Elmer Takeo Kudo

One Maker's Approach

Shakuhachi Master Craftsman


In 1974, after studying shakuhachi for three years in his home state of Hawai’i, Elmer Takeo Kudo traveled to Japan intent upon researching and documenting the techniques and approaches used by traditional flute makers. It was his great fortune to meet Yoneda Chikamitsu, a master craftsman who had apprenticed with Yamaguchi Shiro, the father of Yamaguchi Goro who was later designated a Living National Treasure, the highest cultural honor awarded in Japan. During his stay in Japan, Mr. Kudo studied shakuhachi with Yamaguchi Goro who helped him immensely in his research documenting Mr. Yoneda’s work. This edition, completed in 1977, represents the fruit of that labor.

Kinko Shakuhachi: One Maker's Approach is, by far, the most thorough exploration of the traditional techniques used to make shakuhachi flutes currently available in English. It takes the reader, step-by-step, through the entire shakuhachi making process. Detailed descriptions are given for every aspect of the craft including location, selection, harvesting and curing of bamboo used for shakuhachi, straightening the culms, shaping the root end, measuring and drilling the finger holes, making the nakatsugi or mid-joint of a two-piece flute, wrapping the nakatsugi with rattan (to) binding, design and fabrication of the utaguchi or mouthpiece, making the precision bore inside the bamboo, using ji and urushi lacquer to build up and shape the inside of the flute and testing the finished instrument

It also includes a concise history of the shakuhachi, information on the approach and philosophy of shakuhachi making used by Yoneda-sensei, an extensive glossary of terms and bibliography of sources in both English and Japanese, a fingering chart used by the Chikumeisha branch of the Kinko-ryu and a comparison of two instruments whose sound has been analyzed by a sonagraph.

This revised edition, published nearly three decades after it was written, also includes 59 color and black-and-white photographs taken by the author as well as pages not previously included in the original publication.

64 pages. CM-30


Table of Contents
List of Figures

Preface to the Original 1977 Edition
Preface to the New 2006 Edition


Recent Publications
Initial Contact with Tradition
Contact with the Culture and Choice of Informant
Initial Considerations
Reasons for Present Study


Gagaku Shakuhachi
Komuso and the Fuke Shakuhachi
Kurosawa Kinko
Decline of Fuke-shu


Mouth End
Bell End


Approach to Craft


Taketori: Obtaining Bamboo
Locating the Bamboo
Selecting the Bamboo
Digging Out the Bamboo
Curing the Bamboo
Releasing the Oil
Drying in the Sun

Taketame: Straightening the Bamboo
Netori: Shaping the Bell
General Guidelines
Shaping the Bell

Mewari: Measuring the Finger Holes
Measuring System
Finger Hole Placement

Nakatsugi: Making the Mid-joint
Cutting the Mid-joint
Bore Widening and Hoso Fitting at Cut Ends
Itomaki: Binding the Mid-joint with String

Teana: Making the Finger Holes
The Drill Bit

Utaguchi: Making the Mouth End
Oblique Cut
Mouth-End Insert
The Back Side

Kanjiri: Drilling Through the Bell End
Fushinuki: Removing the Inner Nodes
Choritsu: The Inner Bore
Use of Gauges
A Traditional Approach

Testing the Instrument
Finishing the Inside Bore
Tomaki: Winding the Rattan


APPENDIX A: Glossary of Instrument-Making Terms Used by Yoneda Chikamitsu

APPENDIX B: Basic Fingering Chart of the Chikumeisha Branch of the Kinko-ryu

APPENDIX C: A Sound Comparison of Two Shakuhachi

BIBLIOGRAPHY: English and Japanese Language Sources


Elmer Takeo Kudo is Professor of Music at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in Theory and Composition. His post-baccalaureate studies in music earned him degrees in the areas of Theory, Ethnomusicology and Composition. Dr. Kudo served in the military as a member of the Air Force Academy Band and a full-time arranger with the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. His preoccupation with the shakuhachi (since 1971) led to studies in Japan with the internationally-known Yamaguchi Gor (declared a “Living National Treasure” by the Japanese government) and instrument maker Yoneda Chikamitsu.

Since 1972, Dr. Kudo has embraced the idea of combining Western and non-Western influences in his compositions, producing works that have been performed by many college and professional orchestras and chamber ensembles. In 1992, he was the featured composer at the “Festival of Japanese and Japanese-American Composers” at the University of Minnesota and was awarded the “1999 Individual Artist Performing Arts Fellowship” by the Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and Arts. His Let Freedom Ring! (for solo taiko and orchestra) was premiered in January 1999 by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra (Samuel Wong, conductor), performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic in 2001 and again by the Honolulu Symphony in 2002.

Other recent performances include: “Wooden” (for clarinet and piano) by clarinetists Henry Miyamura, Margaret Donaghue and Paul Green; “One Sunday” by pianist Thomas Osuga; “Boxsteps for Two” by saxophone/piano duo Todd Yukumoto and HyeKyung Lee; East Drift by the Tokyo Shakuhachi Gassodan; “Into the Tranquil Circle” (for solo shakuhachi, strings, harp and percussion) by the University of Hawai’i and Philadelphia Orchestras; “Interlude” by the UH Orchestra; and Purple Verses by sopranos Barbara Kudo, Vicky Gorman and Judith Kellock.

Dr. Kudo is a member of the Society of Composers (SCI), BMI and UGH (Ukulele Guild of Hawai’i).

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 Learn more about making shakuhachi flutes

Carl Abbott, Blowing Zen: A Musical Meditation
Monty H. Levenson, The Japanese Shakuhachi: Notes on the Craft & Construction
Monty H. Levenson, Stalking the Wild Bore: A Trek Into Shakuhachi Darkness

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