The kyotaku is also known as japanese flute,
zenflute or long shakuhachi. It has a pentatonic
tuning with 5 holes like the shakuhachi, but
makes a deeper and more mellow sound than the
shakuhachi. The name shakuhachi is derived from
its length. It measures 1 shaku and 8 (Japanese=hachi)
sun which is about 55cm. Kyotakus come in different
lengths from about 2 shaku 2 sun (or 2.2) up
to about 3.1 , which is around 95 cm.
of flute came around 900 A.C. with buddhism
from China to Japan. It was first played by
the so called matress monks (they always carried
their straw mat with them). Around the 17th
century it started to be used by the so called
komuso monks: wandering begging monks who were
closer to zen buddhism.
In the old days the
kyotaku seems to have been more widely in use,
but was more and more replaced by the shakuhachi
towards the end of the 19th and the 20th century.
In the same process it changed from an instrument
that was mainly played for meditation (the so
called traditional honkyoku pieces) to an instrument
of more 'worldly' use - played with other instruments
and in different kinds of music although the
honkyoku pieces kept being played even then.
Tilopa's master Koku Nishimura and Koku sensei's
master Tani sensei were among the first to revive
the tradition of playing and making the kyotaku
in the old style again, also using the name
kyotaku. There are different translations possible
for this name, but most often it is translated
as the imitation sound of a bell, referring
to the legendary founder of the flute movement
Fuke who used a bell for begging.
is all about breathing. As in other meditation
techniques the breath is used as a point of
focus - only that in this case it is made more
audible through the flute. It is most important
to put yourself totally into the playing of
the flute so that the player can become a silent
listener/watcher and plays out of this stillpoint.
In this sense the learning is never at an end…