The shakuhachi came to Japan from China in the 12th century AD. Although
it has long since disappeared from China, the instrument has rooted itself
in over eight centuries of Japanese tradition, today playing a vital role
in Japanese culture. A shaku is an old form of Japanese measurement of
length. Therefore, shakuhachi is the equivalent of 1.8 shaku or about
55 centimeters, which gives the flute and its five holes the five basic
sounds of C, D, F, G, and A, with seven sharps and flats. The basic European
scale contains seven basic notes with five sharps and flats. Although
the European and Asian scales were developed independently, they are each
based on these 12 sounds.
refers to this astonishing parallel as a miracle and joyfully
concludes that this is just still more evidence that music is a universal
language which must be learned by all. Mr. Toji has been playing the shakuhachi
since 1975, initially apprenticing with a master in Kyoto, his home
city, for three years. In 1993, seeking to avoid the hustle and
bustle of busy Kyoto, he moved to a remote part of Gifu Prefecture in
the Japan Alps. He lives in a 180-year old house, whose source of water
is a mountain stream. 500-year old ruins are still clustered in the cedar
and bamboo groves just behind his home.
In 1995, Mr. Toji began to make his own flutes from the local
bamboo. Modern shakuhachi are split into two pieces, but Mr. Toji prefers
to make his flutes in the ancient, one-piece style. After selecting and
cutting the bamboo, Mr. Toji allows it to dry for two years, after which
he devotes a month to boring and sanding the flute to perfection. He then
lacquers the flute's inside in traditional red. He explains that the amount
of curvature in each flute reflects the weight of the winter snow borne
by the bamboo. Mr. Toji has toured widely throughout Japan, played the
background music for numerous plays, and created a movie soundtrack. In
spite of his obvious success, Mr. Toji, in typically modest Japanese fashion,
says that he is not a master. But, of course only another master would
be able to confirm or deny such a claim.
to see Toji-san's craft.