This symbol is called a hanko
which is stamped near the back hole of the shakuhachi and identifies
the maker of the flute. My hanko includes two Japanese
characters: the upper Ku translates as "emptiness
or void"; the lower Setsu or fushi is
"the joint that divides the bamboo".
or Chieh, in Chinese, comes from the ancient Chinese oracle,
The I Ching (Hexagram
#60: Chieh / Limitation), which I consulted after making my
very first shakuhachi in 1970. [See Richard Wilhelm, tr., The
I Ching / Book of Changes (Princeton University Press,
Bollingen Series XIX, 1950) p. 231].
The wooden hanko pictured above
was a gift from my friend Robbie
Hanna Anderman. It was made by Solar
Tai Hei is Japanese
for "Pacific" as in Pacific Ocean or, in this case Tai
Hei Ogawa, the Pacific Rim. (It also means "Great Peace").
I work with shakuhachi on both sides of the Rim, living
in the coastal mountains about 10 miles northeast of Willits,
a small town in northern California about an hour's drive from
the Pacific coast. My workshop
in Japan is located in
the tiny farming village of Kitagawa, Tokushima Prefecture on
Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands. Shuttling
between two spots on the "Ring of Fire" we get to
experience an earthquake or two on a regular basis.
View of the Willits Valley from near
my workshop. (Photo by Anna Levenson)
The name Shakuhachi
is a corruption of I Shaku Ha Sun which is derived
from an ancient Japanese measuring system and literally means
"1.8 feet", (54.5 cm.) the length of the classical flute
in the key of D. A shaku is just shy of one foot and is
divided into 10 equal parts, each called a sun. "I"
is short of ichi or "one" in Japanese;
"Ha" is short of hachi or "eight".
Hence, I Shaku Ha Sun = 1 shaku + 8 sun which,
over time, became shortened toshakuhachi. Not very romantic!
Tai Hei Shakuhachi