Reminiscing on my first shakuhachi lesson


NYC, 2005, beginning of fall, I was to have my first shakuhachi lesson with Ron Nyogetsu in the West Village. I was living in Chinatown on Mott St. above Shin Dai Wong restaurant, so I hoofed it over to my lesson in under 30 minutes or so. My imagination pictured some kind of classroom with other shakuhachi students. Would they be nice? Would I get enough personal attention?

big wong restaurant nyc

As I walked up to the Dojo doors of Ki Sui An I paused, took a deep breath, and knocked… Ron Nyogetsu quickly answered, impishly smiling ear to ear in sweatpants and a T-shirt. I was instantly put at ease. I walked into his tiny Japanese styled studio to find that it was to be just me and him in there. He poured me some humble Hojicha tea, or rather pumped and squirted it out of this Japanese tea machine I had never seen the likes of before.

This photo is from the last concert I heard Ron play, 2008
This photo is from the last concert I heard Ron play, 2008

We talked but I was beyond shy back then so we soon got to playing. I can’t recall what we played, though it would’ve been a folk song. I remember that Ron was surprised that I had already familiarized my self with the common Kinko Ryu katakana notes. I think I left feeling good, but also staring down a stack of folk songs and wondering when I might get to learn a Honkyoku (not before first completing said folk songs and a long list of Sankyoku ensemble pieces).

I find it reassuring how so many things in life often begin like this, that is, very matter-of-fact, without drama, pomp, or fanfare, and with so many things outside of our illusion of control.

Still a green bamboo shoot, Josen


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