Shakuhachi Master - John Singer

The History of the Nezasa Ha Kinpu Ryu

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According to the historical records of the Nezasa-Ha Kinpu Ryu, its originator was Kesshu Kanga, the chief priest of Enpo-ji temple in Numata, Joshyu, Gumma Prefecture.

Shakuhachi Player From 1784-1836 the main Fuke sect temple "Ichigetsu-ji" had no director. In around the year 1808 Kanga came to Ichigetsu-ji temple from Enpo-ji temple to take over as head director. This took place because Enpo-ji was a branch temple of Ichigetsu-ji.

When Kanga moved to Ichigetsu-ji, Kurihara Einosuke whose Shakuhachi name was "Kinpu" accompanied him. His age at this time is unknown. During this time (1808) the Kinko Ryu pieces were being taught at Ichigetsu-ji by Kinko II and Kinko III (Kinpo). It is said that Kinpu studied the Kinko Ryu pieces diligently and even taught at the temple as a substitute teacher. Kinpu received "Honsoku" (Komuso License) from Kanga.

In the year 1816, Yoshizaki Kodo was officially sent to Ichigetsu-ji from Tsugaru-han (Aomori Prefecture ) to study Shakuhachi. According to the historical records of Takahashi Kuzan and Nui Getsuei, Kodo studied mostly Nezasa-Ha pieces under Kinpu. The reason why he studied mainly the Nezasa-Ha pieces rather than the Kinko pieces is that the third Kinko (Kinpo) died in 1817 (at the age of 45) only a year after Kodo had arrived at Ichigetsu-ji. After the third Kinko there was no appropriate Kinko teacher to take over. Moreover, both Kanga and Kinpu originally belonged to Nezasa-Ha and much preferred to transmit pieces of their own sect rather than to teach the Kinko pieces. Yoshizaki Kodo also preferred to study the Nezasa-Ha pieces because he had once studied similar sounding pieces under "Monai Unrin" in Aomori, his home prefecture. The feudal lord of Tsugarau-han (Aomori Prefecture) also liked the Nezasa-Ha pieces. It was this feudal lord who had sent Kodo to Ichigetsu-ji. In addition to mainly studying the Nezasa-Ha pieces, he learned the 36 Kinko Ryu pieces as well and received "Honsoku" from Kanga with the recommendation of Kinpu in the year 1818. If the chief priest had not been Kanga (who was originally of the Nezasa-Ha) it would have been difficult for Kodo to receive the Kinko Ryu Honsoku because of his having mainly studied the Nezasa-Ha pieces. In the Kinko Ryu Honsoku of Yoshizaki Kodo, Kinpu and his secular name, Kurihara Einosuke was written as a teacher.

After the death of the third Kinko, it was not easy to decide on who should be the fourth Kinko head master (Iemoto). There was a member ot the Kinko family whose name was Kurosawa Otojiro, the younger brother of the third Kinko. However, his Shakuhachi skills and behavior were lacking. At first it seemed that Kinpu would succeed as the new Master, but eventually Kurosawa Otojiro became the fourth Kinko with the assistance of Hisamatsu Fuyo who was an excellent Shakuhachi player. It was too difficult for Kinpu to break the hereditary Kinko Master's post. Also, he was not originally from Ichigetsu-ji.

According to Inoe Shigemi, Kinpu lost face, became a Komuso and left Edo. He wandered as a Komuso in the Tohoku region until his death.

After receiving his Honsoku, Yoshizaki Kodo returned to Tsugaru-han. He once played Kinko Ryu pieces in front of the head of Tsugaru-han according to the records. But after that he only played and taught the Nezasa-Ha pieces for the next 17 years until his death. No one except the head of the Tsugaru-han ever heard Kodo play the Kinko Ryu pieces. Yoshizaki Kodo died in the year 1836 at the age of 38.

The successor of Yoshizaki Kodo was Ban Noriyuki. When Kodo returned to Tsugaru-han (Aomori) Ban Noriyuki was 21 years old. He was a distinguished Shakuhachi player since childhood. He studied with Kinpu (either in Aomori or at Ichigetsu-ji) as well as with Kodo and received Honsoku from Kanga.

It should be noted that Yoshizaki Kodo and Ban Noriyuki were more like brothers in their relationship as students of Kinpu than that Ban Noriyuki was a student of Yoshizaki Kodo. Kodo was only one year older than Noriyuki.

From the time of Ban Noriyuki, the Kinpu Ryu took on the form of a school. It flourished with many good players. Ban Noriyuki died in the year 1894 at the age of 78.

Regarding Nezasa-Ha Kinpu Ryu Successors and the First Iemoto Shakuhachi Player

The Kinpu Ryu consists of the Shakuhachi pieces which were transmitted by the Fuke Shu Nezasa Sect. There are 10 Nezasa-Ha Honkyoku pieces in all. They are:

  1. Shirabe
  2. Sagari Ha
  3. Matsu Kaze
  4. Sanya
  5. Shishi
  6. Nagashi Reibo
  7. Tori
  8. Kadozuke
  9. Hachigaeshi
  10. Koku

John performs these pieces on his album Shakuhachi Zen.

Regarding the name "Kinpu Ryu" there are various explanations, but it is generally understood that this name came to be used because of the fact that Yoshizaki Kodo who learned Nezasa-Ha Honkyoku pieces under Kurihara Kinpu returned to Aomori and transmitted them. That is why the name Kinpu Ryu came to be used.


  • Kurihara Kinpu (founder)
  • Yoshizaki Kodo (first successor)
  • Ban Noriyuki (second successor)
  • Nui Getsuei (first Iemoto)
  • Nagano Shoei (second Iemoto)
  • Narita Shoei (third Iemoto)
  • Inoe Shoei (fourth Iemoto)

Then Kinpu Ryu was legally established as a Shakuhachi school in the year Meiji 16 (1884) when Nui Getsuei rewrote the Kinpu Ryu Honkyoku pieces, becoming its first Iemoto.


1. "Honsoku" was the Komuso license. It was considered to be the most important posession of the Komuso and was a much more serious license than the "Shihan license" of today. The Honsoku was the most important of the three seals that a Komuso had to carry on himself. The other two seals were the Kaiin (personal identification papers) and the Tsuin (travel permit).

2. Whenever the history of the Kinpu Ryu is investigated, the name Monai Unrin is always found in the records, however, he has little to do with the Kinpu pieces which are played today.

Unrin was said to be an excellent Shakuhachi player as well as a versatile artist from a wealthy family in Aomori Prefecture. He learned one or two Nezasa-Ha pieces from Komuso who were travelling in Aomori. He later taught these pieces to Yoshizaki Kodo and Ban Noriyuki.

According to the third Kinpu Iemoto Narita Shoei, there used to be Nezasa-Ha players who didn't use the technique of "Komi". So, it is surmised that there might have been a Monai school of Nezasa-Ha.

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Copyright 2001 John Singer. All rights reserved.