reputation and the
greatness of her son YOKOYAMA Katsuya and his music, supporting
him in all his work.

                                                                                She passed away on the 7th of
                                                                                September, the day before her
                                                                                96th birthday, in the most natural
                                                                                way, without any pain or any
                                                                                medicine: she simply felt asleep,
                                                                                very peacefully, for an eternal
                                                      x media graphic library

                                                                                So this is a very special sensitive
                                                                                tribute that we are giving here to
                                                                                YOKOYAMA Shigeko.


                                                                                Au moment de faire le bilan sur
                                                                                la 2ème Rencontre Européenne
                                                                                du Shakuahchi nous apprenons
                                                                                que YOKOYAMA Shigeko, la
                                                                                propre mère de YOKOYAMA
                                                                                Katsuya –sensei, a quitté ce

Elle aura marqué très profondément, tous ceux qui l'auront croisé sur
leur chemin, par son incroyable vitalité, son formidable instinct de survie,
par sa sensibilité pour la beauté, les plaisirs de la vie et bien
évidemment pour la musique, et aura, pour ces raisons, profondément
influencé son fils Katsuya.
Elle était joueuse de koto, mais avait un goût prononcé pour le
shakuhachi, et a très largement contribué au choix de l'instrument et
même de l'enseignement, puis à la réputation et à la grandeur de son
fils YOKOYAMA Katsuya et de sa musique, soutenant ainsi celui-ci
dans toute son oeuvre.
Elle est partie le 7 septembre à la veille de ses 96 ans de la façon la
plus naturelle qu'il soit, sans peine ni médecine aucunes: elle s'est tout
simplement endormie, très paisiblement, pour un repos éternel.
Aussi c'est un hommage tout particulièrement sensible que nous
rendons ici à YOKOYAMA Shigeko.

           Véronique PIRON, d'après le communiqué de KAKIZAKAI Kaoru
                        (according to the statement of KAKIZAKAI Kaoru )


Prague Shakuhachi Summer School 2007                                           by Adrian Bain

I had been in the Czech Republic for twenty minutes and I was feeling
very sick. My taxi driver was driving like he was in computer driving
game, dodging in and out of lanes at high speed. While he avoided (just)
other vehicles, he helpfully pointed out
famous buildings and monuments to me.
“Look at that”, he would say. “I will, but
please… don’t you!”.

I arrived shakily at my hotel and waited for
the arrival of Kees Kort (nl), Annelies
Nederbragt (nl) and Philip Horan (ir), all of
whom I had met at the 2007 E.S.S. Summer
School in France the month before.

The others were delayed, so I made my way
by taxi again (bravely, I thought) to the first
meeting of the 2007 Prague Shakuhachi
                                                                            Christopher Yohmei Blasdel
Summer School. Everyone was to meet at a                                             Photo by Adrian Bain
Japanese restaurant, Miyabi, in Prague city

centre. Just as I arrived, two people were walking toward me.
Shakuhachi players, I thought (I haven’t worked out why yet, but you
can often tell). I was right and it was my first meeting with Vlastislav
Matousek (cz), host teacher of the summer school.

In the restaurant, we enjoyed a leisurely vegetarian meal, introducing
ourselves to other Shakuhachi players as they arrived. It was nice to see
Marek Matvija (cz) again, who had also been at the E.S.S. Summer
School. There were now five of us who had attended the summer
school in France. We were joined by another six others players, two of
whom were complete beginners.

It was a pleasure to meet Christopher Yohmei Blasdel. I had read his
book “The Single Tone” and marvelled at how the Shakuhachi had
taken him round the world and how he had demonstrated the marvels of
the Shakuhachi to many cultures. I had not considered that I would
meet him. From the start, Christopher came across as a very relaxed,
thoughtful man.

At the end of the evening, the plans for the coming summer school were
explained. Stage one: a 6:30am rise for Yoga.

At 8am, I rose.

I may have been the only one to miss the Yoga…on that day, at least.
The Yoga classes were kindly provided by Ajay Bobade in a Yoga
school only two doors away from the hotel. This is also where the
summer school classes would be held.

The classes commenced at 9am. As we were in a Yoga school, we
conveniently had access to mats and zafu (cushions); most people
played on a mat on the floor. It was a relaxing atmosphere.

                                               We commenced each day
                                               with robuki. Rooooooo.

                                               Each teacher would teach a
                                               piece throughout the summer
                                               school and these would be
                                               performed at the students’
                                               concert on the last evening.
                                               Christopher taught “Hi Fu Mi
                                               Hachigaeshi”,      Vlastislav
 The Class              Photo by Adrian Bain
                                               Matousek taught “Kyorei”
                                               and Kees Kort “Tamuke”.

The summer school had an interesting format which allowed each
teacher to have free sessions so that they could be available for short,
one-to-one lessons, addressing issues that individual students might be
having. Others were welcome to join a session if they had the same
question or problem. This is an excellent idea that perhaps should be
adopted by future summer schools.

The absolute beginners, Jan Sorf (cz) and Vitek Jindrle (cz), were
privileged to have their first lessons with the esteemed Christopher
Yohmei Blasdel. What an excellent start to their Shakuhachi life!

                                                    At lunch times, we all
                                                    tended to eat together,
                                                    trying           various
                                                    establishments.     The
                                                    lunches tended to be
                                                    long and enjoyable,
                                                    but may have had an
                                                    affect      on       our
                                                    wakefulness. It was
                                                    perhaps     unfortunate
                                                    that    the   afternoon
                                                    sessions commenced
  Christopher and Kees         Photo by Adrian Bain with a lecture. With the
                                                    lights dimmed and
lying on a mat to watch and listen to the lecture, there was an
occasional spot of dozing from a few. This was no fault of the lecturer or
content. We had fascinating talks about acoustics from Philip Horan and
David Bidlo (cz), and an astounding in-depth talk from Vlastislav about
the history and versions of “Kyorei”. They were all though provoking and
the speakers had clearly studied their subjects with a passion.

After the lectures, we commenced
our lessons. The lessons were
always relaxed and open, with
students able to ask questions
freely. Often, we would veer away
from the piece being taught in order
to      demonstrate        something
connected or to have a change of
subject to relax the brain. We would Socialising      Photo by Adrian Bain
talk about posture, grounding,
fingering options, tone and breathing. We played a variety of other
songs, even Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and an Indian Raga. Kees would
often be found playing anything that he could blow into and producing

amazing sounds, while Vlastislav would show me scores that were
works of beautiful calligraphy.

At tea-time [what do other countries call our English tea-time?], we
would have a break to refresh ourselves before the evening’s concert.
The non-Czechs would take the opportunity to have a wander around
beautiful Prague, sightseeing, and have a bite to eat before the concert.

The first concert was held in a
beautiful church that had very good
acoustics. The teachers played for
us and the public; also in
attendance were representatives of
the Japanese Embassy, who
presented the players with flowers.
One member of the public was so
impressed she wanted to join the
                                      The Teachers    Photo by Adrian Bain
summer school. Gabriela Kunstova
(cz) was so keen she even turned up for the Yoga at 6:30am.

Which I didn’t - again.

                                 The second concert was held in a cellar
                                 below a literary café. We experienced the
                                 special      combination    of     poetry
                                 accompanied by Shakuhachi. The poet
                                 Petr Berkovec (cz) was accompanied by
                                 Vlastislav and Marek. The poetry was in
                                 Czech, but even without understanding the
                                 words, the tone and rhythm of his voice
                                 surrounded by subtle sounds from the
                                 Shakuhachi created a moving atmosphere.
                                 Petr was followed by the poet James
                                 Ragan (us) accompanied by Christopher.
  James Ragan
                                 James is an American of Czech descent,
            Photo by Adrian Bain which strongly influenced his work.
                                 Everyone was moved by his poems and
delivery, in particular one piece about his father’s return to the Czech
Republic and his unexpected reception. I had not expected to be so
affected by the poetry, but I was and deeply. Christopher has a delicacy
and sensitivity to his playing, such that his accompaniment visibly
moved James, causing him to pause in his delivery.

The third concert was also in the cellar. The theme was contemporary
music, with outstanding contributions from Christopher and Kees, but I
feel that the night was stolen by Vlastislav and his three talented

daughters. It is impossible for me to describe the music they produced,
suffice to say my jaw dropped and I was (unusually) speechless.

When many had retired for the
evening, the hard core of us (you
know who you are!) remained for an
extra beer (or three). Jakub Misek (cz)
started to play pieces on a piano;
Kees started to ad-lib, singing a jazzy
blues number. Kees started to charm
his small audience and I joined in with
a vocal “trumpet” line and we all Vlastislav & Marek Photo by Adrian
started to swing. Everyone was
laughing, until one of the staff from upstairs came storming down
screeching “This is not acceptable!”, “On no account can this continue!”,
“This must stop!”. She was scary. We stopped.

The beer and food in Prague are excellent value. So we had more beer.
Eventually we all went home, except for Kees, who was still thirsty for
the nightlife.

                                          In the morning, at last, I made it to
                                          Yoga. I was a little late, but I made
                                          it. What I couldn’t believe was that
                                          Kees was there before me - he
                                          hadn’t got in until around 4am and
                                          yet he beat me to Yoga!

                                          He did fall asleep and start snoring
 In the cellar    Photo by Adrian Bain    through the Yoga class though.

The fourth concert returned to the church. The students played the
pieces learned over the four days of summer school and Philip Horan
played delightful Irish music that was, as always, very well received.
Annelies surprised us all with a short drama about her early frustrations
learning the Shakuhachi.

Everyone had some final drinks in a bar and we all said goodbye.

Kees and Annelies kindly rose at 6am and drove me to the airport,
where we said a sad farewell. They have become very dear friends in a
short space of time.

I will return to Prague. It is a beautiful city. I will meet my new friends
again. The Czech people are impressive, cultured and kind.

For me, the Prague Summer School was a huge success. I thank Marek
for organising the event and looking after us. I thank Christopher for his
patience and kind gift of his wisdom. I thank Kees for the knowledge he
shared and his laughter and sheer energy. I thank Vlastislav and all the
Czech Shakuhachi players for welcoming us all. I will not forget it.

Happy Blowing,
Adrian Bain

             The Prague Shakuhachi Summer School 2007
                       Photo by “The Camera”


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