Present and Future Development of Shakuhachi in the World

2019 Japan Cultural Envoy (long-term dispatch type)
Shakuhachi Player
  • Countries visited:China, Italy, Brazil, France, Germany, Portugal
  • Period of the activities:From May 30 to July 28, 2019

As a Japan Cultural Envoy dispatched by the Agency of Cultural Affairs, I made it my dual mission to communicate the appeal of Japanese classical music and ask a contemporary composer of the same generation to create a new tune for people to enjoy “contemporary and future” shakuhachi bamboo flute music.
As the initial step, I visited China, where a new shakuhachi boom has taken place. Joining a quartet made up of Chinese traditional musical instruments, xiao (flute) and guzheng (Chinese plucked zither), electronic sounds, and shakuhachi, we held a performance in Beijing. Although it broke new ground with a crossover between folk instruments and modern technology, it made me feel somewhat nostalgic and left me with a strong impression. Xiao is said to be the ancestor of shakuhachi; although their tones are similar, as we played the same melody, their respective unique expressions stood out with neither one emulating each other, which came as a surprise. When I did an improvisation with a pipa player, I did not notice the time passing as I was completely thrilled by this once-in-a-lifetime musical encounter between the two musical instruments that came via the Silk Road.

World premiere of the first-ever 3D musical score at his solo concert in Berlin, Germany

In my collaborative performance with mdi ensemble in Italy, the collaboration between shakuhachi and Western musical instruments pioneered a new musical world while pursuing the originality of instruments from the East and the West that became conspicuous as we performed together. In Milan, I was highly impressed by the feeling of unity in the entire hall as the audience was so focused that every breath and sound I made seemed to be devoured completely by them.

Solo concert where he performed with mdi ensemble in Milan, Italy

In Brazil, I took up the challenge of collaborating with a drums group to perform “Yosakoi Naruko Odori (dance based on a folk song called “Yosakoi Bushi [Melody]”).” As people in Londrina were very familiar with the festival tune from Kochi, Japan, we hit it off right away as we performed, and the depth of ties and joy moved me immensely. In my solo performance in an arena-size venue, I was surprised by their instantaneous reaction to Japanese nursery rhymes. In my performance in Sao Paulo organaized by the Japan Foundation, I performed music together with Brazilian musicians in such local music genres as choro, baiao, and bossa nova. I was able to share a musical space where each and every sound formed a part of positive communication with them, which inspired new ideas for my future musical activities.
My new musical piece, which was commissioned to music composer ADACHI Tomomi and premiered in Germany, is the first-ever 3D musical score not only for me personally but for the shakuhachi community as well. It is a piece of art that transforms my performance completely every time I play it. It was received by a young audience with whistles and shouts of bravo; I felt joy from the bottom of my heart that I was able to share my ongoing shakuhachi music with them.

Solo concert at the Immigrant Festival in Curitiba, Brazil

I toured 16 cities in six countries in two months and gave approximately 34 performances, lectures, and workshops. I was also fortunate to receive help from many people literally around the world. Let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude.