1614: Keichō kenmonshū
Two very early Edo Period anecdotes recorded
about two different shakuhachi-playing "Fuke komo-sō" monks
This webpage will soon be further expanded ...
慶長見聞集 - KEICHŌ KENMON-SHŪ
"Anthology of Observations/Seen & Heard During the Keichō Period" (1596-1615)
Authored by Miura Jōshin, 三浦浄心, 1565-1644
The most well known of these two anecdotes was first presented in Kurihara Kōta's 1918-publication Shakuhachi shikō,
on pages 183-184 in the 1975 reissue version of the book.
Very interestingly indeed, Kurihara Kōta (or his editor) changed one especially significant Japanese character
in a way so as to literally blur and thereby seriously forge shakuhachi and komo-sō/ko-mu-sō historical chronology for an entire century or so, by now ...
This is a noteworthy example of however quite common falsification of original text sources in the field of shakuhachi history research.
The other anecdote actually opens Volume 3 (Maki 3) the Keichō kenmon-shū as Chapter 1.
More about that text the soonest possible.
Also, direct links to various reliable internet online version of the texts will soon be added.
Anecdote No. 1: Ōtori Ippei and a "Fuke komo-sō" in the town of Hachi-ōji.
大鳥一浜衛組の事 - ŌTORI IPPEI SO no KOTO
"The Matter of Ōtori Ippei"
This anecdote is contained in chapter 2 of Volume 6 (Maki 6).
It is essential to observe that the original text features the character compound
古無(僧), and not 虚無(僧), as given everywhere in Kurihara's 1918/1975 version.
Key name and terms regarding the present text:
古無僧 - KO-MO-SŌ? / KO-MU-SŌ?
古無殿 - KO-MO-DONO? / KO-MU-DONO?
普化薦僧 - FUKE KOMO-SŌ
大鳥一兵衛 - ŌTORI IPPEI
浪人侍 - RŌNIN SAMURAI
修行 - SHUGYŌ
Did the below reported incident ever take place, possibly so? Maybe not, actually, however ...
The narrator of the present anecdote being rendered in the Keichō kenmonshū, named Ōtori Ippei,
was a figure affiliated with the early kabuki theatre.
Born in 1588, Ōtori was executed by the bakufu in 1612, only 24 years old.
More information about this background will be added the soonest possible.
The Fuke Shakuhachi player being quoted in the following text was not a 'KOMU-SŌ'!
The shakuhachi-playing lay monk in this anecdote, of samurai heritage, is described phonetically by Miura Jōshin as a ko-mu-sō,
古無僧, "old+noone-ness+monk", the reason simply being that the author did not know how to write the term
The confusion of the phonems mo and mu is certainly not uncommon at all, as those two syllables are virtually homonymous.
At this very time in history a mendicant shakuhachi "lay monk" would rightly still be known as a Fuke komo-sō, not a komu-sō.
There were definitely no komu-sō, 虚無僧,
in existence and action in Japan before sometime after the Shimabara Rebellion on Kyūshū in Southern Japan in 1637-38, at the earliest.
First, here follows a presentation of the central part of this very significant text, in which the Fuke komo-sō proclaims the shakuhachi "credo" of his.
- - -
- - -
" - - - Although many years ago I held a high position, now I have become one who has abandoned the world.
But when I recall my former occupation,
I do not grieve over poverty and lowliness but hold on to the fate of the Way of the Buddha and reserve all my considerations for the Doctrine.
I have no inward possessions, no outward desires, and I calmly follow in the footprints of Priest Fuke
and have entered upon the way of True Detachment and Spiritual Deliverance.
But even though I strive hard in ascetic discipline, I find it difficult indeed to maintain a peaceful mind when I am confronted with an atrocious word. - - - "
Miura Jōshin (1565-1644) quoting a travelling Fuke monk
being characterized in his kanazōshi book 'Keichō Kenmon-shū',
'Seen and Heard during the Keichō Period', 1614.
Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson.
The full text of the anecdote reads and translates as follows:
Links to online versions of the Keichō kenmonshū will be added before long.
The below English translation (here with but a few slightly refining adjustments) first appeared in my 1987 Copenhagen University Japanology thesis on the Kaidō honsoku document,
dated 1628 - published internationally in 2003 by Tai Hei Shakuhachi, California, USA.
Do note that the story is being reported by Ōtori Ippei, here retold by Miura Jōshin.
In the town Hachiōji in the Musashi Province, while I was drinking sake in a wine shop, a kom*-sō,
came up to the gate while blowing a shakuhachi.
Dear me, I called out to him! You are an auspicious practitioner of asceticism, I suppose.
You seem to be a devoted person, I said.
If it is your intention to be scattered in the world, sparing a home for ordinary humans, please let me entertain you with some wine.
I myself played the shakuhachi when I was young.
When I said, I would like the kom* master, 古無殿, to play a melody on his shakuhachi, he played a tune.
While I was listening, slightly smiling I rolled up my kimono so as to uncover my buttocks, and when - tapping my rump - I said,
I can play better than you with my arse,
the kom*(-sō), 古無(僧), got very angry and exclaimed,
What an inconsiderate and most uncomplimentary remark!
Although many years ago I held a high position,
now I have become one who has abandoned the world.
But even so, when I recall my former occupation, I do not grieve over poverty and lowliness,
but hold on to the Fate of the Way of the Buddha and reserve all my considerations for the purpose of the Doctrine.
I have no inward possessions, no outward desires, and with a tranquil Body I follow in the footsteps of Priest Fuke
and have entered upon the Way of True Disattachment and Spiritual Deliverance.
But even though I am striving hard in ascetic discipline,
I find it difficult indeed when I am confronted with an atrocious word.
Even if that might be changed, could I possibly alter my way of thinking?
At any cost, I shall have to hear you play with your rump," he said.
Certainly, I said, I shall play with my arse, and then we discussed our bets
while the words that the kom*-sō, 古無僧, had spoken were written down for successive generations.
The kom*-sō, 古無僧, drew out in the open the sword he was carrying by his side, proclaiming that it was a genuine Yoshimitu.
I myself was obliged to draw my sword, too.
This so called "sword" was one I had ordered from the swordsmith Shitahara,
forged as an imitation 3 feet 8 inches long and probably no more than 25 years old.
I also shouted out the name of my sword and drew it as if ready to pay back with my life.
A townsman took charge of the stakes, and I exclaimed: Well, now, would you like to hear me play the shakuhachi with my arse?
At that moment I grasped the kom*'s, 古無, shakuhachi and when I succeeded in playing it,
holding it underneath me, everybody could hear it, I said,
Believe me, it is better that I played with my arse than that the kom*(-sō), 古無(僧), played with his mouth!
And than I was the winner of the dispute.
If there is anyone who does not believe any of this, just ask the people in Hachi-ōji, I said.
Everybody heard [or, Listen, everybody] -
Ippei was certainly not made of wood nor stone. He told the most colourful stories [Miura concludes].
Here follows the anecdote as originally printed in 1614, now preserved at the National Diet Library in Tokyo, Japan:
Here you can, yourselves, be truth witnesses to how specifically Kurihara Kōta, publishing in 1918
(his book reissued in 1975, becoming an important however problematic source of Western shakuhachi research, also),
changed but one or two Japanese characters in a source reprint so as to actually thereby
not only falsifying the wording of a certain document but also fundamentally forging the chronology and overall history
of the komo-sō versus ko-mu-sō and of the so called Fuke Shakuhachi tradition of Japan:
Here, for your even further information and revelation, you can study and appreciate an academically genuinely reliable printed 1969 presentation of the original text in question:
Anecdote No. 2: A kom*-sō" practices asceticism "for the benefit of mothers".
古無僧母の爲めに修行の事 - KOM*SŌ HAHA no TAME ni SHUGYŌ no KOTO
"The Matter of a Kom*sō Practicing Asceticism for the Benefit of Mothers"
This anecdote is contained in chapter 1 of Volume 3 (Maki 3).
A further introduction to the subject matter of this text will be presented soon.