(Also "shaku hachi
" and "shaku-hachi
A traditional 5-hole Japanese bamboo flute
" 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
flutes. The shakuhachi
flute is made of bamboo
and played vertically down from the mouth.
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.