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      'Shugyō Shakuhachi' rekishi-teki shōko no kenkyū hōmupēji -

The "Ascetic Shakuhachi" Historical Evidence Research Web Pages

Introduction & Guide to the Documentation & Critical Study of Ascetic, Non-Dualistic Shakuhachi Culture, East & West:
Historical Chronology, Philology, Etymology, Vocabulary, Terminology, Concepts, Ideology, Iconology & Practices

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


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Kyōhō Period komusō

Kyōhō Period komusō
Detail of a wood-cut print in:
'Jinbutsu sō-ga', 1724
National Diet Library
Source: Ueno, 1984

Hōreki Period komusō

Hōreki Period komusō
Wood-cut print in:
'Ehon mitsu wagusa', 1758
National Diet Library
Source: Ueno, 1984


JAPAN 6 • 1664-1767

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 ...


浮世物語 - "Tales from the Floating World"

浅井了意 - ASAI RYŌI - c. 1612-1691

Picture of two possible komusō in the Ukiyo monogatari

Here you see a genuine, original picture of possibly two 1660s, very early komusō being featured in the short story collection 'Ukiyo monogatari', "Tales of the Floating World", by Asai Ryōi.

This really rarely shown illustration was reprinted/reproduced in 1916 in a very comprehensive 12 volume collection of selected masterpieces of Japanese Tokugawa Period literature,
the 'Tokugawa bungei ruiju', Volume 2.

The short story with that particular unique picture attached does not at all mention any neither 'komo-sō', nor 'komu-sō', so the two flute playing persons could only have been placed in the illustration to create some sort of an authentic 'cosy' atmosphere for the narrative.

As you can see - very contrary to several more recent really poor, misleading redrawn copies of the two figures - the flute being played in the front is both thin and quite long,
i.e. not at all a 'konjiku', 根竹 "root-end", type of 'shakuhachi'.

So, what do you honestly think those two flute players were actually playing when wandering around, from gate to gate, begging their humbly best to hopefully survive?

I myself believe: Definitely not any 'honkyoku'!

Picture of two possible komusō in the Ukiyo monogatari

I have copied this particular, quite questionable, illustration from a recent reprint
of the early Meiji Period publication titled 'Komusō zakki', 虚無僧雑記,
"Komusō Notebook" - most probably published in 1872 at the earliest
and no later than in the mid- to late 1870s.

Source: Okumura Yoshinori (compiler) & Kodera Gyokuchō (editor):
     'Komusō zakki', "Komusō Note Book".
     Photographic reprint of a c. mid-1870s original
     published by the book store Mytown, Nagoya, in 2004.

Strangely and inexplicably so, one does actually not find that very picture in the online version of the 'Ukiyo monogatari' presented here, online, care of the Waseda University Library.

Neither does that picture appear anywhere in this scanned version c/o
Kateibunko online source collection of Tōkyō University.

Dated picture of two komusō very much like the picture in the 'Komusou zakki', early 1870s

Dated picture of two komusō being presented very much similarly to the 'Ukiyo monogatari' picture in the 'Komusō zakki', mid-1870s, cf. the above.
Posted online by Bandō Tarō', 坂東太郎
Source URL: Bandō Tarō's shakuhachi weblog

Bandō Tarō does not comment the picture that obviously has been printed
after some quite detailed illustration in Asai Ryōi's 'Ukiyo monogatari'.

1664: The shōgunate, or bakufu, orders every daimyō to establish in their domain an officer of religious investigation, i.e. either a magistrate of religion (shūmon bugyō) or magistrate of temples and shrines (jisha bugyō).

1665: Registries of religious affiliation are now being produced on a nationwide scale.

The registry's format is finally standardized in 1671 - the system of religious inspection and obligatory temple certification has now become completely consolidated by law and is carried out effectively, on a yearly basis, in all of Japan.

1664 - The First Known Account of some active Kyōto Komusō
- Written by a Contemporary "Outsider"

こむ - KOMUSŌ no TE - "Music of the Komusō"



Shichiku Shoshinshū: Komusō chapter. Copyright © by Waseda University, Tokyo

The Komusō chapter in Shichiku Shoshinshū,
1773 edition (An'ei 2), Part 1, page 6
Waseda University Library, Tokyo

梵字、漢字、色おし、 しら梵字などいひしもの


"The komusō shakuhachi is named 'shakuhachi' because its length has been cut to the measure of 1 foot and 8 inches. Its origin is certainly unknown.
Although it is being said that Hottō of Yura [Shinchi Kakushin] was the founder [of the komusō], that I do not ascertain.
One hears that, since ancient times, this thing [the shakuhachi] was used by the 'boroboro' practitioners, and also that the socalled 'bonji', 'kanji', iro-oshi', and 'shira-bonji' were people who performed this shakuhachi ceremoniously.

There are nowadays some outcasts [Jap.: fu-nin, "non-persons"] who are called 'komusō'; they are blowing a piece of music named 'Goro' - besides there are other tunes such as 'Renbo Nagashi', 'Miyako Renbo', 'Samunaru Ikawa', and 'Yoshida'.
One does not hear any of these pieces being played in the 'ritsu' [Dorian] or the 'ryō' [Mixolydian] musical modes.
As this, however, is not the tradition of my own, I do not know about this matter in depth."

     Written and published by Nakamura Sōsan, 1664.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010.
     Sources: Ueno, 1983, pp. 204 & 280, and
     Shichiku Shoshinshū, 1773 edition,
     Part 1, p. 6, owned by Waseda University, Tokyo.

     This is, to the best of my knowledge, the oldest extant text
     in which names of komusō music pieces are recorded.

     An old copy of the Shichiku Shoshinshū is preserved
     at Waseda University, Tokyo.
     Follow this link to study a full photographic documentation
     (PDF, 15,8 MB) of the book: Shichiku Shoshinshū.
     Go to PDF page 5, right side, to study the komusō chapter.
     Link to Shichiku Shoshinshū, bibliographical details.
     Copyright restricted © by Waseda University, Tokyo.

1665: Registries of religious affiliation are now being produced on a nationwide scale.

訓蒙図彙 - KINMŌ ZŪ-I

"An Illustrated Dictionary" , or: "Illustrated Vocabulary" - also see entry 1690

1666: The very first actual "encyclopedia" of Japan is created and published by the Neo-Confucian scholar Nakamura Tekisai who lived from 1629 to 1702.

Link to the National Diet Library's online version of the encyclopedia (go to page 2 on the NDL webpage), 1666-edition: Kinmō zū-i, 1666

c. 1665-1675?:

虚鐸傳記 - KYOTAKU DENKI - "The Recorded Tradition of the Imitated Bell


三虚霊譜 - SAN-KYOREI-FU - The Three "Empty Spirit Notations"

It is well known that the legend of the Kyotaku, the "imitated (or false) bell", has, for long, been regarded as a forgery, or more precisely: A fabrication.

There can no more be any doubt that the text was primarily produced for the benefit and strengthened reputation of the Myōan Temple in SE Kyōto.

The monk Ton'o, the alleged author of the text, is however reported to have been active during the late Kan'ei period (1624-1644), and judging from the subject matter of the story, it could although but only theoretically, have been composed already at that time.

It is, in any case, noteworthy, that central elements of the story about Hottō Kokushi, the four devoted men and Kyochiku (formerly Kichiku, in the Kyotaku denki) were in fact in existence in 1735, contained in the Myōan-ji document Kyorei-zan engi narabi-ni sankyorei-fu ben, see below.

- - -


"Gakushin [i.e.: Kakushin, alias Hottō Kokushi] studied the art of the kyotaku. As the days passed, he went to the heart of Zen philosophy and attained proficiency in the kyotaku;
finally he took leave of San [Kakushin's alleged kyotaku teacher Chōsan] (to return to Japan).
Gakushin left Hsü-Chow for Ming-Chow, where he unmoored his ship.
It was in the second year of the Sung Dynasty that he returned to Japan, where it was the sixth year of Kenchō, in the the reign of Emperor Gofukakasu."


"Thereafter, Gakushin confined himself in a mountain temple at Kōyasan, sometimes visiting the capital (Kyoto).
Years passed, and he founded a Buddhist temple named Saihōji in the province of Kishū [present-day Kōkoku-ji in Wakayama Pref.],
where he established his permanent abode.

- - -


"Among his numerous students, there was one called Kichiku. The more earnest he became in his devotion to Zen Buddhism, the more ardent was his admiration for his master.
Gakushin also took a more kindly interest in him than in other students.
One day Gakushin told Kichiku:"

以在宋之時伝 得虚鐸音今尚能調之、

"'When I was (studying) in the country of Sung, I was instructed in the kyotaku and I perform on it well even today.
I would like to initiate you in this flute in the hope that, as my successor, you will pass this art on to posterity.'
Kichiku, dancing for joy and expressing his gratitude, received instruction in this music and attained proficiency in the instrument. He took delight in playing it everyday untiringly."


"There were four more students - - Kokusaku, Risei, Hōfu and Sōjo - - who also learned this flute well. They were known to the world under the (collective) title Shikoji ("Four Devoted Men")."
- - -

     Quoted from the 'Kyotaku denki', trsl. by Tsuge Gen'ichi, 1977.
     Printed in Asian Music, Vol. VIII, 2. New York, 1977.
     The complete translation is available at:



1671: The registry's format is finally standardized. The system of religious inspection and obligatory temple certification has now become completely consolidated by law and is carried out effectively - and efficiently on a yearly basis, in all of Japan - with expectable exceptions, of course.

Read more on this local webpage: 1549 ... The Catholic Christian Century and the Temple Patron Household System,
- and here: Wikipedia: The Danka System



"Temple Affiliation Certification Document"

Tera-uke certificate dated 1672

According to the descriptive info presented by the Waseda University Library, this 'tera-uke shōmon' is dated June 8th, 1672 (Kanbun 12, 5th month, 23rd day).

Being issued by the Jōdo (Pure Land) Sect temple Chieko-in, 智恵光院, in Central Kyōto, the document confirms that a certain Matsumura Yasaburo, 智恵光院, with his entire household is directly affiliated with that temple in the capacity as 'danka', 檀家, i.e. "patron family".

Through such a close relationship monks of the old, well established Buddhist temples were also obliged to inspect all of their respective "patron family households" on at least an annual basis and reveal any possible hiding Christians there.

Link: Waseda University 'tera-uke'

往古之掟拾七ヶ條 /
先師拾七ヶ條掟 /



Dated Enpō 5, 6th month = July, 1677

"17 Article Regulation of Ancient Times"

This very significant set of komusō regulations appears to have been issued by the Edo twin "temples" Ichigetsu-ji and Reihō-ji, dated the 6th month of the year Enpō 5: July, 1677.

July 1677 17-article regulation

July 1677 17-article regulation

     Source: Yamaguchi, 2005, pp. 169-170.

延宝 御掟 - ENPŌ no GO-OKITE
延宝 御法度 - ENPŌ no GO-HATTO

Dated December 18, 1677?
No, no - not at all:

Actually dated 1678, January 11th - a Tuesday, according to the contemporary Western Gregorian Calendar!

Enpō 5 Oboe document reprint at Matsudo City Museum in Chiba
- Edited reprint of the socalled "Edict of the Enpō Period"
Matsudo City Museum, Chiba - the Komusō Room
Photo taken by Ronald Nelson in summer 2014.

This document is regarded as representing "fullproof" evidence of the socalled
"Fuke Sect" being officially recognized and authorized by the "Temple & Shrine Magistrate" in Edo towards the close of the 5th year of the Enpō Period (1673-1681).

"Komusō Memorandum" - Enpō 5:

Is this really the "Official Recognition and Authorization of the Komusō Fraternity" - a socalled kōnin, 公認?

I myself find that extremely difficult to believe as neither the very term Fuke-sh, 普化宗 - nor the shakuhachi, 尺八, for that matter - are mentioned in the text at all.
Not even the very central terms Rinzai Zen, 臨済禅, be it just Zen, , appear in the text!

The document is dated "5th year of the Enpō Era, hinotomi, 12th month, 18th day":


There is one rather significant "problem" here, however:
That particular date is not valid at all. In fact, it never existed!
The cyclical calendar sign for the year Enpō 5 was tsuchinoe uma, 戊午 (the 55th of the sexagenary cycle), NOT hinotomi, 丁巳 (the 54th of the sexagenary cycle) as given in the document.

In other words: The year in question: Enpō 5, 延宝五 does not correspond with the calendar sign!
In fact, the correct date would have been: 延宝五戊午年十二月十八日.

How could the official Magistrates of Temples and Shrines have made such a notable mistake?
Possibly, very simply, because they did not.
This document was most probably created - I mean: forged - by the komusō themselves, and not produced by the Tokugawa authorities at all!

You are most welcome to check the date right here on this website, yourself: NengoCalc.

Well now, this is not all, believe me:

First, the shift of cyclical signs from hinotomi, 丁巳, to tsuchinoe uma, 戊午 happened on the 8th day in the 12th month of Enpō 5, which corresponds with the Western date "January 1, 1678"!
Secondly, not least - consequently: The 18th day in the 12th month of the 5th year in the Enpō Period did not "fall" in 1677 at all.
The actual date according to the Gregorian calender was: January 11th, 1678!

Supplementary comments regarding this most fascinating document:

This very important document is commonly referred to as Enpō gonen no hatto, 延寶五年の法度 [Kurihara, 1975, p. 155 & Nakatsuka, 1979, p. 208], "The 1677 Edict" [Sanford, 1977), the "Ordinance of 1677" [Riley Kelly Lee, 1993], "das Edikt von 1677" [Gutzwiller, 1983], "The 1677 Memorandum" [Gunnar Jinmei Linder, 2012], and "the Bakufu's first legal notification (Enpō year 5, 1677)",
(Bakufu no) - - - saisho no reitashi (Enpō go-nen, 1677),
(幕府の) - - - 最初の令達 (延宝五年、一六七七), Kamisangō, 1974, ch. 10, p. 17].

In this very context, Kamisangō (1974) also uses the term kō-nin, 公認, which specifically translates as "official recognition", and "authorization".

一 本寺之住職者其末寺并本寺弟子仲間以衆許

一 弟子契約之儀改其人慥ニ証文を以取可極之肖


一 末寺并弟子一宗之肖法人之仕置之時者小料之者ハ






Being addressed to "All Factions of the Komusō", Komusō shoryū, 虚無僧諸流 (or Komusō shoha, 虚無僧諸派), the text of this document is widely being recognized - and praised - as the actual "official government authorization" of the komusō fraternity's existence and activities.

In his PhD thesis (2012), Gunnar Jinmei Linder comments as follows (p. 112):

"Content of the 1677 Memorandum

The document is dated December 18 *) [see comment below], the fifth year of the Enpō era (1677), and addressed to the various factions of komusō, at their main and branch temples.
The text consists of three items, which regulate the following aspects of the komusō temples:

Item (1) regulates the administration of the temples, stating that the main and branch temples should elect their head monks in a democratic way, and that the administration should be fair.

Item (2) regulates the acceptance of students, stating that the main and branch temples should investigate new apprentices carefully before approving them, and that the temples should avoid admitting criminals and suspicious people to their ranks.

Item (3) regulates the compliance with the laws that govern society, stating that the main and branch temples should not punish the monks in their own way, but should adhere to the laws and regulations issued by the central authorities.

After the three items, a warning is added: “The clauses [given] above should be obeyed firmly. In case of violation, this will be punished.” "

A more exact and full translation and analysis may be presented here sometime in the future.

*) In the traditional Japanese lunar calendar the "12th month" of the year was roughly equivalent with our Western month of January, not that of December.

This was so, too, in the 5th year of the Enpō Period in which the 1st day of the 12th month corresponded with the 25th day of December 1677 in the West.

Consequently, the 18th day of the Japanese 12th month "fell" in 1678, more precisely on January the 11th, 1678 - which was a Tuesday, btw.

     Sources: Tsuchihashi, 1952, p. 100 & Bramsen, 1880, page (frame) 70:
     "On Japanese Chronology and Calendars".
     and the online nengo calculator "NengoCalc", c/o Universität
     Tübingen, Deutschland, link: NengoCalc.
     You may consult Zöllner, 2003, as well.

     Primary sources: Kurihara, 1975, pp. 155-156,
     Nakatsuka, 1979, pp. 208-209, Ueno, 2002, pp. 222-223
     Lee, 1993, ch. 3.5.2, Yamaguchi, 2005, pp. 168-169
     & Linder, 2012, pp. 111-113.
     I have found the above version of the text on this web page:
     The Ranzan City Society for the Study of Old Books. T.O.

In a very comprehensive collection of historical Japanese religious documents, published in 1921-1926, in Vol. 16 the 'Enpō go-nen' ordinance is being referred to as 'Komusō kaku', 虚無僧覚, "Komusō Memorandum" (link, go to frames 70 and 71): "Sources for the Investigation of Religious Institutions", Vol. 16, pp. 117-118, text no. 99. Published in 1926.

c. 1680-1681?: Acc. to Mikami Sanji writing a noteworthy double article on the Fuke-shū in 1902, a commissioner of the national Temples & Shrine Magistrates Office Jisha-bugyō supposedly named Inaba Tango no Kami Masamori, 稲葉丹後守正盛, should have made a note stating that the renowned Neo-Confucian scholar and governmental administrator Arai Hakuseki, 新井白石, 1657-1725, should have expressed serious doubt regarding the authenticity of the so called Keichō no okitegaki, 慶長の掟書, acc. to legendary tradition signed by the first shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu himself in 1614.

It has, however, not been possible to neither identify nor verify the actual existence nor possible writings at all of this Inaba Tango no Kami Masamori. T.O.

References: See Linder, 2012, pp. 122-123, and WikiPedia:

Acc. to shakuhachi historian Yamato Hōmei, the Keichō no okitegaki was most probably fabricated as late as in 1751.

妙安寺 - MYŌAN-JI

1682-1686: YŌSHŪFU-SHI - Records of the Kyōto Area

雍州府志 巻四
在 蓮華王院 南 而為禪刹。

"Records of the Kyōto Area, Volume 4
Temples & Shrines, Part 1
Myōan-ji is located south of the Rengeō-in, 蓮華王院, "Hall of the Lotus King" [the Sanjūsangen-dō], and it is a Zen temple."

The descriptive text continues like this, in Max Deeg's translation (Deeg, 2007, p. 26):

"In the recent past there was a strange monk called Roan. Nobody knows where he comes from. At his time he was very close to master Ikkyū of the Daitoku-ji, Ryūgoku-zan 龍寶山. He had a predilection for the practice of the wind-holes (that is: flutes) and he loved to blow the shakuhachi.
He called himself ‘the ascetic wind-hole’ (fūketsu-dōsha 風穴道者).
Originally he lived in the district of Uji 宇治 in the (hermitage) Kyūkō-an 吸江菴.
He also lived in this temple (Myōan-ji) for a while. As people say, this is the main temple of the komusō.” "

This may be regarded as the earliest known written reference to the Kyōto Myōan Temple in South Eastern Kyōto (Higashiyama Area) although the name is written with different characters.

The famous Sanjūsangen-dō, 三十三間堂, with its 1001 golden Kannon statues is situated just south of the present Shichi-jō Avenue in the Higashiyama area.

However, there is general consensus that not long afterwards and until 1871 the Kyoreizan Myōan-ji was rather located a short distance to the North, in the close neighbourhood of the famous Edo Period Dai-butsu, 大仏, "Great Buddha", of the Tendai temple Hōkō-ji, 方広寺, right north of the Toyokuni Shrine.
Other close neighbours in this area are the present-day Kyōto National Museum to the South and the Myōhō-in to the East.

     10 volumes by Kurokawa Dōyū, died 1691.
     Source: Yamaguchi, 2005, p. 82.
     Trsl. Torsten Olafsson, 2013.


大怒佐 / 大ぬさ / 大幣 - ŌNUSA
"Streamers" - author/creator unknown

三味線初心書 - Shamisen shoshin-sho

Two komusō in 'Ōnusa', 1685

Two komusō in 'Ōnusa', 1685

Two 'komusō' playing thin vertical flutes in front of a gate.
Printed in the shamisen beginners' book 'Ōnusa' in Kyōto, 1685.

Source: Kyōto Institute Library and Archives Search.
Link/URL - PDF frame 29:

1687 - Jōkyō 4, 6th month

鈴法寺掟 - REIHŌ-JI no OKITE
"Reihō-ji Ordinance"
普化宗 - FUKE-SHŪ ???

This is the oldest known surviving komusō document in which the appellation
Fuke-shū, 普化宗, appears in - though still quite questionable - print!

It is, however, only at the very end of the document that the text concludes as follows;
"Reihō-ji, Mother Temple of the Entire Fuke Zen Sect".
That, however, may quite possibly be a manipulated version of some original document text ...

     Source: Nakatsuka, 1979, p. 396.

托鉢修行 - TAKUHATSU SHUGYŌ - Ascetic Begging Practice
根竹尺八 - KONJIKU SHAKUHACHI - Root-end Shakuhachi



"An Illustrated Dictionary of Human Matters", or: "An Illustrated Vocabulary of Human Relations"

Two komusō in Jinrin kinmō zu-i, 1690

Two 'komusō' playing root-end shakuhachi
In: 'Jinrin kinmō zu-i', 1690 - Maki/Vol. 2
By Makieshi Genzaburō
The Library of Kyōto University
Link to Kyōto University's online presentation of this volume

Two komusō in Jinrin kinmō zu-i, 1690

In: Ueno, 2002, p. 219

This is the so far possibly oldest known surviving picture showing 'komusō'
performing 'taku-hatsu', 托鉢, or: 'being entrusted with a bowl'
(practicing ascetic religious mendicancy) at the gate of a house.

Their flutes are certainly of the heavy 'kon-jiku', 根竹, or "root-end" type.

Two komusō in Jinrin kinmō zu-i, 1690

Two komusō in Jinrin kinmō zu-i, 1690

Do note that the figure to the left is clad in the traditional dress of a Buddhist monk whereas the figure on the right is wearing the - apparently representive - outfit of the early 'komusō'.

The text accompanying. and sort of "explaining". the picture in Volume 2 of this encyclopedia is to be located but a few pages after the picture page itself - in frame 48 of the online edition:

Text page presenting the explanation of the 'shakuhachi' picture previously shown

Close to the upper right corner of the page to the right you see this text section with the heading 'Shakuhachi':

xxx       xxx

Here the original wording presented as online digital Japanese kanji ideographs:


In English:

"Because its length is 1 foot 8 inches, it is called shakuhachi.
Maybe it expresses the sad voice of the Willow Princess ... ?
It originates in an occult, noble sect.
The Chinese T'ang Dynasty monk Fuke liked it [a lot].
Today, the Kyomōsō are the descendants [of his]."

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2018.



"Announcement of Regulations for Disciples of the First Seal"

明暗寺 - MYŌAN-JI


This is the oldest known relatively historically reliable document originating with the Myōan Temple in Kyōto!

Here, for the very first time, also, we meet the term honkyoku, 本曲, "original", "basic", or "true" piece of music - in print!

     Source: Nakatsuka, 1979, pp. 166-169.
     For short resumés of the document's contents, see Linder, 2012,
     pp. 125-126 & Lee, 1993, ch. 3.6.

俳句 - HAIKU


Bashō: Bamboos and a haiku
Bashō: Bamboos and a haiku - late 17th century



Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

"Olden pond ...
frog jumps in ...
sound of water ... "

     Or, in the proper 5-7-5 syllable version:

"There, an olden pond -
Leaping frog drops into it -
Ahh, sound of water ... "

     Matsuo Bashō, 1644-1694. Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson.


Komusō in Kashiragaki zōho kinmō zu-i, 1695

A shakuhachi player wearing a pointed 'ami-gasa' straw hat
In: 'Kashiragaki zōho kinmō zu-i'
('Enlarged Elementary Encyclopedia with Illustrations'), 1695

A first edition, 'Kinmō zu-i', was published in 1666.
A third edition, 'Kashiragaki kinmō zu-i taisei', appeared in 1789.

Here, to the right of the flute player, the kanji for 'komosō', 'mat monk',
are given. In the text block above, 'komosō' is explained
with the archaic terms of 'bo(n)ron', 'bo(n)ronji', 'kanji', and 'boro'.

The text concludes that a 'komosō' is using the shakuhachi for 'shugyō",
修行, "ascetic practice" - which is, certainly, not only limited to Zen Buddhist tradtions.
Shimane University Library Digital Archive #1316
Direct link: Volume 4-7, go to frame 8

The text describing the komosō picture appears to read as follows:


"The "mat monk(s)" is/are also called both 'boron', 'boronji', and 'kanji'.
Besides, one also writes 'boro'. Blowing the shakuhachi,
they perform ascetic practices [shugyō] all over the country. "

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2013
     An updated and enlarged edition of this encyclopedia
     was published in 1789.



- - -
- - -

- - -
In Japan [lit.: "my country'] the socalled komosō are blowing it;
being their means of survival, upper class people consider them to be mean people.
Some people say that the shakuhachi of the komosō is certainly different from the dōshō [the Chinese dòng-xiāo]. - - - "

     Nenzan kibun vol. 2 by Andō Tameakira, 安藤為草.
     Source: Koji Ruien Vol. 35, p. 1002.
     Trsl. by T.O., 2015.


1702 & 1705

"Parent Temple Confirmation" (from Kōkoku-ji to Kyōto Myōan-ji)

一 京都大仏明暗寺当山之為末寺事著明也。

"Parent Temple Confirmation.
This is a clarification [or, confirmation] that the Kyōto Daibutsu Myōan Temple is [now] a branch [or, sub] temple of this temple.
In order for the future the certificate is therefore thus [written].
The 2nd year of Hōei, Year of the Bird [1705], the 12th lunar month, 3rd day.
Gakkō - chief administrator of the Kōkoku Temple.
To the Myōan Temple. "

In 1703 the chief administrator of the Kyōto Myōan Temple, named Gyokudō, 玉道, wrote a letter of petition, dated the 27th day of the 9th month in that year, to the then abbot, named Bairyū, 梅龍, of the Kōkoku Temple in Yura, present Wakayama Prefecture.
Gyokudō argued for the Myōan-ji to be accepted as a sub temple of the Kōkoku-ji, but more than two years should pass before the Kōkoku Temple finally confirmed the new "mother-child" temple relationship.

     Source: Nakatsuka, 1979, pp. 254-260.
     Trsl. by T.O., 2012.

1711: WANTED: Believers in the Christian Faith - Report and Earn a Reward !!!


"Public Proclamation About the Prohibited Christian Faith"

Reward proclamation, wanted board

Reward proclamation, public sign board

Reward proclamation, wording

Reward proclamation, wording

ばてれんの訴人 (伴天連之訴人)    銀五百枚
いるまんの訴人 (入満の訴人)   銀三百枚
立かえり者の訴人   同断
同宿弁宗門訴人   銀百枚

Japanese text about the promised rewards:

1: "A person who reports a Catholic Father (shall earn) 500 pieces of silver."

2: "A person who reports a non-ordained Christian monk (shall earn) 200 pieces of silver."

3: "A person who reports a second time/returning lay convert (shall earn) the same (amount)."

4: "A person who reports some one who speaks about the creed in the same place
= a lay believer (shall earn) 100 pieces of silver."

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2018.
     Links: 切支丹禁令 and 踏み絵

"Reihō-ji Memorandum"
普化宗 - FUKE-SHŪ

1722 - Kyōhō 7, 6th month

This is yet another important surviving document issued by the Reihō-ji in Edo in 1722.

     Source: Nakatuska, 1979, pp. 400-401.
     Short quotation in Koji Ruien 9, p.1114.


Early 18th CENTURY

Hanamachi fūzoku-zu emaki

Hanamachi fūzoku-zu emaki

A pair of komusō depicted in the 'Hanamachi fūzoku-zu emaki',
"Picture scroll of Manners and Customs on the Flower Avenue",
i.e. in the pleasure quarters - early 18th century
Artist unknown. The Tobacco and Salt Museum, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō

大津絵 - ŌTSU-E


Appearing from the Early 18th Century

Ōtsu-e style painting of a female komusō

Undated Ōtsu-e style folk art painting of a female komusō.
This popular motif may have been inspired by 'komusō' figures
like those in the 'Hanamachi fūzoku-zu emaki' scroll above.
Artist unknown. Waseda University Library, Tōkyō.

Read more about Ōtsu-e here: What is Ōtsu-e?


Kyochiku RyŌen Zenshi - legendary founder of Myōan-ji

Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji - legendary founder
of the temple Kyoreizan Myōan-ji in SE Kyōto
Statue in the main hall of Myōan-ji
Origin, artist and date unknown. In: Tomimori, 1979


虚霊山縁起並ぴに三虚霊譜瓣 - Kyorei-zan engi narabi ni sankyorei-fu ben

"Origin of the Myōan-ji and Tradition of the Three Honorable Music Pieces

Date: Kyōhō 20, 9th month - October, 1735


Among the many old Fuke Shakuhachi textual sources preserved at the Myōan-ji in Kyōto, one especially fascinating document is titled
Kyorei-zan engi narabi ni sankyorei-fu ben,


"Towards an Understanding of the Origin of the 'Empty Spirit' Mountain [i.e. the Kyōto Myōan-ji] and a Discourse about the Three Empty Spirit Music Pieces [i.e. Mukaiji, Kyorei & Kokū]".

Dated 1735 (Kyōhō 20, 9th month) this hand-scroll bears the signature of Kandō Ichiyū, 寛堂一宥, 18th abbot in the traditional Myōan-ji lineage, who died in 1738, Genbun 3, 2nd month, 23rd day (Nakatsuka Chikuzen, 1979, pp. 133 & 150).

- - -

Par. 2:
幽柄鷲峰 谷、尋常弄尺八為遊戯三味、

"The founder of the Kōkoku (Temple), Hottō Kokushi, travelled to Sung (China), and on the day of his return (to Japan), four Buddhist laymen of Chinese descent, Kokusaku, Sōjo, Risei and Hōfu, accompanied him to our country.

They were all highly cultured Chinese and with Fuke as their role model [lit. ancestor] and the shakuhachi as implement of the Buddhist Law [hōki], confining [or, secluding] themselves in the valley beneath the Eagle Peak [the mountain where Kōkoku-ji is located], they used to take pleasure in playing the shakuhachi as a way of practicing meditation [sammai].
Today, the site of their old common dwelling place [kyūseki] is called 'The Valley of Fuke'."

Par. 4:

"Kyochiku had [or, favoured] a speculative Buddhist verse
which says,

'When one has cut off Dualism,
the essence of the shakuhassun
transcends Past and Present.
That one sound blowing forth
of the True Reality of the Non-born
exceeds the deepest of friendships,
beyond limit.'"

Par. 5:

"Once Kyochiku stayed in Uji in Jōshū [mod. Kyōto Prefecture] he called himself 'Rōan the Hermit'.
By the end of his life he erected a five-levelled monument
[a 'gorintō' grave pagoda?] in the vicinity of Uji.
People call it 'The Grave of Fuke'."

Par. 6:

"As for Kyochiku's successor Myōfu, when he lived in the East of the capital [Kyōto Higashiyama], he established [lit.: build] the Empty Spirit Mountain Myōan Temple, and so the School [Jap.: ichi-ryū] of Fuke has been preserved till today."

- - -

     The full text is reprinted in Nakatsuka, 1979, pp. 133-135.
     Digitized by Iida Kyōrei c/o Koshūan website
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010, 2013.


om gorintō  om gorintō  om gorintō

Gorintō - The Shingon Buddhist five element pagoda
- is a very common type of grave monument in Japan.
The five "rings" represent the Five Buddhist Elements of the Universe:
Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Space.
The gorintō is believed to possess strong magical powers.



Ichigetsu-ji komusō honsoku dated 1740

Ichigetsu-ji komusō honsoku dated 1740
Matsudo City Museum, Chiba
Source / Link: Yatō Osamu's website

梵字 - BONJI

Mid-18th century?


representing Fudō Myōō, the 'Immovable Wisdom King'
of Tantric Buddhism, Shingon in Japan. Sanskrit Siddham calligraphy
(Jap.: 'bonji') by Zen master Hakuin Ekaku. Early 18th century

"At twenty-four he was at Eigenji in Takada, Echigo. His training had advanced to the spirituality of Oneness - the identity of subject and object.
One day in January, as he was sitting as usual throughout the night in Zazen samadhi, the bronze temple bell sounded to announce dawn. At this moment, all of a sudden, he had his awakening. It is recorded that he jumped up with joy."

     Shibayama Zenkei, 1975, reporting on the realization
     of Hakuin Ekaku, 1685-1768.


Mid-18th century? - TŌREI and the FLUTE WITHOUT HOLES:

Circle - calligraphy by Tōrei Enji

Circle - calligraphy by Tōrei Enji, 1721-1792

" - - - I received a small statue of Bodhidharma on the fifth day of the fifth month of 1746. While I was absorbed in seated meditation after having made prostrations [in front of the statue], I suddenly entered the ineffable melody of the flute without holes [mukuteki no myōchō}. - - - "

     Quotation from Tōrei Enji's commentary on the Ta-mo-to-lo
     ch'an ching
entitled 'Darumatara zenkyō settsu kōsho',
     first publ. in 1784. Trsl. by Michel Mohr, 2006, p. 228.
     Tōrei was the Dharma successor and biographer of Hakuin Ekaku.



The famous classical honkyoku Tsuru no Sugomori, 巣籠, "Cranes Resting in their Nest", is referred to in Japanese literature for the very first time, in the significant Bunraku and Kabuki versions of the play Kanadehon Chūshingura, "The Treasury of Loyal Retainers".

Appearing in Act 9 of the play, the specific quotation reads as follows,

- - -
「... ちょうど表には尺八を吹く虚無僧が来て、
- - -

" ... right in front of the house a 'komusō' comes up while blowing the shakuhachi, and he is performing the melody "Cranes Resting in their Nest"."

Read more about the famous 'Chūshingura' play here, f.i.:
Wikipedia about Kanadehon Chūshingura, in English
& Wikipedia about Kanadehon Chūshingura, in Japanese


Kakogawa Honzouy carrying a 'tengai'

The actor Matsumoto Koshirō II in the role as
Kakogawa Honzō in the Kabuki play 'Kanadehon Chūshingura".
Woodblock print by Torii Kiyoshige (c. 1724-1764)

Dated 1751 by shakuhachi historian Yamato Hōmei acc. to whom the first version of the document was fabricated.

Link to the relevant webpage of Mr. Yamato's


Original date acc. to the many versions of that "document": 1614 - "The Keichō (Period) Edict"

御入国 之節 被仰渡 候 御掟書
(ごにゅうこく のせつ おおせ わたされ そうろう おんおきてがき)


“Decree About Bestowing Entrance to the Different Provinces”

Do note: Acc. to Max Deeg the oldest "attested" version of a 'Keichō no okitegaki' is dated as late as 1792! Deeg, 2007, p. 27.

10 paragraph version of the Keichō no okitegaki

10 paragraph version of the 'Keichō no okitegaki'
Kokuritsu Kōbun Shokan/National Archives of Japan:
Naikaku Bunko Library/Cabinet Library, Japan
In Ueno, 2002, p. 209


(1) "The komusō fraternity is a religious group specifically designed to serve the needs of rōnin and samurai who wish to withdraw temporarily from the world.
The temples of the komusō do not pertain to the jurisdiction of the authorities in which they are located. Furthermore, they are reserved only for the samurai."

(3) "If a komusō chances upon a suspicious individual, he has the right to arrest him and deliver him to the local authorities."

(8) "When a samurai enters the temple's grounds carrying a sword dripping with blood [切血刃], he should first be interrogated by the temple's authorities, prior to be given refuge."

     Selected clauses from the earliest version of the 'Keichō
     no jōsho'. Trsl. by Takahashi Tone, 1990, pp. 55 &56.

     To study the Jap. text of two different versions of the
     'Keichō no jōsho', you may visit these pages:
     Wikipedia, Japan,
     & Iida Kyorei's shakuhachi webpages

     For complete translations and thorough studies of 6
     surviving versions of the 'Keichō jōsho', do consult
     Takahashi Tone's remarkable thesis on the subject (see the bibliography
     below). Although dated 1614 (Keichō 19), the document is a later
     fabrication, possibly first produced around 1751, acc. to Yamato Hōmei.
     See Riley Kelly Lee's thesis, chapter 3.5.2, for a
     full translation of a 21-article version of the okitegaki.



In some later, more comprehensive versions of the Keichō no okitegaki, this particular clause is included:

"A komusō should not carry arms during his takuhatsu [religious mendicancy]. He is only allowed to have a dagger shorter than one shaku [1 Jap. foot = 30.5 cm] and hide it in his clothing."

     Sources: Takahashi, 1990, p. 58; Kurihara, 1975, p. 137.



3 kabuki actors each carrying a 'tengai'

The kabuki actors Nakamura Kumetarō I, Onoe Kikugorō I
and Sanogawa Ichimatsu I each carrying a 'tengai'.
Woodblock print by Torii Kiyoshige (c. 1724-1764, active 1735-1754)



Komusō in 'Ehon Mitsu wagusa', 1758

Komusō in a street, wearing a rather "deep" 'tengai'
In: "Ehon mitsu wagusa', volume 2, 1758
by Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1750)
National Diet Library, Tōkyō



According to James H. Sanford, 1977, pp. 431-432 (basing himself on the writings of Koide Kōhei, 1970, Imaeda Aishin, 1962, and Nishiyama Matsunosuke, 1956):

" - - - Originally Myōanji was a sub-temple of Reihōji, but in 1767 it managed to have itself redesignated as a branch temple of Kōkokuji. In this way the Kyōto temple was able to connect itself directly to the lineage of the alleged first Japanese proponent of the Fuke sect, Hattō Kokushi, who was also the founder of Kōkokuji - although by the 1700s Kōkokuji had itself become a branch temple of the Myōshinji line of Rinzai Zen. - - - "

A comment:
The redesignation did in fact take place much earlier, namely in 1705 - judging from documents and information presented by Nakatsuka Chikuzen (1979, p. 256) and Yamaguchi Masayoshi (2005, pp. 144-145).


A popular woodblock print theme around the early 1770s:
The face of a komusō reflected in a mirror

c. 1770

A komusō's is face reflected in a mirror

By Isoda Koryūsai (1735-1790; active 1764-1788)

c. 1770

A komusō's is face reflected in a mirror

By Isoda Koryūsai (1735-1790; active 1764-1788)


A komusō's is face reflected in a mirror

By Suzuki Harunobu (c. 1725-1770)

c. 1770

A komusō's is face reflected in a mirror

By Isoda Koryūsai (1735-1790; active 1764-1788)

Link to the next page: Japan 7 • 1767-1883
Link to the previous page: Japan 5 • 1614-1664

List of references:

Christopher Blasdel & Kamisangō Yūkō:
     The Shakuhachi. A Manual for Learning.
     Ongaku no Tomosha, Tokyo, (1988) 2008.
     Available at
William Bramsen: Japanese Chronological Tables.
     Printed at the "Seishi Bunsha" office, Tokyo, 1880.
Sir Charles Eliot: Japanese Buddhism. London, 1935.
      3rd impression, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1964.
Andreas Gutzwiller: Die Shakuhachi der Kinko-Schule.
     Bärenreiter - Kassel, Basel, London, 1983.
Ikeda Juzan shū. Taizan-fu shūi. Tokyo, 1985.
Imaeda Aishin: Zenshū no rekishi.
     Shibundō, Tokyo, 1962.
Inagaki Ihaku, Izui Seizan & Takahashi Ryochiku, editors:
      Myōan Sanjūnana-sei Tanikita Muchiku-shū.
      Taizan-fu shūi. Tanikita Renzō, Kyoto, 1981.
Kamisangō Yūkō: "Shakuhachi gaku ryakushi:
     suizen no rikai no tame ni". In descriptive notes for
     "Suizen: Chikuho ryū ni miru fuke shakuhachi no keifu."
     Nippon Columbia LP recording KX 7001-3: pp. 9-22, Tokyo, 1974.
Kitahara Ikuya, Masumoto Misao & Matsuda Akira:
     The Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments: The Shakuhachi.
     Ongakusha, Tokyo, 1990.
Kiyū Shōran. Comp. by Kitamura Nobuyo (1784-1856), first publ. in 1830.
     Reprint by Seikōkan Shuppanbu, Tokyo, 1933.
Koide Kōhei: Nihon no dentō ongaku.
     Ongaku no tomosha, Tokyo;, 1970.
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: Section on Music.
Kondō Ichitarō & Charles S. Terry: The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji
     by Hokusai. Heibonsha, Tokyo, 1968.
Kurihara Kōta: Shakuhachi shikō. Chikuyūsha, Tokyo, 1918, 1975.
Riley Kelly Lee: Yearning for the Bell: A Study of
     Transmission in the Shakuhachi Honkyoku Tradition.
     PhD thesis, Univerity of Sidney, 1992.
     Available online at:
Gunnar Jinmei Linder:
     Deconstructing Tradition in Japanese Music. A Study of Shakuhachi,
     Historical Authenticity and Transmission of Tradition.
     Ph.d. dissertation, Department of Oriental Languages,
     Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, 2012. Dennis Eugene Lishka: Buddhist Wisdom and Its Expression as Art:
     The Dharma of the Zen Master Takuan.
     Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy thesis.
     University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1976. Purchasable at:
     UMI Dissertation Services - Cat. no.: 7708798.
Tomohiro Matsuda, ed., et al.:
     A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts.
     Nichiren Shoshu International Center, Tokyo, 1983.
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.
Michel Mohr: 'Imagining Indian Zen: Tōrei's Commentary on the
     Ta-mo-to-lo ch'an ching and the Rediscovery of
     Early Meditation Techniques during the Tokugawa Era.'
     In: Steven Heine & Dale S. Wright, eds.: Zen Classics.
     Formative Texts in the History of Zen Buddhism.
     Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York, 2006.
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.
     Azekura Shobō,, Tokyo, 1956.
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.
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
James H. Sanford: 'Shakuhachi Zen. The Fukeshū and Komusō.'
     In: Monumenta Nipponica XXXII, 4. Sophia University, Tokyo, 1977.
Shibayama Zenkei: A Flower Does Not Talk.
     Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc. 1970, 1975.
Shūhō Yokō, edited by Mori Hikotarō. Publ. by the Kōkoku-ji,
     Yura, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, 1938, 1981.
Daisetzu Teitarō Suzuki: Essays in Zen Buddhism I, II & III.
     Rider & Company, London, Vol. I: 1950, 1980. Vol. II: 1953, 1980.
     Vol. III: 1953, 1977.
Daisetzu Teitarō Suzuki: Zen and Japanese Culture.
     Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1970, 1973.
Takahashi Tone: Tozan-ryū: An Innovation of the
     Shakuhachi Tradition from Fuke-shū to Secularism.
     Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy thesis.
     The Florida State University, 1990. Purchasable at:
Tomimori Kyozan: Myōan Shakuhachi Tsūkai.
     Myōan Kyozan Bōdōyūkai, Tokyo, 1979. 
Paul Yachita Tsuchihashi: Japanese Chronologicqal Tables
     from 601 to 1872 A.D.
     Sophia University Press, Tokyo, 1952.
Tsuge Gen'ichi: 'The History of the Kyotaku.'
     In: Asian Music, Vol. VIII, 2. New York, 1977.
     Available online at:
Royall Tyler, trsl.: Selected Writings of Suzuki Shōsan.
     Cornell University, East Asia Papers, New York, 1977
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.
Yamaguchi Masayoshi: Shakuhachi-shi gaisetsu.
     Shuppan Geijutsu-sha, Tokyo, 2005.
Zengaku Jiten, ed. by Jimbo Nyoten & Andō Bun'ei,
     Shōbō Genzō Chūkai Zensho Kankōkai,
     Tokyo, 1962. Page 1501.
Reinhard Zöllner: Japanische Zeitrechnung.
     Iudicium Verlag, München, 2003.

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