Restoration of a masterpiece shakuhachi

I recently had the chance to acquire a ji-ari shakuhachi from a renown maker Tamai Chikusen.

This maker on whom I have very few informations is very famous for being the master of most of the great nowadays makers (Takeharu, Kinya Sogawa, Yamaguchi Shugetsu, Tom Deaver…)

This ji-ari presented a bad large split on all the upper part and several cracks on the lower part.
Thus, with honour and respect, I carefully repaired this beautiful instrument with elegant rattan bindings and I’m glad to be able to repair such severe cracks (over 5mm wide !) without any glue in respect to the traditional way.

I was thanked by the flute itself when discovering its great powerfull haunting voice !
For now, I will keep this instrument for myself using it as a model for my own ji-ari.

IKIGAI – Search for meaning

I recently came upon this Japanese concept that has an echo with my own philosophy and my choices.

Ikigai  –  生き甲斐
lit. “a reason for being”

This idea that we can see as a quest aims at finding an harmonious and meaningful way of being in this world.
By associating the concepts of Mission, Passion, Vocation and Profession, it becomes then possible to link thos two ideas that our modern society set against each other : efficiency and fulfilment…

Here is a way to visually represent the Ikigai

It seems very important to me in this time of “economic recovery” after a necessary parenthesis that each of us question our relation to labour and our personal way of embodying what we want to rise for the world.

Do we sincerely wish to re-launch the machine that destroy life inside and outside us ?

Read more

Shakuhachi making tricks…

Here is a good example of how a shakuhachi maker has fun in his lonely workshop !
It’s important sometimes to get some challenge in our duty; that’s what I did when deciding to extend a bamboo promised to become a nice 2.4 ji-ari in A but missing a few centimetres both for tonality and holes placement…

I had guess before that this technique was sometimes used by observing different flutes restored in this way and got the confirmation by showing Takahashi sensei this shakuhachi in progress in his workshop in Tokyo; He immediately guessed what I did by looking at this unusual long rattan binding !
Some makers also use this technique for twisting utaguchi back in line with tone-holes.

I had no idea if I was able to do it…so I did !
Here is the process resumed in some pictures :

The technique is quite similar to the making of nakatsugi joint; first inserting a bamboo hoso in the two cut parts and then adding another bamboo upon it of a diameter similar to the flute. Then some ji and sanding to adjust precisely the groove for the rattan finishing.

This nice ji-ari is still on the working bench, hopefully available soon !

Japan trip 2/2 : Yufuin

After the first week in Tokyo, I stayed three weeks in Yufuin, a famous thermal town of Oita-ken in northern Kyushu.
In order to meet local people to help me organising madake bamboo harvest, I worked as a volunteer in an associative restaurant. That was for me the ideal place to get the good contacts and to be again in the rural daily life of Japan that I love so much (including of course the daily bath in Onsen !)
Thanks to the help of Ryuji, owner of Harappa cafe, I could start harvesting from the first days and then on all the days off following…

During my days in the bamboo grove of the small Tsukahara village on a high plateau above Yufuin, I could meet many of the neighbours and had great exchanges with them. I thank them all for their support and generosity.
For instance, I found myself introducing shakuhachi and it’s construction in the small village school, met a ceramist whom deceased husband was making shakuhachi with that same bamboo I was harvesting; she offered me some of his dryed bamboo. I also met a carpenter specialist in moving minka houses (traditional thatched roof farms) who offered me a bunch of 300 years old susudake (smoked bamboo) and most of all, I met the Yoshioka family with whom I spent great moments.
That was a lot of work to select, dig out, clean and prepare the bamboos and then build the woden boxes to send them to France by ship…

When my mission was finished and the two 30 kilos boxes of fresh bamboo shipped; I found some time to visit Beppu’s bamboo-craft centre dedicated to bamboo weaving, a tradition very alive in the area. I am fascinated with this craftsmanship for years; so I was happy and honoured to stay for hours watching at a masterclass given by a master specialised in the “freestyle” baskets.

Then, I was back in Tokyo for a last day at my capoeirists friend’s place before leaving Japan, the heart full of gratitude, a bag full of tools and materials and an empty wallet !
When back in France in Paris, I of course found my train reservation cancelled and no trains to go back home…but this is another story.
Welcome in France !

Wishes

I wish that beauty, arts, music, knowledge and wisdom
enlighten your life in 2020
May Benzaiten guide you.

2020 Updates

For 2020, I have updated the prices and reorganised the different models of Chikudo shakuhachi

Over the last 2 years, the positive feedbacks I got on my work from my master, professional makers and players met during ESS events and recently from all the people I met in Japan have convinced me to raise my prices on the repairing services and the best of my ji-nashi and ji-ari.
These prices hadn’t been changed for a long time meanwhile the general quality of my instruments has increased.
I also decided to organise differently – and more clearly – the different models of shakuhachi I build.

I however want to keep on affordable entry-level prices for the beginner’s shakuhachi which are now called GAKUSEI (“student”).

Vous pouvez consulter les nouveaux tarifs ici :

Discover the different models of shakuhachi that I build

I wish you all a happy and prosperous year 2020 !

thomas

Japan trip 1/2 : Tokyo

During this one month trip in Japan, I had several goals focused on shakuhachi and bamboo. I fulfilled all those missions and came back home rich with meetings, experiences and contacts, well fed to dedicate myself to my art.

On the first week in Tokyo, I had a very busy program quite exhausting with the tiredness and jet lag !

3 days of workshop with the shakuhachi maker Takahashi Toyomi whom I met in London WSF2018. He is student of Miura Ryuho one of the best renowned maker these days.
Thanks to him, I could solve several technical problems accumulated in my years of making shakuhachi by myself. He taught me in particular the making of the brazed silver rings for the joints which I had already experimented since a while. It is a meticulous and time consuming task…

This stay at Takahashi sensei’s workshop was very cheering for me as his feedbacks on my work and the quality of my instruments were very positive.

……..

On my birthday, I was lucky to find myself in a small bar in Waseda area were happened the monthly “strange instrument party”… a nice time of laughs and improvised music as a birthday present (Thanks to Mutsumi !)

I spent most of that week in Kichijoji where I was praying daily Benzaiten goddess (of arts, musique and knowledge) in its dedicated temple in Inokashira park. I have to say that I felt very well guided thanks to her during this study trip.
In this same park, I met Fura-san, “dharma bum” (cf. Jack Kerouac), author, compositor and street musician with whom I shared music and spiritulity; he had led me to Kataha-san dedicated in komuso shakuhachi, mastering Myoan, Futaiken and Kimpu-ryu styles and living nearby. We had a short but interesting time to share our passion about shakuhachi.
The day before leaving to Kyushu, after a big shopping time in Mejiro shakuhachi (specialised shop in Tokyo), I went for shakuhachi lessons to Dr Mizuno Kohmei’s house in Kokubunji. He is the headmaster of chikumeisha branch.

Then I flew to Oita-ken a northern Kyushu prefecture famous for its Onsen (hot springs) and bamboo crafts. The plane was pretty small and flying at lower altitude, I was lucky on that sunshiny day to fly over mount Fuji admiring it’s crater; a very good sign for the rest of the journey…!

 

✈ Voyage au Japon… ✈


I am leaving soon for a one month trip in Japan !

The plan is :

One week in Tokyo where I will learn more about Ji-ari making with shakuhachi master craftsman Takahashi Toyomi and take lessons with Mizuno Komei (headmaster of Chikumeisha branch). I will also visit specialized shops (such as Mejiro) and maybe meet some lacquer master…

Then three weeks in north Kyushu (I don’t like staying over a week in a big city !) where my mission will be harvesting Madake bamboo which is abundant there.
I will be back to the rural side of Japan that I loved so much during my bicycle trip in 2010 (already 9 years…!)

So if you were planning to buy one the shakuhachi currently instock, please do that before November the 7th (I will leave the 10th) or wait until mid-December…

New videos with Max Brumberg

Here are two new videos shot with my friend Max Brumberg flutemaker based in south-east France.

He got passionate about the antique Greek double reed Aulos and is part of the crazy few constituting the revival of this antique instrument…

Here is the meeting between Aulos and Shakuhachi :

And a solo where I play one of the shortest piece of the Honkyoku repertoire :
Ashi no Shirabe

Both of them played in the great acoustic of the Roman church of Fons a village near Figeac.

Replacing utaguchi inlay

Here are some pictures detailing steps
to replace a kinko utaguchi inlay on a shakuhachi restored this month :

An other repair on a Myoan inlay made from deer antler :