My New and Final Shakuhachi Signature


I started making bamboo flutes around the age of 16 (as of this writing I’ll be turning 38 on Dec. 31st). Over the years, I’ve had different signatures for my work. Traditionally, shakuhachi are signed with a yaki-in 焼印 or hot ‘branding iron’, typically on the right side of the rear thumbhole (sometimes called a hanko in the Western shakuhachi communities).

I was trying to find a new signature before my birthday with the intention of it being my final one. In my search, I returned to the Kanji for bamboo (Také or Chiku 竹 in Nihongo or Japanese). Below is the Kanji as it’s evolved through time.

Notice that there’s always two characters side by side which represents two stalks of bamboo, and implying many more no doubt. This is because bamboo always grows in clusters. However, when I dig the bamboo up to make a shakuhachi it becomes singular. Similarly, I tried ‘harvesting’ just one of the characters/stalks from the last kanji on the bottom, in the image above.

Josen shakuhachi

When I did this I was pleasantly surprised. Do you see the J? I extended the bottom stroke a bit more which is common with other calligraphy styles. It also brings to mind the root of the bamboo budding a new shoot. However, there’s a deeper meaning behind only having one of the two characters which make up this Kanji, which is, it’s only when two or more of my shakuhachi come together do we hear the true sound of bamboo, which is variety, and the Kanji is completed again.

PS I’ll update this with an actual photo of the brand on the first shakuhachi I’ll make here in my new home of Spain France. Until then, RO on friends, J


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