Musicological Research Seminar

Lecture: “The Transnational Appeal of the Shakuhachi through Time and Space” (Speaker: Christopher Yohmei Blasdel )

Time: 11/8 Wed. 15:30

Time: 2023/11/8 Wed. 15:30
Place: Room 506, Putong Building
Topic: The Transnational Appeal of the Shakuhachi through Time and Space
Speaker: Christopher Yohmei Blasdel
The Transnational Appeal of the Shakuhachi through Time and Space

Christopher Yohmei Blasdel

Presentation abstract

Though the shakuhachi did not originate in Japan, it is perceived as a quintessential Japanese instrument with a long history. Early references to the shakuhachi and its role in the gagaku Imperial court music date back to the seventh and eight centuries, and in each subsequent historical period in Japan to the present day, the shakuhachi carries a colorful and important musical role. While referencing the unique history of the shakuhachi in Japan, this presentation will focuses on the shakuhachi and its migration throughout the world from the mid-twentieth century to the present. It will focus on major international shakuhachi events, from the World Shakuhachi Festivals (occurring roughly every four years) to the numerous smaller shakuhachi learning camps and retreats that take place yearly, along with the general popularity of the instrument around the world, including a significant resurgent interest in Taiwan and Mainland China, where the instrument originated. The presentationshould give rise to several questions. For example, as interest in traditional Japanese music and its traditional methodology of transmission declines inside Japan, what remains of its significance as an indicator of Japanese culture? Can shakuhachi music still be termed Japanese music outside its cultural, geographic, and linguistic contexts? The presentation will be accompanied with live shakuhachi performances.



Christopher Blasdel came from the US to Japan in1972 and began studying the shakuhachi(Japan’s traditional bamboo flute) and Japanese music with Japan’s Living National Treasure Goro Yamaguchi and received his MFA in ethnomusicology from Tokyo University of Fine Arts. He teaches and performs under the professional name Christopher Yohmei, conferred by Yamaguchi.

Blasdel performs around the world and has taught or lectured at such institutions as Earlham College (Indiana), Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok, Thailand), Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas), University of Washington (Seattle), Charles University (Prague), Cal Arts, International Christian University (Tokyo) and Temple University (Tokyo). He presently teaches at the University of Hawai’i Ethnomusicology Department.

Along with numerous CDs, Blasdel has published two major books on the shakuhachi and Japanese music: The Shakuhachi, A Manual for Learning, the foremost English language book on the shakuhachi and The Single Tone—A Personal Journey through Shakuhachi Music (available on Amazon Kindle), which details his experiences learning and playing the shakuhachi in Japan and around the world. His essays, both published and unpublished, can be seen at his website: His major work on the translations and explanations of Edo period koto/shamisen song lyrics, Songs of the Floating World—Jiuta Sōkyoku Lyrics and Explanations in English is scheduled for publication by Routledge Press, (SOAS Studies Music series) in Spring, 2024.

Blasdel co-organized the World Shakuhachi Festival ’98 (held in Boulder, Colorado) and was a member of the executive committee for the World Shakuhachi Festival, Sydney, 2008 and advised the World Shakuhachi Festival in Kyoto in 2012. He was Senior Advisor to the annual Prague Shakuhachi Festival from 2006 to 2016. He was the director of the 2017 Shakuhachi Festival of the Pacific and is senior advisor to the World Shakuhachi Festival to be held in Texas in 2025

Blasdel presently holds a 5th degree black belt in Aikido.