Shakuhachi Symposium

Starting off the shakuhachi WSF week in London is the symposium at SOAS University of London

Shakuhachi Symposium 2018

SOAS, University of London

30 July 2018

Abstract submission deadline: Friday 16 March 2018

The Shakuhachi Symposium Executive Committee is now accepting individual paper proposals for the 2018 Symposium in London, UK.

Set in one of the leading capitals of Europe and two days before the World Shakuhachi Festival, the symposium provides a stimulating environment for intellectual exchange on a wide range of topics and themes pertaining to research on shakuhachi.

We are aiming for the Symposium to embody an interdisciplinary approach; we thus invite proposals from and across all fields of scholarly inquiry, including ethnomusicology, performance research, anthropology, art history, sociology, Japanese studies, study of acoustics, history etc. We hope that this broad approach to shakuhachi research will help to develop new perspectives in the study of the instrument, the music and the people engaging with the shakuhachi in some way or other.

The shakuhachi has a fascinating history, reaching back to Tang Dynasty China when it was, among other things, an instrument of court music that later arrived in Japan via Korea. Over the centuries in Japan, the construction of the shakuhachi was modified, and during the 18th century, rather than being played at court, it became officially the exclusive instrument of the komusō monks of a subsect of Rinzai Zen, the Fuke sect. Shakuhachi researchers specialising in the history of the instrument have illuminated aspects of this period including the lives of the komusō monks, the repertoire, the organisation of the Fuke sect, and much more. There remains, however, much to be explored and analysed. The Fuke sect and shakuhachi playing has been surrounded by a certain mystique, which led to the instrument and the komusō monks with their characteristic tengai – a headgear that entirely covered the player’s face – being depicted in paintings, or as a character in a kabuki plays, which in turn led to portrayals of actors posing with a shakuhachi on woodblock prints. Thus the study of the shakuhachi is indeed complex.

Today, the shakuhachi is the Japanese instrument which enjoys the greatest international success, alongside the Japanese drumming ensemble taiko. The shakuhachi has not only crossed geographical and cultural borders as, for example, an instrument played by immigrants in Latin America and some parts of the USA, but has also been the subject of cultural exchange since the 1960s, with hundreds of shakuhachi aficionados gathering at festivals and workshops across the globe and a substantial number of compositions created by both Japanese and non-Japanese composers. We seek to encourage research on the many ways in which shakuhachi music is represented and claimed and how it interacts with other musical genres and cultures, leading to a diverse and multifaceted spectrum of creative activity.


We are pleased to welcome our two keynote speakers at the first Shakuhachi Symposium 2018:

ZENPO Shimura, professor, Osaka University of Fine Arts, Osaka, Japan. His keynote speech will be titled: Is the Shakuhachi evolving? The soul of the two types of shakuhachi in the contemporary shakuhachi world and the paths of the four different shakuhachi.

David W. HUGHES, former Head of Music Department, SOAS, University of London
‘My personal shakuhachi journey to the world of folk song’ (min’yō)


We invite proposals for 20-minute papers, followed by 10 minutes of questions on any topic related to the shakuhachi, independent of academic discipline.

Areas of discussion may include, but are not limited to:

• The history of the shakuhachi and the komusō
Shakuhachi ryūha and lineages
Shakuhachi depicted in historical documents
Shakuhachi depicted on kabuki woodblock prints
Shakuhachi as a social connecting agent today across cultural and geographical borders
Shakuhachi and gender
Shakuhachi in composition and performance
Shakuhachi, identity, memory and value
Shakuhachi, instruments and their construction
Shakuhachi and place: local differences
Shakuhachi, internationalisation and globalisation
Komusō and their religious practice
Shakuhachi in movie sound tracks


Please submit an abstract for a paper presentation (300 words max), along with a very short biographical note (50 words or less) about the presenter.

Proposals should be submitted to the programme chairs, Kiku DAY and Gunnar Jinmei LINDER, via email to by midnight (Central European Time) on on Friday 16 March 2018.

We anticipate that results of the abstract selection process will be advised around the beginning of April 2018. Questions should be addressed to Kiku DAY or Gunnar Jinmei LINDER,

Note: An edited volume consisting of some of the papers to be presented at the symposium are being planned. Please indicate if you are interested in writing a chapter in this volume on shakuhachi.

For all participants (listeners as well as presenters) please pay the participation fee of £30 before the conference.
Please visit the Tickets page to see how to purchase your Symposium Pass and how to register.
For questions regarding the registration and payment for the Shakuhachi Symposium please contact Kiku Day at



European Shakuhachi Society, Japan Research Centre, SOAS and SOAS Music Department.


SOAS University of London

10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG