B I O G R A P H Y Murai Eigoro

When I was young, I was fond of Latin music and jazz. Frankly speaking, I did not like shakuhachi very much at that time. I was familiar with the sound, since one of my relatives played the shakuhachi, but I did not appreciate the spartan nature of its sound. Life is so interesting; because fate gave me chance to make my living as a shakuhachi maker. A shakuhachi generally measures 1 shaku and 8 sun in length (about 54 cm). Longer shakuhachi than this are normally called chokan (literally, long pipes).

There are two ways to make shakuhachi. One way is called jiari, which has paste dabbed inside the bore. (This paste is made of powder and lacquer.) The other type is called jinashi, which has no paste in it. Jiari is easer to tune, since we can make fine adjustment to by adding or removing this paste. When completed, it has stable sound. On the other hand, jinashi is much more difficult to tune and temper precisely. Jinashi shakuhachi are tuned by shaving off thin pieces of material from inside the bore of bamboo. It takes much experience to understand how to make a good shakuhachi in this way. If you remove just a little more than you should, you cannot recover it. The bamboo is wasted.

I have been a maker now for over 40 years. I make all kinds of shakuhachi but these days I am most fascinated by jinashi style flutes. Years ago, I came to appreciate their deep, earthy sound. When I listened closely, the delicate vibrations reminded me of natural wind. When I started my career, I used to make jiari measuring from 1 shaku and 2 sun up to 2 shaku 4 sun. This is a main stream of shakuhachi and I still do the same work now. But I have taken more interest in chokan and jinashi after seeing various types of shakuhachi and making shakuhachi for many years.

Every winter, I go visit a few select areas of Japan to harvest bamboo. This is a special time. I never know what treasures I will find.

Chikuei (Murai Eigoro)