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    Glossary Term
    Shakuhachi - A traditional 5-hole Japanese bamboo flute

    (Also "shaku hachi" and "shaku-hachi")

    English Definition:
    A traditional 5-hole Japanese bamboo flute

    The "shaku" is an old Japanese unit of measurement equaling about 30 centimeters. "Hachi" means "eight" in Japanese. Shakuhachi, therefore, means 1.8 shaku, or about 54.5 centimeters (21.5 inches). The length is important in producing a range of notes consistent with other Shakuhachi flutes. The shakuhachi flute is made of bamboo and played vertically down from the mouth.

    The shakuhachi first appeared in Japan in the late 7th century A.D. and became a regular piece in the Japanese court orchestra. By the early 16th century, the shakuhachi became associated with the wandering beggars, known as "komoso" or "straw-mat priests." These players eventually became known as "komuso," a play on the original term, which means "the priests of nothingness." The komuso were a sect of Zen Buddhist monks who played the flute as a spiritual discipline. During the 17th century, the komuso were given exclusive rights to play the shakuhachi. Today, of course, the shakuhachi is available for all to play.

    Click here to see Shakuhachi made by the master craftsman, Toji-san.

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