1.1 Concepts and problems with insider/outsider paradigms

The dichotomy of the insider and the outsider is germane to the present study because of the importance given it by the members of the shakuhachi tradition (see below p.15). Concepts of insider and outsider have also influenced how that tradition has been and is being transmitted, in ways that will be described below. Consequently, a description of the shakuhachi tradition might best begin with a discussion of the concept of insider/outsider.

The usefulness of the distinctions of insider and outsider in a description of the tradition of the shakuhachi depends in part on the extent to which one can clearly define ‘being a member of the shakuhachi tradition’ and ‘not being a member of the shakuhachi tradition’, that is, how clearly one can define ‘insider’ and the ‘outsider’ in this context. Even though differentiations between ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ in the ethnographic literature have in many cases been influenced by particular political and cultural agendas and have in recent years come under increasing scrutiny from ethnomusicologists and ethnologists, it is important to the present study to evolve some kind of concept of membership to the shakuhachi tradition.

The concept of insider/outsider presents a number of problems in the context of writing about any musical tradition or culture or people. A typical paradigm which has been adopted by many ethnographers and ethnomusicologists until recently consists of the ‘outsider’ writer who has ‘inside’ information about a group of people he or she is studying. Within this research paradigm, the researcher locates him/herself in the following ways: he/she writes to a readership who has no ‘inside’ knowledge; obtains ‘inside’ knowledge from the people who are, of course, ‘insiders’ to their tradition; invests in him/herself the authority to write about the people being studied partly by claiming ‘outsider objectiveness’ (which the people under scrutiny, it is assumed, do not have) and partly because of the ‘inside’ information the writer possesses but the reader does not. The researcher/writer may even believe that his/her knowledge gives him/her the right to a kind of authority or power over the people or tradition that he/she is studying (see Said 1978:3,34).

What may not be acknowledged or even recognized is that the writer, the act of researching, the act of writing about the research and the resultant writings, all operate within a larger cultural and political context in which the writer and his or her readers become the ‘real insiders’ to the single hierarchically superior culture (the Western literate one), with the people being researched forever relegated to being ‘outsiders’ to that superior culture (see Crapanzano 1986:51-76). Another problem with this type of paradigm is that it treats the peoples, culture, or musical tradition being studied as objects who have little interaction with the rest of the world or with the writer, who operate outside of the context of time and change. As Clifford (1986:10, 18) has pointed out, such peoples, cultures or traditions do not exist. The weaknesses of this kind of writing and possible strategies in which they can be overcome, and other related issues are discussed in Writing Cultures (Clifford and Marcus ed.:1986) and elsewhere.

1.2 Insiders and outsiders to the shakuhachi tradition

It remains a fact, however, that whatever the problematics of insider/outsider definitions in wider ethnographs, the concept of the ‘insider’ versus the ‘outsider’ plays a pervasive role within the shakuhachi tradition. It is likely that the primary motivation many shakuhachi players in Japan have in learning to play the instrument and in continuing to be active in the tradition is the desire to identify with and be loyal to other members of the tradition as insiders (see Nakane 1970; Dore 1958:387; Vogel 1968:147-158).

The definition of ‘insider’ held by many shakuhachi players would most likely begin with their own ethnic group (Japanese) (cf. the beliefs of Inoue, a prominent member of the shakuhachi tradition, pp.288291). The opinion seemingly shared by many Japanese, including shakuhachi players, is that in the case of the shakuhachi, and in fact all things related to Japanese culture, a prerequisite to being an ‘insider’ is to be born a Japanese. A non-Japanese is an ‘outsider’. Gaijin () is the most commonly used word in Japan for any non-Japanese, and is commonly translated by the English word, foreigner. The two Chinese ideographs which make up the word gaijin literally mean ‘outside’ and ‘person’.

The word ‘foreigner’ does not accurately convey the meaning of the word gaijin. There can be relative degrees of ‘foreigness’; a person can be seen as more or less foreign to one’s own group. This in turn implies a potential to become more or less foreign in changing circumstances. In contrast, the words ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ are, like black and white, absolute opposites allowing no degree of relativity. One is either inside or outside. Since one is a Japanese only if born a Japanese, people who are gaijin are by definition complete and permanent outsiders. Gaijin shakuhachi players are likewise never ‘insiders’ to the shakuhachi tradition in the minds of many Japanese. These absolute definitions of insider and outsider are rejected in this thesis, and are replaced with less ethnocentric definitions presented below.


It should be stressed that there are always exceptions to the views described above, which like all writing, can never present nor represent reality, but at best evoke it (see Tyler 1986:122-140). There are Japanese who do not subscribe to the above ‘insider/outsider’ differentiation. Likewise, such differentiations are by no means a uniquely Japanese trait. Many members of western literate cultures have always seen and continue to see themselves as the dominant world culture, politically, economically and socially.

1.3 Definitions of insiders and outsiders to the shakuhachi tradition

For the purpose of this discussion, I will provisionally define a shakuhachi ‘insider’ by three criteria. A member of the shakuhachi tradition is one who: 1)actively participates in the tradition and has a significant role in shaping the way the tradition is transmitted, and; 2)has gained some kind of recognition of doing so within the tradition, and finally; 3)identifies him or herself with the tradition as an ‘insider’. Of the three criteria, the first is given the most weight; the doing is the being.

‘Who actively participates’ needs to be further defined. The most obvious meaning would be one who plays the instrument. There is the problem, however, of what the exact meaning of ‘to play’ is. One who has had several years of casual lessons on the instrument does not ‘play’ the instrument in the same way as one who has performed professionally for most of his1 adult life.

1. Attempts have been made to write this thesis in as non-sexist language as possible. The shakuhachi tradition in Japan is, however, almost totally a male domain, due to historical and social determinants. Even though these determinants do not operate outside Japan, in this thesis in general, the male gender will be used.

On the other hand, according to the above definition, any enthusiastic beginner shakuhachi student, Japanese or non-Japanese, could be considered an ‘insider’, by actively and regularly practicing the instrument, by being recognized as a ‘beginner’ and by identifying with his new activity. The idea that the beginner occupies an important position within a tradition is not unique to the shakuhachi, being common throughout much of Japanese traditional culture. The term ‘beginner’s mind’ (, shoshin) is commonly used to describe the ‘innocence of the first inquiry’, a state of mind that is, in fact, desirable to maintain, however advanced one might become through years of practice: thus the aptly named book Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind (Suzuki:1970).

If the only method of actively participating in the tradition is to perform the instrument, where does this put the shakuhachi scholar? Is the beginner performer more of an insider than a scholar who has studied in depth various aspects of the tradition for decades but who has never actually played the instrument? Such a scholar participates actively in the tradition, albeit in ways other than performing the instrument. A scholar whose major areas of research include some aspect of the instrument, by actively researching the instrument and by being recognized as a shakuhachi scholar by insiders to the tradition, will therefore be regarded an insider in this thesis, especially if the scholar considers him or herself to be one.

There is also the question of the non-performing ‘patron’ of the shakuhachi tradition, who through substantial financial and other contributions greatly affects the tradition and its transmission. Because such patronage often has a decisive role in determining which pieces, performers and/or lineages succeed in terms of transmission from generation to generation, certain patrons in the context of this thesis will be regarded as insiders.

Thus, ‘one who actively participates’ is one who is engaged in at least one of the following three areas: 1)performing and teaching; 2)scholarship; and 3)patronage. All three methods of active participation can lead to a significant role in shaping the tradition. An insider to the tradition then is one who actively participates in one or more of the above methods and fits the second and third criteria of the original definition, that is, being recognized as an insider and identifying oneself as such.

Conversely, an ‘outsider’ will be defined as one who does not actively participate in the tradition, is not recognized as an insider by others in the tradition, and/or does not identify with the tradition. For example, one who may have studied the instrument in the past but stopped doing so while still a beginner, that is, before receiving any sort of license or other recognition, would be an ‘outsider’. He would no longer be actively participating in the tradition. Furthermore, he would have no recognition within the tradition, and also would probably not consider himself a member of the tradition either. He would thus fail to meet all three of the criteria.

1.3.1 Layers of insiders within the shakuhachi tradition

The above definitions outline only a single, gross differentiation between the shakuhachi insider and the outsider. The shakuhachi tradition is not as simple as the single ‘us/ them’ dichotomy implied by the definitions. To be more precise, hierarchies and layers of ‘insiderness’ can be readily seen operating within the shakuhachi tradition. For example, most shakuhachi players consider themselves to be insiders not only to the shakuhachi tradition as a whole, but also to smaller, more exclusive parts of that tradition, such as the ryû (, sect or school) or a similar organization, or an even smaller group, comprised only of students of a single teacher (see Inoue’s ideology, pp.288291). For the past century, most of the shakuhachi tradition has been transmitted within the context of the ryû, at least in terms of numbers of performers. With a primary meaning of “current, stream, flow”, the word ryû also has the meanings of “style, fashion, type, form, manner; school, system; class, order, rate, rank, grade” (Nelson 1974:553). The character is frequently used in conjunction with another ideograph, ha (, group party, clique; faction, sect, school) to form the word ryûha (), translated as “school of thought; a system” (Nelson 1974:545; 553-554).

The institution of the ryûha as it exists today is relatively new in the shakuhachi tradition, dating for the most part from the end of the 19th century. The tendency towards forming factions or groups, however, can be seen amongst shakuhachi players from at least the early 18th century. The Kyotaku denki kokujikai (see below, pp.3639) written in 1795, lists numerous ha within the Fuke shû which existed throughout Japan. Since the beginning of this century, most shakuhachi players belong to a ryû or similar organization, the biggest by far being Tozan ryû (). Since the 1980s, there has been a trend away from the larger ryû, with a number of independent performers gaining prominence. A number of factors have contributed to this, such as the greater use of staff notation in place of ryû specific notation (see Lee 1988), and the trend of many performers to view their instrument no differently from western musical instruments, that is, not belonging to any one particular ryû. Nonetheless, even in the 1990s, one of the first questions asked when one shakuhachi player meets another is to what ryû does one belong, usually followed by the question, who is one’s teacher.

1.3.2 Location of author within the shakuhachi tradition

It is necessary to locate the author of this thesis within the shakuhachi tradition in terms of the above definitions and descriptions. That location partially determines the validity of this thesis, and helps to answer the question, how entitled am I to write about the shakuhachi tradition.

Trimillos has addressed the issue of entitlement and other related issues from his unique perspective as an ethnomusicologist, a member of a minority culture (American-born Filipino) and a non-native performer (non-Japanese koto player). Though still an “unresolved issue”, he implies that entitlement is related to one’s sense of cultural identity and commitment. Both, according to Trimillos, are unavoidably stronger in a person who is born into a particular culture than in one who has adopted that culture (Trimillos 1990:9-11).

However true the latter statement may be, differentiations between insiders and outsiders that are determined primarily by birth implies a distinction that is too absolute to reflect reality accurately. For example, the “individual diversity” which Ryan finds in all Australian music groups (Ryan 1988-1989:15) certainly exists in the shakuhachi tradition as well, the homogeneity of the Japanese notwithstanding. Few ‘insiders’ of the shakuhachi tradition are ‘inside’ to exactly the same degree, despite the absolute distinctions implied in the words inside and outside, as discussed above.

A detailed description of the layer of ‘insiderness’ to which I belong is as follows. I became associated with Tozan ryû when I began shakuhachi lessons in 1971 with a teacher of that ryû, Hoshida Ichizan II (). I officially became a member of that ryû after being awarded ‘beginners rank’. The position and status of my ‘insiderness’ could be categorized as being inside the shakuhachi tradition as a member of Tozan ryû, inside Tozan ryû as a student of Hoshida and inside the ranks of Hoshida’s students as a beginner. Being a student of Hoshida, even as a beginner, contributed slightly to my rank as insider because Hoshida was one of the higher ranking teachers of Tozan ryû in the Kansai district.

About eight months after beginning shakuhachi lessons, I changed teachers, having been introduced by a fellow shakuhachi player to a teacher who taught classical or koten honkyoku, a genre of music not in the Tozan ryû repertoire. The new teacher, Sakai Chikuho II (), was at that time the iemoto or head of Chikuho ryû.

By changing teachers, I also changed my position as an insider within the shakuhachi tradition. First of all, though still an insider to the tradition as a whole, I became an outsider to Tozan ryû, no longer a member of the largest fraternity of shakuhachi players in Japan. On the other hand, by becoming the student of the son of the founder of Chikuho ryû and its present head, the relative level of my ‘insiderness’ within my new ryû increased compared to the level I had had within Tozan ryû. By studying with a teacher of a lineage possessing classical honkyoku, I also became an insider to that part of the tradition, an important consideration even in the minds of many members of Tozan ryû, who are conscious of being outsiders to that most traditional genre of music in the shakuhachi tradition.

In the early 1980s, after Chikuho II became ill and no longer taught the shakuhachi, I began taking lessons from Yokoyama Katsuya. As with Chikuho II, Yokoyama is also the head of a shakuhachi organization, Chikushinkai (, Spirit of Bamboo Group). Yokoyama’s father was a relatively well-known figure in Kinko ryû which, unlike Chikuho ryû and Tozan ryû, is not a single organization with one iemoto, but rather is a school (as in a ‘school of art’) or style, delineated by a notation system and repertoire as transmitted by Kurosawa Kinko I and his students. Though not called ryû, Chikushinkai functions as one.2

2. There is room for argument with Gutzwiller’s assertion (1983:242) that only two branches of Kinko ryû (one of which being the branch of Gutzwiller’s teacher) perform all of the functions of a ryû, that is “making of instruments, teaching, organization of concerts, printing and publishing of its music, etc.” Chikushinkai does all of the above except for publishing its own music. This last function loses its importance when the predominately oral means of transmission employed by Yokoyama and his teacher Watazumi is considered.

Membership in the Chikushinkai is not given the importance of membership in Tozan or Chikuho ryû, or even one of the bigger Kinko ryû branches such as Chikuyûsha (). Being a student of Yokoyama or one of his students is what is stressed. This is in part because Yokoyama’s repertoire originates from three distinct sources, Kinko ryû through his father, Myôan honkyoku as uniquely transmitted by Watazumi dôso and what is known as Azuma ryû (), as espoused by Fukuda Randô (), Yokoyama’s third teacher. Yokoyama’s teaching and performing repertoire, which also contains a high percentage of modern compositions not affiliated with any ryû, exemplifies the ecletic nature of many of the shakuhachi performers active from the 1970s. With Yokoyama and others a trend towards the reduction in the numbers of layers and hierarchy of ‘insiderness’ in the shakuhachi tradition can be observed. The layer of insider/outsider created by the ryû and a hierarchy based on the status of oneself and one’s teacher within the context of a ryû is being rejected by some insiders to the shakuhachi tradition for a more universal hierarchy based in part upon musicianship as defined in western terms.

Despite the myriad of problems with the types of differentiations arising from the dichotomy of insider/outsider, that dichotomy is relevent to the present study due to the importance given it by the members of the shakuhachi tradition. In this study, an ethnocentric definition of the concepts of insider/outsider as described above will be replaced by definitions that attempt to be more universally applicable.

This chapter presented a discussion of the concepts of the insider and the outsider. It described some of the problems which may arise with the use of these concepts, especially in the researching and writing of ethnographic studies. The pervasiveness and manner with which the insider/outsider dichotomy exist in Japanese culture in general and in the shakuhachi tradition in particular were discussed. Finally, definitions and clarification of the concepts of insider and outsider to the shakuhachi tradition as they will be adopted for this thesis were presented. Chapter two surveys the literature of the shakuhachi tradition within four categories relating to transmission processes, which are determined by the concepts of insider and outsider.