Re: Hocchiku

From: Sandra and Alcvin Ramos (
Date: Tue Mar 19 2002 - 09:08:56 PST

Thanks Kiku for the wonderful response!

>From what I understand the term "hocchiku" (also romaji-spelled

"hotchiku", and "hochiku") is a term created by the enigmatic persona
known as Watazumi-do who lived from 1914-1992. I've never heard any
other schools or people use it. When he actually coined this term is not
known to me. But I would guess it is a relatively recent and new term
(within the last 50 years). In one written description of his philosophy
on one of Watazumi-do's album liner notes he uses this term then goes on
to negate that term and refers to the bamboo flute as just "dogu" or
"tool". Then he actually negates the strict use of bamboo as a tool for
spiritual training saying that other materials will take the place of
bamboo in the future.

It seems this term "hocchiku" caught on through the efforts of Yokoyama
Katsuya who was Watazumi-do's brightest pupil who helped Watazumi-do
publish his recordings and is one of the great shakuhachi masters to
introduce shakuhachi to the west. Consequently, those who studied under
Watazumi-do and Yokoyama Katsuya and their students or were influenced
by them are very familiar with the term "hocchiku" and use it. It has
been my experience as well that other schools who don't have any
connection to Watazumi-do or Yokoyama don't use the term, but rather
reter to their instrument as "hoki", religious instrument, as Reg
mentioned. Watazumi-do definitely made a great effort to separate (or
merge?) the sacred from the secular in his perception on hocchiku and
shakuhachi. Perhaps he felt the the shakuhachi was loosing it's root in

Kanada Kayu, Japan's foremost scholar on Komuso history told me, in fact
that the extremely large and long raw- bored flutes were relatively
recent and was actually first used by Higuchi Taizan (1856-1914), 35th
successor of Kyotaku Zenji's Myoan lineage, who inspired Watazumi-do to
follow this path. Before that Watazumi-do played ji-ari shakuhachi. When
exactly he started playing hocchiku, I'm not sure. But Yokoyama sensei
learned all of his honkyoku from Watazumi-do on hocchiku. In one
interview, I asked Yokoyama sensei about his perceptions between
hocchiku and shakuhachi and why he doesn't empahsize hocchiku and he
said that he likes hocchiku better but it is a much more difficult path
to follow. I am not familiar with Myochin Sozan, but it is an
interesting piece of information which I'll look into.
In a scholarly paper on shakuhachi history I found this quote:
"According to the Kyotaku Denki...the confusion of "taku" and "rei", two
similar hand bells used by Buddhist monks, has resulted in the original
name of Kyotaku being mistaken for the piece Kyorei. Furthermore, the
name Kyotaku was used solely in the naming of the instrument itself and
not the musical piece. 'Thus the name has lost it's original

Just to add another perspective, Sogawa Kinya in Tokorozawa near Tokyo,
who is an accomplished shakuhachi maker (via Tamae Chikusen) and player
of the highest caliber, is also a wonderful hocchiku player and
Watazumi-do enthusiast. I asked him about his perception about the
difference between the two and he said they are all shakuhachi to him.
Of course there are differences in construction and attitude but
shakuhachi is shakuhachi. It's one thing for him.

The only group whom I've heard of used kyotaku and hocchiku
interchangably is Okuda Atsuya's group in Kokubunji, Tokyo, who
specialize in playing only honkyoku on the large ji-nashi nobe-kan

Having played ji-ari kan shakuhachi for most of my shakuhachi life,
discovering and delving into the beauties of the hocchiku was definitely
profound for me. I liken it to a glimpse of a secret mystery, or
entrance into an inner sanctum of a lost cave that extends into the
silent bowels of the earth indefinitely, after walking for so long on
the surface. Like yin and yang merging.

With gassho,


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