|How to make a Shakuhachi
|Oftentimes, the entire year's harvesting
results in only a handful of acceptable
pieces. This is one of the many reason's
that Shakuhachi can carry such an
expensive price tag.
|Immediately after harvesting, the freshly cut bamboo must undergo a special charcoal fired heat treatment called
"Aburanuki" ("oil removal"). Aburanuki fundamentally changes the resonant structure of the bamboo making it
more resonant. Aburanuki is a time consuming process that adds to the cost of Shakuhachi ("time is money").
Some modern makers use a blow torch to speed up the Aburanuki process but traditional craftsmen insist on a
charcoal fire and for good reason. A blow torch can easily scorch the delicate green bamboo skin and a quick
heat treatment can result in an inflexible Shakuhachi that is prone to cracking. Like many things made in the
Japanese style, slow and meticulous is the best way to make a long lasting, well playing Shakuhachi.
|Here I am with my friend Adam Coleman (disciple of Master swordsmith Michael Bell
of dragonflyforge.com) performing traditional Aburanuki during the winter of 2007.
The bamboo was harvested on the Southern Oregon coast (and Aburanuki was also
|My Shakuhachi Sensei said that the root end of
Madake' has a unique balance of energy; Yin and
Yang. The lower half of the bamboo grows in the
earth (Yin) while the upper half grows in the
sunshine (Yang). This balance means that the
Shakuhachi becomes a superior vehicle for pursuing
In 17th Century Japan, the monks of the Fu-ke
branch of Zen Buddhism used the Shakuhachi to
practice "Sui-zen"; Zen that flows like water (often
poorly translated as "blowing Zen") in the hopes of
becoming enlightened. They called this "Ichion
JoButsu" or "enlightenment that comes from a
single sound". Though they practiced for years, this
statement suggests a belief in "Sudden
Enlightenment" versus "Gradual Enlightenment".
|TAKETORI (HARVESTING THE BAMBOO).
|Japanese Madake' bamboo
(Phyllostachys Bambusoides) is the
preferred bamboo. I've found that the
best bamboo (outside of Japan)
comes from the Southern Oregon
coast. That area has nearly identical
flora and fauna as Kyushu, Japan
(widely regarded as the best place to
harvest bamboo for Shakuhachi
making). Harvesting is only done in
the winter months of December,
January, and February. The bamboo
is at its most dormant during this time
which results in making a more
resonant, musical Shakuhachi flute.
|ABURANUKI (HEAT TREATING THE BAMBOO).
|I like to keep a bucket of prepared kindling
on hand to steadily feed the forge. This
should keep a relatively constant heat
without large spikes in temperature.
|ready for the bamboo.
|I slowly roll the bamboo above the
heat. I take care not to leave any part
of the bamboo exposed to the heat for
too long. As the bamboo heats up, it
releases water and oils which I
immediately wipe off with an old
towel. This is a long process requiring
constant attention. It can be a form of
seated meditation (Zazen). With this
technique, each bamboo flute then
truly becomes a Zen flute.
|For this example, I'm using a
homemade forge made from the bottom
of an old turkey smoker that I lined with
regular concrete bricks. Clay bricks
work better and "fire bricks" or
refractory cement would be best.
However, If all I've got is a small pit dug
into the dirt...well..then I use what I've
I also don't need any special fuel.
I've been using scrap soft wood to
make my coals for years.