Yoshizen's Blog

Zen Sound of Fuke Shakuhach

There was a funny chain of connections.  It was started a word “Kuwa-no-mi” 

(桑の実 / Mulberry) in a post by a prolific blogger Tokyobling, in which he talked about it

with the photo of tree in Tokyo. —– I’ve put a comment  “80% of Japanese may not 

know what the Mulberry tree is, still 99% of them knows the Word

 “Kuwa-no-mi” because of a song “Aka-tombo” ( 赤とんぼ/ Red-Dragonfly) which

was dubbed as the Second National Anthem of Japan.


May be with my emotional attachment to this song which strikes Japanese psyche and

my associated memory, (—– Aka-tombo only appears on the end of summer which

meant us the end chapter of all the sweet and bitter memory in that summer

(and our youth) —– (you must remember, when you were young and small, how one

summer was long and eventful which was engraved deep into your subconsciousness =

You know, we only had 10 or so summers in the whole life to grow into an adulthood !)

And I’m very conscious about this Mulberry tree and the distinct taste of its berry.

So that, since when I accidentally found this tree in a town called Hitchin, I made my

annual ritual to visit there every year and eat the berry, until I found the another tree

in south London.       (I talked about this tree in one of my post.)


As an answer to my comment, Tokyobling sent me a link for a song-video of

Aka-tombo in Youtube.

—–> while listening a song, I found another Japanese old folk-song as well, which was

accompanied by a traditional Japanese bamboo wind-instrument called Shakuhach (尺八).

—–> as usual in Youtube, many related or similar kind are listed next by next.

—–> and I stumbled this viz, which plays “Fuke Shakuhachi” (普化尺八)


Fuke-shu (普化宗) is in fact, one of the Zen sect unique to Japan, and

there is a temple called “Fuke-dera” (普化寺) in south of Kyoto.

(I hope it still exist though, many years ago, it was said only 9 monks left

but in this viz the monk was from Mukai-ji temple, there might be more monks in

another temple —– incidentally, why he is hiding his face is a symbol of  No-Self )

(Composer Toru Takemitsu’s “November Steps” is the most famous adaptation of

this sound to Contemporary music.  It’s worthwhile to listen ! )

—– This sect is using the sound of Shakuhach to teach what the

Dharma, and the Enlightenment is.


But in practice, just to make a sound out of this instrument is hard enough because,

there is not much structure to make sound = one end of bamboo was just cut in angle

and having small notch to blow (that all 🙂 )= it is the matter of the way to blow in

certain angle.  —– ( for me it wasn’t too difficult as I had an experience to blow sound

out of Peruvian Quena Flute which got somewhat similar structure)    Still to play

good sound, let alone to master Kaza-iki etc. must takes 10,20 years of practice.

And THE result is —– just as it is = the sound you can hear but just the sounds,

nothing more than the sound neither Bamboo changed to the Gold.  😀

= still, if it is good, it’s good and in deed, it shows (or sounds) the Dharma, 

—– or you may hear it, as a sound of the nature or its reflections.


This is in deed, touches the hardest part of the Zen teachings and the deepest

human psyche which could interact or communicate with the Dharma.

(I wouldn’t imply, Dharma would talk to you though —– we might only feel, passively. 🙂 )

For this, please read those posts;   [Harmony in Dharma] / [Aaaaaa~~~~~]


Still some of you might say, So what ? —–

Nice tone which sound no apparent pattern or rhythm, hence it refuses

our mediocre comprehension, and its high tone makes our perception

sunk deep into the spiritual state (or totally open minded blank state).


I met quite few professional Shakuhach players as most of Japanese traditional music

regularly needs to have them.  Of cause, a player, able to play and able to make

beautiful sound doesn’t needed to be an enlightened Zen Buddhist, let alone Fuke monk.

And not necessary beautiful sound makes the people to get enlightenment.


Yet still, to a person who actively seek an enlightenment, start from making

Shakuhach out of raw bamboo by himself, and try to achieve the best sound,

is the typical (endless, repeated) Zen practice.

—–> on the end, no wonder, the one could achieve and reaches to the state

of Ichijo = player, bamboo pipe, the air, the sound, all become one = as what

the Dharma is.    Still, this is nothing but the state of blankness, Mushin

= the mind was sublimated into infinite Void.


—– Because it is blank or Void, there isn’t much of use, hence it is a Dog shit.

And only there is a blank, what left in your life is, Just carry on, be who you are.

(expecting anything else is nothing but one’s Greed and Pretentious Ego and it is nothing but

a Delusion.   Since, Void will not hold anything in it —– though, Mahayana

understanding is, because of it is Void, everything is in, since it would make no difference

at all = So, your life is your only life.)

Never mind, as long as the sound is good, it’s good.   




Posted in Awareness, Buddhism, Dharma, Evolution of Brain, Mind, Photography, Spirituality, Subconsciousness, Zen by yoshizen on August 19, 2010

Every year, in the middle of August, there will be my annual event to go to see the Mulberry tree

and eat its berry, as one of my special ritual. ( After this, it will be the Blackberry’s season  🙂  )

There is a Japanese song called ” Aka-Tonbo ” ( Red Dragonfly, and its appearance heralding the coming

Autumn  /  end of the summer) —— it was dubbed as the second Japanese National Anthem.

Some Japanese expatriate would tear when they sung this, even though they may not necessary ever

eaten this berry in their life.

Song is about a childhood memory,  when he (she) was piggy-backed and  saw  the red evening sky,

the flying  Aka-Tonboand the memory of picking the Mulberry. ——– (sob  sob)

My childhood memory itself was nothing like in the song,  still when ever I saw this Mulberry tree

my thought just goes to this song.   ” This is the Mulberry of  Aka-Tonbo song ” ——– still,  it is

almost a mystery, why this Mulberry having such significance and  Aka-Tonbo song  makes the

Japanese cry ——- though, it is a touchy subject I never dare to ask others ” Why you cry ? ”


I can describe,  the size and how its berry looks like (it looks similar to Blackberry —– if  you click

the photo and enlarge it twice, it will be about 80% of the life-size) though I can’t tell what is the taste

and how it is distinctive.  Unlike the light or sound, there is no chart to plot or even measure its

distinctiveness.  (We only able to measure the strength of each taste,  very strong to very weak.

But we even don’t know what sort of difference or similarity  between the taste of apple and the grape)

So that, we can not objectively describe or think about the taste— Only able to detect, it’s there or not.


Among the sensory stimuli, the visual signal is the most indirect stimulus.  It detects the light

reflected on the surface of the object and the signal has to be reconfigured as a pattern in the brain

—– otherwise its  signal / stimulus wouldn’t have any effect as a stimulus,  as if it is not existing.

In comparison, sound signal stimulates  the hearing nerve direct.  As long as it’s there you can not escape.

But the sound is a by-product of something vibrating, and transmitted through the air, if we block

the air path we can annihilate its existence.

Though, taste and the smell is the direct chemical effects created by the particular monocle of

the material or ingredient, so the monocle itself needs to touches the nerve.

Second direct sensory are the touch feeling.   It will be detected by the direct touch but needs to feel

and assess.  So that the same stimuli of such as touching a wire-brush —— very slight ticklish feeling

to itchy feeling and if it was pressed too hard it is painful —— its dependent to the interpretation.

Some people feel even pleasure by piecing the skin by needle. (I wonder what sort of process there ?)

The more direct the stimulus,  its effect goes deep straight, even hit one’s physiology straight, since it

by-passing the process of the brain,  and evoke the subconscious reaction, revive the latent

memory and hit the emotion direct, we can not control —— sob !

When a monocular of chemical which is unique to the Mulberry, touches our taste-bud, specific

signal was transmitted from there (scientists still don’t know the mechanism, is it the pattern of pulses ?

if it was the case, can computer mimic the pattern and recreate the same sensation of taste ?

or even create the similar but slightly different pattern hence new taste ? ? ? ) we perceive specific

sensation and  as its sensation is unique, it will be strongly associated with its particular

situation —— hence, its revive the strong memory and the associated emotion.

Yet, me to go and pick Mulberry is not only for indulging child memory,  but I rather feel a kind of duty

to remember  our humble origin.  We human being came from the savannah  as the hunter gatherer.

We survived while picking fruits, plant roots, sea-shell etc etc —– thanks to the nature and

ultimately the energy-source, the Sun. ——- (Fruits comes from the tree, not from  Tesco 😀  )

We never created foods.  We are just a sucker of the nature and a part of the food chain.

Especially to be a Buddhist, we shouldn’t forget that fundamentally  we are the  bikku (beggar ).

So, thanks to a tree in a park, I can pick this Mulberry, free of charge.

( Though, I’m not alone.  It seems I’m competing with another picker and the Birds —— early Birds got

better chance and upper hand / upper wing  to reach top of branch.  I got only few left over.  Sob  😀  )


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