What does ‘jinashi’ mean?

Jinashi shakuhachi literally means shakuhachi ‘without ji‘. In Japan they are simply called ‘shakuhachi’, but when people want to be more specific in clarifying which type of shakuhachi, they will differentiate this type from the more common modern type by referring to them as ‘jinashi’.

‘Ji’ is the term used for the layers of paste made from stone powder mixed with urushi (Japanese lacquer) which is applied to the bore of most modern shakuhachi, so as to control the inner dimensions and shape the sound. In practical terms, in Japan, shakuhachi which have just a small amount of ji in the bore, but where most of the surface of the bore is left with the natural bamboo surface uncovered, are also referred to as jinashi. Some scholars refer to these as ‘jimori’. Traditionally, the bore of jinashi are coated with urushi, which gives protection from humidity changes and mold.

Other Names: Hochiku and Kyotaku

Watazumi (1911-1992), a shakuhachi player from Kyushu, was a great master of shakuhachi honkyoku. He had a rather unique and provocative personality, and perhaps for this reason, he claimed that he had no teachers, that his instrument was ‘Hochiku’ (sometimes written ‘Hocchiku’ or ‘Hotchiku’) and that his music was ‘Dokyoku’. In effect, these were his own terms which he created to refer to his jinashi shakuhachi, and his honkyoku repertoire. Since his shakuhachi often tended to be relatively long and fat, some people refer to long and fat shakuhachi by this name. However, in Japan this term is almost never used.

Another shakuhachi player from Kyushu, Nishimura Koku (1915-2002), learned shakuhachi from Tani Kyochiku (a Taizan Ryu player) who was famous for playing relatively long shakuhachi. Nishimura continued this tradition, making 2.6 the standard size of shakuhachi in his school, and often playing up to 3.0. He was also a shakuhachi maker, and his instruments were jinashi. He eventually came to use the term ‘Kyotaku’ for his instruments, and dropped the name ‘shakuhachi’ altogether. Since he was devoted to honkyoku and using the instrument for spiritual development, perhaps he did this to differentiate his instruments and music more from the other shakuhachi schools in his area, the great majority of which used generally 1.8 sized jinuri shakuhachi, and which concentrated more (or entirely) on other genres such as ensemble music and modern composition, and on performance rather than personal inner development.


In the Edo period, jinashi were the standard shakuhachi. The great Kinko Ryu Grandmaster Araki Chikuo (1823-1908) was a komuso of the late Edo period who played a vital role in shakuhachi’s survival through the Meiji period. He is regarded by many to have been the greatest jinashi shakuhachi maker. He also started adding small amounts of ji in those shakuhachi which could not become good enough merely by subtracting bamboo from the bore. This innovative use of ji was further developed by his students into what is now the standard modern style of shakuhachi making, know as jinuri or jiari.

Justin’s Jinashi

Justin studied with a number of shakuhachi makers, which has been invaluable. Despite this, and although some modern makers do make jinashi, he never came across anyone making shakuhachi similar to Edo period jinashi. Justin therefore turned to the instruments themselves for much of his learning of the finer points of this particular making style.

Justin has traveled extensively around Japan studying some of the finest antique jinashi shakuhachi in private collections and museums. He has also been commissioned to restore instruments by many of the greatest makers dating back over 250 years. He has in his own collection some fine and rare instruments of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Studying and playing these instruments has been a constant source of inspiration and learning, as has learning from his teachers including Araki Chikuo II (formerly Araki Kodo V), and Iwata Seien VI, both of whom are expert players of extraordinary antique jinashi.

Whereas jinashi instruments often suffer from compromises of pitch and balance issues, inspired by the finest examples of jinashi made by such master makers as Araki Chikuo, Hisamatsu Fuyo, Kurosawa Kinko and Murase Chikuo, Justin has learned to apply the strict requirements of pitch and balance gained through his modern jinuri making, to his jinashi making, while paying particular attention to the complexity and richness of tone colour so unique to this more ancient form of instrument.

For more information or to order an instrument, please contact Justin here.