The Japanese bamboo flute, the shakuhachi, has a tradition many hundreds of years old. Crafted of madake bamboo, it is the premier wind instrument of Japanese traditional music and embodies many of the aesthetic notions of the traditional Japanese arts. These are expressed in its shape, color, bamboo quality, number of nodes and the natural abrasion and weathering that have arisen during the bamboo's growth period. The buyer of a new shakuhachi faces an array of choices: Price level, length, tonal character, maker's methodology, musical application, etc. In general, shakuhachi prices reflect the maker's perception of the overall quality of the instrument. More expensive instruments usually have more time in them, specifically to tune the bore and refine the tone color.
The art of shakuhachi making
The art of making shakuhachi is practiced by numerous master craftsmen all over Japan. Sometimes they harvest and dry the bamboo themselves, thus arriving at an individual bamboo preference which becomes part of their personal aesthetic stamp. After the bamboo is cured (which can take at least 4 years, and often much longer), the making process begins with cutting and shaping the root end of the raw piece, cutting the blowing edge, making the center joint and drilling the playing holes. The interior bore is shaped with great finesse and this shaping process coupled with the inherent acoustical characteristics of the bamboo will determine the tonal nature and responsiveness of the final instrument. Some of the higher priced flutes take years to make.
Japanshakuhachi provides players with the opportunity to spend time with Japanese-made shakuhachi flutes of select quality, with a view to purchasing an instrument. We make the process of auditioning and purchase as accessible as possible. We are unusual in having such an extensive choice of new and selected pre-owned Japanese shakuhachi in hand.
The makers represented here are all full-time professional master Japanese craftsmen and performers who have served traditional ten year long apprenticeships at an early age: their life is shakuhachi. They all craft flutes in the traditional manner and their shakuhachi are owned and played by many of the most accomplished shakuhachi players in the world. Japanshakuhachi sells only shakuhachi that can be considered as professional level instruments, irrespective of price level.
All flutes sold by Japanshakuhachi are sold at the same price as the makers charge their Japanese customers.
Choosing a shakuhachi
As one goes up the price scale, the buyer will encounter certain playing and tonal characteristics not necessarily available at lower price levels. These characteristics may or may not be of value to the player. Even the best players in the world have widely varying tastes in flutes, so look for the sound and playability that fit YOUR individual needs and tastes. Sometimes a buyer will find the characteristics they enjoy most in a lower price bracket. (Of course the converse can apply too!). Since each flute is different, within a maker's particular price group there will be different characteristics among flutes, albeit with a strong family resemblance. Please call if you want to have a conversation about your particular shakuhachi interest: Honkyoku, Sankyoku, Kinko, D§kyoku, Meian etc.
There is no substitute for having the flute in your hands to try. How the instrument 'fits' you is of paramount importance. Happily, most modern shakuhachi mouthpieces are made so that the flute can be 'voiced' easily by just about anyone. The weight of the flute, and hole placement/shape are important too.
It can be difficult to understand which flute relationship will have the most exciting 'open-ended' possibilities for your future playing. Many Japanese musicians hold on to the tenet that if you buy an excellent instrument, well above your present capabilities and understanding, the flute will draw you into its world and energize your playing in ways you cannot anticipate. Embouchure can benefit particularly and you can find yourself accessing new and impressive soundscapes. When auditioning, trust your gut instincts. Note which flute you keep returning to, more than any other. You may find you keep picking up a flute that isn't as perfect as others tuning-wise or intonation-wise, but it feels 'right' for you and you are excited by it. Gut connection and excitement can come at any price level and any experience level and can be trusted.
Buy the best, decent flute that fits you and that you can afford, then forget about yearning for anything 'better'. No amount of money you put into a flute purchase can ever compete with years of focused practice.
Auditioning a shakuhachi
All shakuhachi shown on this website can be sent out for a four day audition period to prospective buyers in the USA and in other countries. The prospective buyer is responsible for maintaining the good condition of the flute during audition. All necessary repairs and/or depreciation of the value of the flute incurred as a result of damage during auditioning are the financial responsibility of the prospective buyer. Shakuhachi are usually sent out by insured USPS Mail. Once they arrive at your address they can be kept for up to four days before purchase or return. Flutes returned within the USA must also be fully insured. I want to enable players to find a flute to really fall in love with, so I am flexible in terms of the number of flutes I can send out at a time. Sometimes I have flutes in stock which are not shown on the website...please enquire.
Customers outside the USA
For customers outside the USA, prepayment in US dollars is necessary (via bank transfer) before flutes can be shipped out for audition. Shipping/customs and money transfer costs both ways are the responsibility of the auditioner.
Please let me know which country you are enquiring from. Shipping shakuhachi to certain locations is sometimes impossible.
The customer can audition for four days after receipt of the flute. A full refund (minus any shipping, customs, currency exchange charges or bank transfer charges) will be made to the customer if the flute is returned to my address in the USA in original condition. If you choose not to buy, the flute must be sent on its way back to me immediately after or during the four day audition period, otherwise the sale will become final.
Payment can be made by personal cheque (made payable to David Sawyer), bank transfer, or by credit card through Paypal. If you are new to Paypal it's fairly simple to sign up with them and complete your purchase. I share the Paypal costs with the customer. Full payment is due as soon as your intention to purchase a particular shakuhachi is established.
Conditions of sale
I try to give as much time as necessary for you to choose a flute, so once a purchase is made, the sale is final. There are no warranties attached to any sale. The tuning, playability, fit, and appearance of the flute are 'as is'. You, the auditioner/buyer, not the vendor nor the maker, are responsible for the good condition of the shakuhachi at any time during audition or after purchase. If the instrument is damaged at any time under audition or under your ownership, the responsibility is yours alone. For flute care please follow this link