The early 20th century was a period in which understandings of music, religion, and the nation-state underwent rapid change in Japan. In this article I examine Japanese cultural discourse from the first decades of the 20th century in which the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute, was frequently portrayed as a religious instrument. In some cases, this discourse referenced pre-20th century historical affiliations of the shakuhachi with the Fuke-sect, an organization that was loosely affiliated to Rinzai Zen Buddhism. But the article also explores how religio-musical discourse surrounding the shakuhachi intersected with developments in modern Japanese religious life, as well as pre-WWII developments in the political life of Japan and Asia. Drawing primarily on articles from Sankyoku, one of the most important music magazines in early 20th century Japan, I show how public discourse contained in the media and other forms of writing is an important way to understand the rapid developments taking place in music and religion in Japan at this time.

Author Biography

Matt Gillan obtained MMus and PhD degrees (Music) from SOAS in London, and has taught musicology at International Christian University in Tokyo since 2007. His research has focused particularly on the music of Okinawa, theories of the voice in Japanese music, and the shakuhachi. He has played the shakuhachi since 1995 and is currently a student of the Myōan shakuhachi school.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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