International Shakuhachi Society Logo

The International Shakuhachi Society

Azuma no Kyoku (Kinko Ryu)

吾妻の曲

This is a piece of genre Koten from the Kinko Ryû - 琴古流 School.

History (John Singer):

During the Edo period, Hirosaki City, located in Aomori Prefecture, used to be a castle town of Tsugaru-Han. This town was a center for Shakuhachi "Koten" Honkyoku of the Kinpu Ryu. "Azuma No Kyoku" was a representative piece of the Nezasa-Ha. Later, Yoshida Iccho re-arranged this piece and adopted it as a Kinko Ryu Honkyoku. It is noted for its beautiful flowing melody.

Azuma no Kyoku (Kinko Ryu) appears on the following albums

AlbumShakuhachiKotoShamisen
Complete Collection of Honkyoku from the Kinko School - Vol 2 - Disc 4 Aoki Reibo II


Heart of Zen - Simplicity Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin

Japan - Splendour of the Shakuhachi Yonemura Reisho

    This is said to be one of the playful works in the shakuhachi honkyoku repertoire. Rather than being used in religious training as most honkyoku pieces originally were, it is a playful piece. Long ago the wandering komuso shakuhachi players performed this light, playful piece which could be enjoyed by the masses. The word azuma in the title means the people of eastern Japan, and it expresses the longing for the east by the people of western Japan. Another explanation is that the melody is taken from the kagura (a type of religious music) work called Azuma Koto, but it is not clear as to which explanation is valid.

    The structure of the piece is divided into three parts: melody in the low register, melody in the high register, and a short ending.

Kinko Ryu Honkyoku - 8 Aoki Reibo II

Kyoto Spirit Kurahashi Yodo II

    Representative of a lighter more playful form of honkyoku sometimes referred to as "gikyoku," this piece expresses the longing of a wanderer for his home in the east (Azuma).

Shakuhachi Koten Honkyoku Shusei - 2 Aoki Reibo II


Solstice Spirit James Nyoraku 如楽 Schlefer

    When a komuso played before a large crowd, he would sometimes perform this piece. Political hostages were often detained in Azuma, which is perhaps why the music is said to represent the loneliness of a samurai who is far from his family and home.

Sui Zen - Blowing Meditation on the Shakuhachi - 04 Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin

    This piece, which is also a gikyoku, or lighter nonreligious piece that conveys the longing of a samurai who was far from his family. The name Azuma No Kyoku or Melody of Azuma has several possible origins. Azuma means the East, especially the area around what is now Tokyo, so the name can be explained as referring to the player's longing for a person and / or place from which he has been separated. Relocation of samurai as political hostages or for military reasons was a common practice.

    Azuma is also related to the older word, tsuma, which means "wife," so the name could mean "Song of my Wife."

    There is a legend that the Azuma area of Japan got its name when Yamato Takeru, a semi-mythical fourth- or fifth-century warlord from the Nara area conquered the "barbarians" living in the area that is now Tokyo. He took his warriors across Tokyo Bay by boat from the Miura Peninsula to the Boso Peninsula. A storm arose as they were crossing the bay, and the boats began to founder. His wife, Ototachi Banaji, who accompanied him, believed the sea gods desired a sacrifice, and nobly volunteered. She jumped into the water, and disappeared; the storm ceased. After conquering the area, he stood upon a mountain in Hakane, looked down over the bay, and said, "There lies my wife." After that, the area came to be known as Azuma. This story adds special poignancy to this music.

    However, this piece comes from Itchoken Temple in the west, rather than from the eastern part of Japan. Although not originally a Kinko piece, it is often performed today by Kinko-style players, so its present form incorporates many Kinko school techniques, including a drop and rise in pitch after meri notes.

    A less romantic theory of the origin of the name is that the piece was adapted from a melody for the higashigoto, or Eastern koto, a kind of wagon used in kagura.


Traditional Music For Two Shakuhachi Juerg Fuyuzui Zurmuehle

Wind in the Reeds Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin

    This honkyoku is more secular in feeling than the usual Zen piece: these lighter pieces are given the special name gikyoku. When a komuso would play before a large crowd. he would sometimes want to play something with a lighter feeling, such as “Azuma no Kyoku”.

    The title means “Music of Azuma” which is the old name for the Eastern part of Japan around the old city of Edo, now known as Tokyo. Historically, certain people were detained there as political hostages, which is perhaps why the music is said to represent the feelings of loneliness of a samurai who is far from his family and home.

Zen Music Yamaguchi Goro

    There were Koten Honkyoku pieces in the style called Nezasa-ha of Kimpu-ryu in the vicinity of a castle town, Hirosaki, Aomori (the northernmost part of Honshu), in the Edo period. This piece was a representative one and was later arranged by YOSHIDA Itcho I, of Kinko-ryu. Its melodic flows are smooth and beautiful.


Zen Shakuhachi Duets John Singer


The International Shakuhachi Society - 2017