Nakao Tozan was born on October 5, 1876 (the 9th year of the Meiji-Era) in Suita-Gun (present-day Hirakata City), the second son of Nakao Jirohei and his wife Mitsu. His real name was Nakao Rinzo. In 1894, at the age of 17, he became a komuso, and then, two years later in 1896, he first established a shakuhachi school in Tenma, Osaka City, in the West of Japan. This date, February 15, is now celebrated as the official founding of the Tozan-Ryu School. |
Nakao Tozan then embarked on a career as a performer, and in 1903 composed the first Tozan-Ryu honkyoku, Sōgetsu-chō, and in 1908 wrote and published his first shakuhachi tutor and sheet music. Compared to the older schools of shakuhachi, the Tozan style of composition must have sounded much more modern, and even in his honkyoku he often included very rhythmical two-, or sometimes three-part sections following the opening solo section, sometimes with the whole piece being written for two or more flutes right from the beginning.
In 1915, at the age of 38, he toured Russia, and in the following year also gave the first of his performances in Korea and China, eventually returning to give concerts there at least ten times.
In 1922, the Headquarters of the school were transferred to Tokyo. After this, Nakao Tozan met the famous blind koto master Miyagi Michio, and they toured Western Japan together, which led to the establishment of the Shin Nihon Ongaku movement (“New Japanese Music”). Together they made many revolutionary changes to Japanese traditional music.
In 1930, when he was 53, Nakao Tozan ceased performing to concentrate on teaching and composition, and to nurture the next generation of Tozan performers.
After the Second World War, he returned to his hometown (now renamed Hirakata), and then, in 1949, moved to Kyoto. In 1953, he was honored with the Japan Arts Academy Award for his great contributions to Japanese music, and he died in 1956 at the age of 80.