Volume IV - MICHI
(Also available on cassette tape)

 1. Hachigaeshi (3'48")
2. Sagariha (3'38")
3. Futaiken-sanya (9'57")
4. Shin-no-kyorei (13'29")
5. Shinporyu-hachigaeshi (2'52")
6. Ichigetsuji-hachigaeshi (3'39")
7. Echigomeianji-hachigaeshi (4'47")
8. Oshu-reibo (6'19")
9. Tsuru-no-sugomori (11'10")


1. Hachigaeshi

Often included with Hifumi-no-shirabe, this piece is considered an introduction to koten honkyoku for beginning shakuhachi students. Played as one piece, Hifum-no-shirabe and Hachigaeshi becomes short and interesting "etude." Many high (kan) notes are utilized, expanding the technique of the beginning student. Notes in the higher register also demand more stamina, as well as lip and breath control, on the part of the musician. Literally, the title translates as "return the bowl." Zen monks (the komuso among them) retain the privilege of receiving alms from the government and local patrons. As such, there is not a strict feeling of personal gratitude. The piece therefore reflects a feeling of receiving, and does not necessarily express thanks.

2. Sagariha

Literally meaning "falling leaves", this piece originates from the temple of Kokokuji in Wakayama prefecture. The temple is located in the mountains of the Ise peninsula, and, at one time, was the center of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. Its founder, Hotto Kokushi, studied Zen, as well as shakuhachi (and even miso production), in China. He returned to Japan with four Chinese shakuhachi musicians whose temple duties were to include maintenance of the bath. It was a student of Hotto Kokushi, one Kyochiku Zenji, who founded Meianji in Kyoto. Although, Sagariha had been preserved in the temple of Kokokuji, the Meianji temple also maintained this piece as part of the koten honkyoku repertoire. It is believed that Sagariha may have evolved from dance music. Although the first section is quite free rhythmically, it develops into a melody possessing a very definite rhythmic character.

3. Futaiken-sanya

This piece comes from the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture. Futaiken is the name of a small temple founded by a former ninja named Bassho. The shakuhachi - playing komuso monks are often romantically linked with ninja or spies. The large basket worn over the head of the komuso provided a convenient guise of anonymity. Komuso have the ill-founded reputation as notorious eavesdroppers. No doubt this is due to the suspicion that they are actually spies masquerading as harmless monks. Bassho was in fact a spy in the service of Masamune Daimyo. Due to his outstanding service, Bassho was rewarded with a quiet place to live in Sendai. Disliking the noise and commotion of urban life, Bassho founded the temple of Futaiken in the countryside near Sendai. Futaiken is home to two wonderful shakuhachi pieces: Sanya and Reibo. Both have similar tuning, beginning with takeshirabe, chuon (middle sound) gradually develops to koon (the higher register), There is a legend associated with Sanya that is taken from the Kojiki, Japan's book of origins. It seems that a god of light retreats to a cave in anger and seals it with a stone. Once in the cave, however, the god changes his mind about remaining inside. He rolls away the stone and emerges from the cave only to discover that the world is dark without his presence and that now all light emanates from the cave. This image of the light slowly illuminating the world in a joyous manner is projected in the music.

4. Shin-no-kyorei

This piece was preserved by the older (Shinpo-ryu school) the temple of Meianji in Kyoto. The original Kyorei is extremely simple in arrangement, with an ancient and holy sentiment. Shin-no-kyorei is played in a minor scale and evokes feelings of nostalgia (especially by the use of the flatted second and sixth within the scale). When this music is played slowly, it suggests a certain sacred quality. Shin-no-kyorei is one of three basic honkyoku pieces which each have a "Shin", "Gyo", and "so" version, which are very similar and are essentially different in name only.

5. Shinporyu-hachigaeshi

While sharing titles with the first piece, these two pieces actually come from two distinct traditions. Sinporyu-hachigaeshi is of a more ancient style, which gives it a more natural or even primitive quality. It is implied that one should play this piece as quietly as possible, so that one would not even disturb an ill person if one were to play right next to the patient's pillow. Shinporyu-hachigaeshi also has a Buddhist sutra attached to it, which may suggest that at one time the chanting of sutras was done to shakuhachi accompaniment.

6. Ichigetsuji-hachigaeshi

Also similar to the first selection, Ichigetsuji-hachigaeshi is often played in a minor scale, with added embellishments to create a more unusual piece. In the second half of the piece, a new melody is introduced, which does not appear in former versions of "Hachigaeshi." The temple of Ichigetsuji is located in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo and served as headquarters for the Kakushu, or komuso temples, as well as being responsible for many smaller sub-temples. As was already mentioned in the notes to Sagariha, four Chinese shakuhachi players came to Japan with Hotto Kokushi. Of the four, two eventually settled in Chiba prefecture, one of whom founded the temple of Ichigetsuji, which in turn supported a small branch temple is Asakusa in downtown Tokyo. Kurosawa Kinko, founder of the kinko-ryu school of shakuhachi, came from the temple in Akakusa.

7. Echigomeianji-hachigaeshi

The temple of Echigomeianji is located in Niigata Prefecture. Its founder, Sugawara Yoshiteru, became a komuso first in Kyoto and then in Tokyo. He often dedicated his performances to the Tokugawa Daimyo. Due to his skills as a ninja, Sugawara became something of a small daimyo himself. He was permitted to build his own temple, which became Echigomeianji.

Echigomeianji-hachigaeshi is a short piece, it contains a wide breadth of emotion. It is played in the higher (kan) registers, as in other "Hachigaeshi" selections on this recording, yet the melody is quite different. By comparing these selections, similarities and the differences in tone and structure will become more evident.

8. Oshu-reibo

Although from the temple of Meianji in Kyoto, Oshu-reibo was not included in the eleven pieces brought from hamamatsu by Higuchi-Taizan. Most likely, in a effort to establish the Meianji school of shakuhachi, Higuchi-Taizan adapted this arrangement from other existing honkyoku pieces of the time. Oshu is in northern Japan. Despite the distinctive quality of Oshu shakuhachi music, Oshu-reibo is not typical of this region. The melody of the present piece is more elegant and suggests a more courtly quality. Ironically, the ending is reminiscent of the kinko-ryu school.

9. Tsuru-no-sugomori

Although from the temple of Meianji, the structure of this piece suggests a later date of composition. While the opening section is indeed similar to the Meianji school interpretation, the sudden appearance of higher (kan) tones connects Tsuru-no-sugomori with Koku and Sanya. However, a revealing signature of the sugomori music is a playing technique that is characterized by the sound "koro-koro, koro-koro," as well as the steady rhythm and traditional scale. The "Sugomori" preserved in the kinko -ryu tradition (Sokaku-reibo) is similar to Beethoven in that the emotions portrayed are dynamic and build gradually in a tight construction. The Meianji school, on the other hand, is more like Mozart, wherein new phrases are continually introduced. Tsuru-no-sugomori consists of nine sections. Two of these (seven and eight), however, were long considered "secret" and were only revealed to a master's more gifted disciples. We know now that the seventh and eighth "secret" sections are merely repetitions of the ninth and sixth sections respectively. It seems that during an undetermined time, the shakuhachi music to "Sugomori" was lost. It is believed that the piece was preserved within the Kokyu and then later adapted back again for shakuhachi. Also, within the Kabuki play Chusinguya, five different versions of Tsuru-no-sugomori exist. This is unique considering that shakuhachi was seldom included as a part of Kabuki theater.


Afterword to Michi

It's taken considerable time to produce this fourth volume in my koten honkyoku series, however we're happy to finally make this available to the public. The first four pieces are a live recording made October 12, 1985, in Kagano prefecture. The recording location, more specifically, was a lodge in Togakushi village, which is a holy Shinto site and has a legendary reputation for ninja. Pieces five through nine are also a live recording, made October 25 of the same year in the temple of hoshinji in Tokyo. (Incidentally, our music group, Chiku-on-ki, is active in macrobiotic cuisine. In fact, through the year, Chiku-on-ki alternates its monthly koten honkyoku recital with demonstrations of macrobiotic cooking.)

The evening of the Nagano recital, I performed with the shoji open so that Mt. Togakushi was visible to all present. The audience was sitting in different places within the lodge, depending on individual mood. Some enjoyed the changing colors of the sky at sunset, while others appreciated the chill of the Autumn air. The presence of nature is an important component to shakuhachi music. At the end of the performance, a light rain began to fall. During the two-hour concert, many different sights and sounds were present. Pine boughs burned throughout the evening, with the sound of burning wood and collapsing logs accentuating the performance.

I hope that the listener can share in the spirit of that Autumn evening in Nagano, and that such a spirit has been genuinely reflected in this recording.

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