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San'ya Sugagaki

三谷菅垣

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

History (John Singer):

Each Shakuhachi school uses different Chinese characters for the name "Sanya" and it has different meanings such as "concentration" and "absorption". These different "Sanya" are respectively different in content as well. (see section on "Sayama Sugagaki").

There is also a "Sanya Sugagaki" in the Koto music of the Ryukyu Islands of Southern Japan. The relationship (if there is any) between this and the Kinko Ryu "Sanya" in not known.

In the first six phrases of the piece all of its basic melodies are revealed and these combine and continue. When the middle of the piece is reached, a new melody emerges using high octave sounds. At its conclusion, the melody binds the whole piece together.

San'ya Sugagaki appears on the following albums

AlbumShakuhachiKotoShamisen
Complete Collection of Honkyoku from the Kinko School - Vol 2 - Disc 3 Aoki Reibo II

Daiyon FUDO - Kineya Seiho Ishikawa Toshimitsu

    This is one of what are known as honkyoku, or the basic classical repertoire for the shakuhachi. It is known in different parts of Japan under different titles, and there are also different pieces in also different pieces in various regions which use the same name. Most honkyoku are characterized by free rhythm, but "Sanya" is unique in that it has a fixed rhythm with clearly definable beats.


Dream Picture Gunnar Jinmei Linder


Heart of Zen - Simplicity Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin

Hibiki - Tokyo Inter-arts In Berlin


    This piece is one of the traditional honkyoku (central repertoire pieces) of the Kinko-school. During the Edo-period, playing the shakuhachi was a privilege of the Fuke-sect of Buddhist monks; these wandered throughout the land with their faces hidden by a basket, begging for their livelihood with their shakuhachi-playing, and occasionally employing the shakuhachi - their only possession - as a weapon.

    After the privileges of this sect were cancelled at the start of the Meiji-period (1868-1912), and the sect was even banned for some years, the shakuhachi music of this sect was reformed in the Kinko-school as an art form without religious ties. The school takes its name from Kurosawa Kinko (1710-1771), who collected pieces from the by then extremely divergent traditions of the Fuke-sect, rearranged them, and established a collection of 36 pieces (honkyoku) as the basis of the repertoire. Honkyoku are solo pieces by nature (even though they can be performed by two players together), apparently simple, but very difficult to play.

Japon L'art du shakuhachi Yokoyama Katsuya

    Sanya sugagaki

    Sugagaki is a melodic unit used in Shinto worship, in a repetitive manner, to accompany singing on the wagon (six-stringed zither). Here, the term is used for a repetitive melody which has been preserved in the region of Sanya, in the North of Japan, and has nothing more in common with the sugagaki unit of Shinto ritual music. This piece is played on two shakuhachi of different sizes.

Jin Nyodo No Shakuhachi 04 Jin Nyodo

    Kinko-ryu: SAN'YA-SUGAGAKl

    1-shaku 8-sun
    5 min. 15 sec.

    1. About the piece:

    Please refer to the section on San'ya in "Commonly Used Titles." There are two titles (in Chinese characters) both originally pronounced San'ya-Sugagaki but these in fact are different pieces.

    2. Structure of the piece

    There are no clear-cut dan but the piece can be seen as dividing into three sections: [Section I - Section II (upper range) - Finale]. In the first third of section I (6 breaths) all the basic melodies are introduced; then the section proceeds to combine them. In the second section one new melodic pattern appears in a higher range which is then combined with the various melodies of Section I. The musubi (finale) consists of a short new melody.

    3. Special features of the piece:

    It is played as one of the most sharply rhythmical pieces among Kinko-ryu honkyoku, and has a lucid, liberated mood.

Kinko Ryu Honkyoku - 7 Aoki Reibo II

Kinko Ryu Shakuhachi - Koten Honkyoku - Kindai Shakuhachi Gaku Notomi Judo II

Kinko Ryu Shakuhachi Honkyoku Notomi Judo I

Koten Shakuhachi Gaku Zen Shu - 5 Takeuchi Chiko

Kyoto Spirit Kurahashi Yodo II

    A well-known composition of the Kinko school of shakuhachi. This is the most rhythmic of all honkyoku.

Music of the Shakuhachi Ralph Samuelson

    The term sugagaki refers to a style of shamisen (three string lute) music and implies that this piece, showing influence from secular instrumental traditions, has a strong rhythmic character.

Offerings Ralph Samuelson

    The name San'ya usually written as "three valleys," is a term which in the shakuhachi tradition implies supplication, and there are several different pieces with the title San'ya. The precise origin of the word is not clear. Some maintain that it refers to the Buddhist state of sanmai (focused spiritual concentration) while others believe it is simply a place name in Japan or China. The term sugagaki is a reference to eighteenth-century shamisen music, as reflected in the rhythmic character of the piece. Within the Kinko ryu shakuhachi repertoire, sugagaki pieces are generally more secular in nature and offer a sense flowing expression.

Sangai Rinten - 3 Yokoyama Katsuya

    The title "Sanya" is used with a number of different characters to give it various meanings. The differing theories about its meaning are that it originally meant shamisen, that it refers to a Japanized Sanskrit word used for religious ceremonies, and that it originally was a place name.

    The term "Sugagaki" is also unclear as to its meaning. It is used however in both gagaku and koto music. The piece has a very beautiful and rhythmic melody. Its metrical rhythm is unusual among normally free-rhythmic honkyoku.


Shakuhachi - Clive Bell Clive Bell

    The meaning of this song, as the composer are anonymous.


Shakuhachi - Japanese Traditional Music Notomi Judo I

    "Sanya Sugagaki” is one of numerous honkyoku which bear the name sanya. They generally are divided into two groups. pieces which have a very free rhythm, and pieces which are rhythmically regulated. "Sanya Sugagaki” is of the latter type. The melody and beat are clearly evident. There is also an addition of a second shakuhachi which plays mostly parallel harmony to the first. The melody, rhythm, and harmony of "Sonya Sugagaki” create a balancing contrast to the free, amorphous qualities of the other Kinko honkyoku.

Shakuhachi - Ryudo - 01 Takahashi Ryudo

Shakuhachi no Shinzui-Shakuhachi Honkyoku - 08 Yamaguchi Goro

Song of Daybreak Bruce Huebner

    Well before the social freedom that came with Japan's opening after 1867 and the subsequent dissolution of the Fuke sect, monks were in fact engaged in a variety of non-religious musical activities, and used shakuhachi for pleasure and profit. Among these was joining with jiuta shamisen, usually called the sangen (a three-string plectrum lute), and the koto (a 13-string, movable bridge zither), in a small ensemble called sankyoku. Another activity was the composition or improvisation of kaede, lines that were added to the honkyoku creating a shakuhachi duet called renkan. Sanya Sugagaki "Three Valleys" is an example of this practice. Polyphony was created within the confines of the miyako bushi scale (1, flat 2, 4, flat 5, minor 7) with lines moving in unisons, fourths, fifths and octaves, with striking exceptions such as the minor second in the third phrase.

Spirit of Silence, The Iwamoto Yoshikazu

    There is no literal translation possible for this title. Its elegant slow rhythmic pulse is suggested by "Sugagaki", a terminology borrowed from the koto, the Japanese zither. "San'ya", literally "Three valleys", appears on its own or with other names in certain other shakuhachi pieces. This piece originated in Tokyo.

Sui Zen - Blowing Meditation on the Shakuhachi - 03 Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin

    This piece, with its clear, light, liberated mood, is designed to convey the sense of the wind blowing through the reeds of a sedge hedge. As it is a sanya piece, it is supposed to convey the no-thought, borderless state in which attention is given to the Zen inner sound. It is easily identifiable among other honkyoku because of its uniquely melodic and rhythmic character.

    Almost all of the basic melodies are introduced in the initial six breaths of the piece, and then they are combined in various ways. Only one new melodic pattern, in the high range, is introduced in the second section. It is then combined with the previously introduced melodies. The musubi section consists of a short new melody.

    Like the next piece, Akita Sugagaki, it is extremely rhythmical, especially when compared with other Kinko School pieces. It has been suggested that the very ancient koto piece, Sugagaki, may have formed the basis for this composition. Sanya Sugagaki can also be played as a duet, either on 1.8 flutes, or on flutes of different lengths, such as a 1.8 along with a 2.3 or a 2.4.

    There is also a koto piece from the Ryukyu Islands in the south of Japan, called Sanya Sugagaki. The name sugagaki means a repetitive melody and actually refers to a repetitive melodic unit used in Shinto worship, played on a six-stringed zither called a wagon, accompanying singing.


The Road of Hasekura Tsunenaga Rodrigo Rodriguez

Wind in the Reeds Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin

    "Sugagaki" means literally, a hedge or fence of thickly-grown reeds. and as the shakuhachi player performs this piece, it is appropriate for him to think in terms of the rustling murmurs off the wind as it blows through the reeds.

    Historically, "Sugagaki" was the name of one of the oldest compositions for the Koto (a Japanese 13-stringed instrument), and some say that it may have formed the basis for this shakuhachi honkyoku, as it is more metrical than some of the other honkyoku.

    "Sanya" is a term which refers to a condition of "no-mind," one of the important Zen states of consciousness. In this performance, "Sanya Sugagaki" is played as a heterophonic duet for two shakuhachi.


Zen Music - II Notomi Judo I

    San'ya is a name of place, and Sugagaki denotes some instrumental musics particularly for strings. This piece seemingly derives from a piece of koto music and is arranged. It has apparent metric characters probably because of this origination, while other classical shakuhachi musics are non-metric or have free rhythm in general. This piece also is apart from religious nature or function. This performance is a heterophonic duet.


Zen Music with Ancient Shakuhachi - Disc 1 John Singer

    (Three Valleys) Each Shakuhachi school has its own version of this piece and uses different Chinese characters for the name ‘Sanya” with different meanings such as “concentration” and “absorption”.


Zen Shakuhachi Duets John Singer


The International Shakuhachi Society - 2014