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

The Shakuhachi Symposium held on the 30th July 2018 at SOAS, University of London received more than triple amount of abstracts we had slots for in our limited one-day conference. We send a heartfelt thank you to all of you who sent in these wonderful abstracts. Although it is a luxury to be able to select papers, this situation was not the best either as we had to reject perfectly worthy and academically qualified abstracts only due to the lack of space. We were astonished by just how many researchers around the world study the shakuhachi as an academic study. I have the feeling it is not the last Shakuhachi Symposium to be held.

I believe we have now a very fine Symposium coming up. It is a full day of excellent papers given by academics from UK, Japan, USA, Germany, Australia among others. The day will finish off with a Concert-presentation that will combine the top-quality performance and research.

I hope many Symposium participants will stay in London and participate in the World Shakuhachi Festival 2018, 1 – 4 August, Goldmsiths, University of London and vice versa.

2018 is surely going to be a shakuhachi highlight year in Europe! See you all at the Symposium and WSF2018 in London.

Kiku Day, Chair
Shakuhachi Symposium 2018 Programme Committee

Preliminary Programme

9h00 – 9h15

9h15 – 9h30
Welcome, Kiku DAY

9h30 – 11h30
Panel 1 The common thread running through the history of the shakuhachi
1: Sankyoku magazine and the representation of the shakuhachi as a ritual instrument in early 20th century Japan (Matt GILLAN)

2: Collaborating on a New Japanese Music: MIYAGI Michio and Shakuhachi Masters OSHIDA Seifu and NAKAO Tozan (Anne PRESCOTT)

3: Questions regarding the portrait of Roan (IZUMI Takeo)

4: (Re)constructing the Reigaku Shakuhachi: An Instrument without Tradition and a Tradition without
History (Andrea BIOLAI)

11h30 – 12h00

12h00 – 12h45
SHIMURA Satoshi Zenpo keynote speech:: 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.

12h45 – 13h45

13h45 – 15h45
Panel 2 Connecting the history of shakuhachi with the present day
5: Change and interpretation in the lineage of YOKOYAMA Katsuya (Lindsay DUGAN)

6: Shakuhachi Birdsongs: Mimesis and Transnationalism in New Compositions for the Instrument (Joe

7: Myōan Temple’s Place in History and its Relationship to Today’s Shakuhachi World (Christian MAU)

8: Beneficial relationships? Thoughts on the Connections between Shakuhachi Practitioners and Zen-Buddhism (Ingrid FRITSCH)

15h45 – 16h15

16h15 – 17h45
Panel 3 The shakuhachi, the instrument and its properties
9: Sounding together: timbral similarities and dissimilarities in common shakuhachi – western instrument
ensembles (Flora HENDERSON)

10: Acoustical comparison of the shakuhachi with the nōkan (YOSHIKAWA Shigeru)

11: A Sympathetic Resonance: The shakuhachi and live electronic music (Mike MCINERNEY)

17h45 – 18h00

18h00 – 18h45
David HUGHES keynote speech: My personal shakuhachi journey to the world of folk song (min’yō)


20h30 – 22h00
Concert-Presentation (open to the general public)
Christopher Yohmei BLASDEL: Rōgeni-ji and Asahidake: The Waterfall that Inspired a Honkyoku
David Kansuke II WHEELER: Eight Views of Lake Biwa: Sights and Sounds of the Floating World

You can download (PDF) of the programme and the abstracts here.


The room for all presentations, including the keynote speeches, is Wolfson Lecture Theatre, Paul Webley Wing, North Block, Torrington Square,
London WC1E 7HX.

Tea and coffee will be provided in the breaks noted in the programme. A basic lunch will be provided as a part of the cost of the conference registration fee. There is no dinner scheduled. The room for tea/coffee and lunch is S209 in Paul Webley Wing – one floor above Wolfson Lecture Theatre.

The evening concert will take place at Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT) on ground floor in Philips Building, SOAS – just across from Paul Webley Wing.


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:

SHIMURA Zenpo 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


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