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The Zen Shakuhachi Truth Research Web Pages

Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi History & Ideology in Particular

Torsten Olafsson • 無穴笛オーラフソン トーステンデンマーク • Denmark



About this Research Project

Realizations & Conclusions

Highlighted Pictures

Highlighted Quotations

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
     A Chronological Panorama:

 •  India

 •  China

 •  Japan

 •  The West

To be - or not to be:
     a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?

Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

The Source Collections

The Written Sources

1470?: The Kyōgen Play Rakuami

1505: Kōrin's Shakuhachi Essay

1512: The Taigenshō Music Treatise

The Komosō & Fuke-komosō Sources

1614: The Keichō kenmon-shū

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Evidence

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis

1640s?: The Butsu-gen Evidence

1646: Isshi Bunshu's Letter
     to the Komusō Sandō Mugetsu

1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi Legend

The Early Komusō Texts

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

The Edo/Kantō/Tōkyō Sources

1664: Shichiku shoshinshū

1677: The Enpō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

1678: The Enpō 5, 12th Month
     Komusō-ha Oboe Memorandum

1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

1694: Engetsu's Honsoku deshi ...

c. 1700?: The Kyotaku Denki myth

1703 & 1705: The Myōan-ji
     c/o Kōkoku-ji Interrelationship

1722: The Kyōhō 7, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Memorandum

1730: The Kyōhō 15, 7th Month
     Ichigetsu-ji & Reihō-ji Memorandum

1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki
     and early 'honkyoku' history

1735: Myōan-ji's Kyorei-zan engi ...

1751: Keichō no okitegaki -
     Existing Reprint Versions

1752: Myōan Temple Restorer Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Fixed Rules for the House

1770: The Kurozawa Kinko Honkyoku Collection

1795: Kyotaku denki kokujikai

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō's Hitori mondō



Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info

'Fuke-sō/Komosō' in Ryūmon bunko no Setsuyōshū

'Fukesō' = 'Komosō'
c. 1560?


JAPAN 4 • 1560-1614

2600 BCE - 800 CE
China 1
6000 BCE - 500 CE
China 2
500 CE ...
Japan 1
600 - 1233
Japan 2
1233 - 1477
Japan 3
1477 - 1560
Japan 4
1560 - 1614
Japan 5
1614 - 1664
Japan 6
1664 - 1767
Japan 7
1767 - 1883
Japan 8
1883 ...
The West
1298 ...

A list of references is included at page bottom.
A complete bibliography can be found on this separate webpage: "Literature".

1560-1614 - THE AGE of the LATE KOMOSŌ: THE FUKE-SŌ

"Screen with Genre Scenes of the Twelve Months"

Komosō playing the hitoyogiri in a street

Komosō playing a 'hitoyogiri' in a street (center)
Detail of section 4 of the folding screen
'Tsukinami fūzoku-zu byōbu'
"Screen with Genre Scenes of the Twelve Months"
Anonymous, late Muromachi Period (2nd half of 16th century). Tokyo National Museum

Tsukinami fūzoku-zu byōbu full view

Komosō playing the hitoyogiri in a street, close-up

Do we actually see the komosō above wearing a long sword, possibly made of wood (?),
the tip of which is protruding from his left side, appearing just beneath the bed roll that he is carrying on his back?

Link to an online, inter-active website presenting the complete screen:
Tokyo National Museum - E-Museum online

1550-1560, no later than ...
BR> 普化僧 - FUKE-SŌ


'Fuke-sō/Komosō' in Ryūmon bunko no Setsuyōshū     'Setsuyōshū, title

Details from the 'Ryūmon bunko no Setsuyōshū'
Library of Nara Women's University - date unclear

When, approximately, did the komosō of medieval Japan adopt Fuke Zenji as their idol of shakuhachi asceticism?
A few late Muromachi Period versions of the popular dictionary Setsuyōshū", "Economical Collection" or "Collection [of Words] for Everyday Use", do actually present noteworthy evidence in that respect:

'Fuke-sō' & 'Komosō' in the Setsuyōshū

Readings for the kanji 'Komo-sō' and 'Fu-ke(-sō)'
in three different early versions of the 'Setsuyōshū'
- second half of the 16th century

In their comparative study of various early versions of the Setsuyōshū, Kamei Takashi and Takaha Gorō (1974) presents the table shown above (Vol. 1, p. 727):

1: Kuromoto-bon Setsuyōshū, c. 1550-1560.
The kana reading shown for both the kanji komo-sō and that of fu-ke is:
'ko+mo+so+u' - alt.: 'ko+mo'.

2: Tenshō jūhachinen-bon Setsuyōshū, Tenshō 18, 1590.
The kana reading shown for the kanji fu-ke-sō is:

3: Manjūya-shū Setsuyōshū, Keichō Period, 1596-1615.
The kana reading shown for the kanji komo-sō is:

Read more about the Setsuyōshū here: Wikipedia: Setsuyōshū

Link to the Nara Women's University Library manuscript database:
Ryūmon bunko no Setsuyōshū, HTML


Itinerant monk playing a vertical flute on a bridge

Itinerant monk (?) playing a vertical flute on a bridge
Detail of the folding screen 'Takao kanpu-zu byōbu'
By Kano Hideyori, act. 1565-1576. Tokyo National Museum

Full view of the Takao kanpu-zu screen

1560: Oda Nobunaga begins to eliminate his daimyō enimies.
The Catholic Father Caspar Vilela makes Kyōto a center of Christian missionary work.

1568: Nobunaga takes control over Kyōto and soon breaks the resistance of the Buddhist monasteries.

1573: Nobunaga drives Shōgun Yoshiaki out of Kyōto, bringing an end to the Ashikaga Shōgunate.

1574 - RAKU-CHŪ RAKU-GAI ZU - Uesugi-bon edition

Two komosō in Kyōto

Komosō playing a vertical flute in a Kyōto street
Detail of the folding screen 'Raku-chū raku-gai zu byōbu',
"Pictures from In and Around the Capital",
Uesugi-bon edition. Commissioned by Oda Nobunaga.
The Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum, Yamagata Prefecture

1575: At the Battle of Nagashino, Nobunaga's troops are the first to use firearms on a large scale.

1582: Nobunaga dies and his general Toyotomi Hideyoshi gains control. The are now about 200 Christian churches and around 150.000 Christian converts in Japan.

1582: A Japanese delegation is dispatched to visit the Pope in Rome.

1583: Toyotomi Hideyoshi commences the construction of the grand Castle of Ōsaka.

1584: Hideyoshi occupies Kyōto and enters an alliance with the powerful Tokugawa Ieyasu.

1585: Hideyoshi brings Shikoku under control and becomes Imperial regent, Kampaku.

1587: Hideyoshi becomes Prime minister, Dajōdaijin of Japan and issues an edict forbidding Christianity and orders all missionaries to leave Japan.

1588: Hideyoshi issues the "sword hunt" order to eliminate the otherwise potential risk of future peasant and warrior monk revolts.

1590: Hideyoshi overpowers the Hōjō Clan in the Kantō region (present-day Tōkyō region) and is now in control of all of Japan.

1590: The Japanese delegation to Rome, dispatched in 1582, returns to Japan.

1591: Hideyoshi issues a three-article law concerning social status: Warrior, farmer, artisan and merchant classes are firmly fixed.
Hideyoshi orders the renowned tea master Sen no Rikyū to commit suicide.


1592-1615 - Bunroku & Keichō Periods



"The tones of the shakuhachi 'hitoyogiri'
     may satisfy for one night,
But sleeping with you just one night is not enough."

     Trsl. by Blasdel/Kamisangō, 1988/2008.
     This is the earliest known written source in which
     the term 'hitoyogiri' appears.
     Text in Japanese from Nakatsuka, 1979, p. 67.

Old Edo Period hitoyogiri shakuhachi

Old Edo Period (1603-1867) hitoyogiri shakuhachi.
Makers unknown. In: Kikan Hōgaku 5, 1975.

1592-1593: Toyotomi Hideyoshi sends troops to invade Korea with the ultimate goal of conquering the entire Eastasian mainland.

1593: Korean movable type printing equipment is brought back to Japan by Hideyoshi's troops.

1593: The Portuguese Franciscan Fr. Pedro Bautista arrives in Japan which soon causes serious conflicts with the Jesuits.

1596: The "San Felipe Incident". Hideyoshi sentences to death 26 Christians on a list of Kyōto Christians drawn up by Ishida Mitsunari.


The Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan

"The Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan"
Painting by unnamed Japanese artist, probably early 17th century

On February 5, 1597, 26 Christians - missionaries and Japanese followers alike - were crucified at Nishizaka in Nagasaki,
on the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, then the absolute ruler of Japan.

1597-1598: Toyotomi Hideyoshi's second invasion of Korea, this time primarily as a retaliatory offensive against the Koreans.

1598: Hideyoshi dies. The remaining Japanese troops of the second Korea invasion are withdrawn.

1600: Tokugawa Ieyasu, Hideyoshi's trusted ally, having first put down a renewed rebellion of the daimyō clans, defeats the Ishida Clan and its "Western allies" in the battle at Sekigahara, thus gaining control of the entire country.

1600: English pilot Will Adams lands in Japan.

1603: Ieyasu receives the title of Shōgun, Superior General, from Emperor Go-Yōzei and establishes his headquarters, the Tokugawa Bakufu, in a new capital named Edo - present-day Tōkyō.
By this time an estimate of 87 daimyō families have been completely eradicated.

1607: The Neo-Confucian scholar Hayashi Razan, 1583-1657, is appointed political advisor to the second shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada (in office 1605–1623). Neo-Confucianism is now the official "state ideology" in Japan.


1608 - "Secretly Transmitted Notations for the Short Flute"

The Tanteki hiden-fu, written by Ōmori Sōkun in 1608, features notations for a total of 74 pieces for the "short flute", the tanteki.
This is the oldest surviving example of the socalled fu - ho - u katakana notation system which was later adopted by players of the Fuke Shakuhachi tradition.

'Hitoyogiri' allegedly once owned by Ōmori Sōkun, 1570-1625

'Hitoyogiri' allegedly once owned by Ōmori Sōkun, 1570-1625
In: Kikan Hōgaku 5, 1975

1612: Ieyasu outlaws the Christian faith in all territories under direct control of the Bakufu.

1613: All Christian churches in Kyōto and Nagasaki are destroyed and the clergy arrested.

1614, January 27: Tokugawa Ieyasu issues an edict completely prohibiting Christianity in Japan. Attached to the edict are 15 rules for the guidance of the Buddhist priesthood in securing its enforcement, for instance,
" --- everyone must become a member of one or another of the principal Buddhist sects, the head of the family being responsible for the choice thereof."

     Source: C.R. Boxer, 1993, pp. 318-319.

Acc. to, "Between 1553 and 1620, eighty-six Daimyōs were officially baptized, and many more were sympathetic to the Christians."
Read more here: Kirishitan

Link to the next page: Japan 5 • 1614-1664
Link to the previous page: Japan 3 • 1477-1560

List of references:

Sonja Arntzen, translator: Ikkyū and the Crazy cloud anthology,
     a Zen poet of Medieval Japan. Foreword by Shūichi Katō.
     University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo, 1986.
Baroni, Helen Josephine: The illustrated encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism.
     The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., New York, 2002.
Christopher Blasdel & Kamisangō Yūkō:
     The Shakuhachi. A Manual for Learning.
     Printed Matter Press, Tokyo, 2008.
     Available at
C.R. Boxer: The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650.
     Carcarnet Press Limited, Manchester, 1993.
     First published in 1951 by The University of
     California Press & the Cambridge University Press.
Steven D. Carter: 'Chats with the Master:
     Selections from "Kenzai Zōdan".'
     In: Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001),
     pp. 295-347.
Max Deeg: 'Komusō and "Shakuhachi Zen". From Historical Legitimation
      to the Spiritualisation of a Buddhist denomination in the Edo Period.'
      In: 'Japanese Religions', Vol. 32 (1 & 2): pp. 7-38, 2007.
Heinrich Dumoulin: Zen Buddhism. A History. Volume 2: Japan.
      Trsl. by James W. Heisig & Paul F. Knitter.
      World Wisdom, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana, 2005.
Gunsho Ruijū, Vol. 28. First published in 1733 by Hanawa Hokiichi.
     Zoku Gunsho Ruijū Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1933.
Eta Harich-Schneider: A History of Japanese Music.
     Oxford University Press, London, 1973.
Carolyn Martha Haynes: Parody in the maikyōgen
     and the monogurui kyōgen. Ph.D. thesis.
     Cornell University, 1988. Pages 102-131 & 268-271.
     Available online at
     Cat. no. AAT 8804579.
Frank Hoff: Song, Dance and Storytelling: Aspects of the
     Performing Arts in Japan.
     Cornell East Asia Series Number 15, 1978.
Victor Sōgen Hori: Zen Sand. The Book of Capping Phrases for Kōan Practice.
     University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 2003.
H. Mack Horton: The Journal of Sōchō.
     Translated and annotated by H. Mack Horton.
     Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2002.
Ide Yukio: 'Chūse shakuhachi tsuikō'.
     In: 'Research reports of the Kōchi University. Humanities'.
     Vol. 41, 1-10, Kōchi, 1992-12-27.
     The article may be downloaded from this location:
     Kōchi University
Ikkyū Sōjun: Kyōunshū.
     Facsimile of a late 15th century manuscript.
     Ed. & publ. by Okumura Jūbei, Kyoto, 1966.
Ikkyū Sōjun: Kyōunshū, Kyōunshishū, Jikaishū.
     Rev. & annotated by Nakamura Tamaki.
     Gendai shichōsha, Tokyo, 1976.
Inagaki Misoshiro, chief editor: Myōan Sanjūnana-sei Tanikita
      Muchiku-shū. Tokyo, 1981.
Inoura Yoshinobu & Kawatake Toshio: The Traditional Theatre of Japan.
     Tokyo, 1981.
Kamei Takahashi & Takaha Gorō, compilers and editors:
     Gohon taishō kaihen setsuyōshū
     ("Setsuyōshū in five versions rearranged and compared").
     Tokyo, 1974. 2 volumes.
Donald Keene: Essays in Idleness. The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō.
     Columbia University Press, 1998.
Kikan hōgaku 5, special issue: 'Shakuhachi no miwaku'.
     Ongaku no Tomo-sha, Tokyo, 1975.
Kiyū Shōran. Comp. by Kitamura Nobuyo (1784-1856), first publ. in 1830.
     Reprint by Seikōkan Shuppanbu, Tokyo, 1933.
Koji Ruien. Ruien Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1896-1914. Reduced size reprint ed.
     by Jungū Shichō, Tokyo, 1927-1930. Latest edition: Yoshikawa
     Kōbunkan, Tokyo, 1967-1971. Vol. 9: Section on Religion.
     Vols. 32 & 35: Sections on Music.
Koma no Chikazane: Kyōkunshō.
     Original work completed in 1233. Publ. in 2 vols. by
     Nihon Koten Zenshū Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1928.
Kraft, Kenneth: Eloquent Zen: Daito and Early Japanese Zen.
     University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1992, 1997.
Kurihara Kōta: Shakuhachi Shikō. Chikuyūsha, Tokyo, 1918, 1975.
Riley Kelly Lee: Yearning for the Bell: A Study of
     Transmission in the Shakuhachi Honkyoku Tradition.
     Ph.D. thesis, University of Sidney, 1992.
     Available online at:
Daigan Matsunaga & Alicia Matsunaga: Foundation of Japanese
     Buddhism. Vol. I: The Aristocratic Age. Vol. II: The Mass Move-
     ment. Buddhist Books International, Los Angeles, Tokyo, 1974, 1976.
Nakatsuka Chikuzen: Kinko-ryū Shakuhachi Shikan.
     Nihon Ongaku-sha, Tokyo, 1979.
Nishiyama Matsunosuke: Iemoto monogatari.
     Chūō Kōronsha,Tokyo, 1971, 1976.
Nishiyama Matsunosuke: Iemoto no kenkyū.
     Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, Tokyo, 1982.
Nishiyama Matsunosuke: 'Komusō no ura-omote'.
     In: Kikan hōgaku 5, Ongaku no Tomo-sha, Tokyo, 1975, pp. 26-30.
NKBZ 25: Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshū, Vol 25. Revised and annotated
     by Usuda Jingorō & Shimma Shin'ichi. Tokyo, 1976.
NKDJ: Nihon Kokugo Dai-jiten. Nihon Dai-jiten Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1973-1975.
William N. Porter: The Miscellany of a Japanese Priest.
     Being a Translation of Tsure-zure Gusa.
     Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Tokyo, 1914, 1976.
Torsten Olafsson: Kaidō Honsoku, 1628: The Komosō's Fuke
     Shakuhachi Credo. On Early 17th Century Ascetic Shakuhachi
     Ideology. Publ. by Tai Hei Shakuhachi, California, 2003.
     Includes a CD-ROM with the author's complete M.A. thesis on
     the same subject, University of Copenhagen, 1987.
     Purchasable at
Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen: Emptiness and Temporality.
     Buddhism and Medieval Japanese Poetics.
     Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2008.
Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen: Murmured Conversations.
     A Treatise on Poetry and Buddhism by the Poet-Monk Shinkei.
     Stanford University Press, California, 2008.
William Scott Wilson: The Unfettered Mind. Writings of the Zen master
     to the Sword Master. Tokyo, New York, San Fransisco, 1986.
Shūhū Yokō, edited by Mori Hikotarō. Publ. by the Kōkoku-ji,
     Yura, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, 1938, 1981.
Suematsu Kenchō: The Genji Monogatari by Murasaki Shikibu.
     London, 1882. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, London 1977.
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     Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1970, 1973.
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     Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 1981.
Takahashi Kūzan: Fukeshū-shi. Sono shakuhachi sōhō no gakuri.
     Fukeshū-shi kankōkai, Tokyo, 1979.
Takahashi Tone: Tozan-ryū: An Innovation of the
     Shakuhachi Tradition from Fuke-shū to Secularism.
     Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy thesis.
     Florida State University, USA, 1990. Purchasable at:
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     Vol. 5. Transl. from Japanese by Don Kenny.
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Toyohara Sumiaki: Taigenshō (original dated 1512)
     1933 edition, 4 vols., edited by Masamune Atsuo
     Nihon Koten Zenshu Kankokai, Tokyo, 1933
     The entire 1933 edition may be downloaded
     from this location:
     - Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, University of Toronto

Tsuge Gen'ichi: 'The History of the Kyotaku.'
     In: Asian Music, Vol. VIII, 2. New York, 1977.
     Available online at:
Ueno Katami: Shakuhachi no rekishi.
     Shimada Ongaku Shuppan, Tokyo, 3rd impr., 1984.
Ueno Katami: Shakuhachi no rekishi. Revised and expanded edition.
     Shuppan Geijutsu-sha, Tokyo, 2002.
Zengaku Jiten, ed. by Jimbo Nyoten & Andō Bun'ei,
     Shōbō Genzō Chūkai Zensho Kankōkai,
     Tokyo, 1962.

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