The shakuhachi (尺八、しゃくはち is a Japanese end-blown flute.

It was originally introduced from China into Japan in the 6th century and underwent a resurgence in the early Edo Period. The shakuhachi is traditionally made of bamboo and  is tuned to the minor pentatonic scale.

Fuke monks or priests (komusō) were noted for playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute as a form of meditation known as suizen (“blowing meditation”), an innovation from the earlier zazen (“sitting meditation”) of other Zen sects. Fuke Zen was characterized in the public imagination of Japan by its monks’ playing of the shakuhachi flute while wearing a large woven basket hat that covered their entire head as they went on pilgrimage.

The theoretical basis of Fuke-shū was to emphasise the concept of the incommunicable aspect of enlightenment, an ideal traced to various Buddhist sects and relayed in paradoxical Zen writings such as the Lankavatara Sutra, the Diamond Sutra and Bodhidharma’s “Bloodstream sermon”. Thus Fuke monks rarely chanted sutras or other Buddhist texts, but rather relied upon scores of sacred shakuhachi music called honkyoku to express and transmit awakening.


shamisen player Fukuda Teruhisa and his wife, Kineya SHIHO


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