1779-1784: Isaac Titsingh's Account of a Pure Land Sect Funeral
with Entertaining 'Yamabushi' and 'Komusō'
One or more komusō reported to have played the shakuhachi at a Pure Land Sect funeral.
During the period of 1779 through 1784, Dutch scholar, merchant-trader and ambassador Isaac Titsingh, c. 1745-1812,
headed the Dutch East India Company in Japan, based in Nagasaki, in the Dutch trade station on the artificial island of Dejima.
In Titsingh's important book *) about Japanese culture and customs published in Paris in 1820, and published in English translation in 1822,
he describes a Pure Land Sect funeral ceremony in quite some detail - here a selected excerpt:
" - - - As soon as the quan, or coffin, has reached the temple where the priests are already assembled, it is set down before the image of the god,
and the priests immediately begin to read hymns.
The ifay **) is placed before the quan, and before the ifay are set some plates of sweetmeats, pears and flowers,
and in front of these the sioko, or small box for burning incense.
The eldest son steps up before the ifay, says his prayers, and burns some incense;
when he has returned to his place all the relatives and friends do the same one after another.
The priests having read hymns for about half an hour, the bells are struck, the drums beaten,
the jamabos ***) sound their trumpets,
and the komsos ****), the flutes. - - - "
- - -
After reading a hymn in this position, the coffin is taken up and carried to the grave, accompanied by all the
parents and friends of the deceased.
*) Cf. the Literature webpage: Isaac Titsingh, 1820 and 1822 titles, respectively.
Find the English language edition complete, scanned and presented online here, the quotation printed on pp. 240-242:
'') An ifay, modern Japanese: 'ihai',
is an oblong tablet, on which is inscribed the time of the death and the name afterwards given to the deceased.
***) jamabos, modern Japanese: 'yamabushi',
the wandering, mountain-worshipping lay monks of the Shugendō pseudo sect who used to blow big conch shells as "horns".
****) komsos, modern Japanese: 'komusō',
虚無僧, the Edo Period "Pseudo-monks of the Non-Dual and None-ness".