The Trip Of Hokuriku
This was written by my friend Mr. Takayuki Kurosawa on Showa 36 Nen 3 Gatsu (March 1961) and translated by Mr. Morimasa Horiuchi.
It was around the end of February, the weather was not so cold, and getting a little bit warm. My friends Mori and Ken, the three of us, get going on the trip of Hokuriku. All over Hokuriku, without any planning, at the last chance of college life, this trip gives us a lot of good memories.
Left Ueno Station at night by express “Hokuriku”, the three of us wear the college’s uniform and on top of it, an overcoat, and on the feet wearing long rubber boots, and carrying a knapsack.
The weather was good during this trip. We went to Unazuki, Noto, Kanazawa, Eihei-ji, etc., without any problems. Our disorganized trip was getting close to the end.
We decided to stay one night at lodging located about 20 kilometers north of the city of Fukui, the Awara hot spring area. The inn we stayed at was off the lively area of the town’s center. The view from the inn, a neon sign at the hot springs, was sentimental and touching our heart.
After taking a bath,while we were eating dinner at the room, we heard the sound of shakuhachi coming from somewhere. Mori says, “It it a sound of bamboo, is that the radio, or what?”
Ken says, “It is not the radio.”
The three of us, for a while, listening to the nice and sweet sound of shakuhachi, it is so beautiful. So me and Mori went downstairs and there he was, a Komuso playing shakuhachi in front of the entrance.
Me and Mori were standing at the entrance, charmed by the sound of shakuhachi.
When he stopped playing shakuhachi, the Komuso asked us, “Is there any request? You, young men, look like you have some interest in shakuhachi.”
Mori replied immediately, “Please play Kurokami,” which we had learned recently at our lesson.
Then the Komuso started playing Kurokami after adjusting to the mouthpiece. The sound of Kurokami spread to the night streets, wet with rain.
The Komuso asked us, “Are you playing shakuhachi?”
We said, “Yes, a little bit.”
And he said, “You, students, look like you’re in the middle of your Hokuriku trip, but are you carrying shakuhachi now?”
“Yes, we have now,” we answered.
The Komuso says, “Then let us play together.”
Me and Mori were a little bit surprised, but willingly invited him to our room. When we opened the door, we found Ken lying down and smoking.
He said to us, “Did you give some money to him?”
I was embarrassed by his words, but the Komuso answered, “Yes, I got money.”
Now Ken was surprised, stood up on the tatami, turned over the cushion he was sleeping on, presenting it to the Komuso, saying “Please sit down on this.”
The Komuso says, “Usually I don’t take off the tengai.” He looks decent, a dignified old man about seventy-something years old. We played together “Rokudan No Shirabe” and “Cha Noyuondo.”
Then he started to talk about his life. He started to learn shakuhachi at 19 years of age, since then wherever he went, he always carried the shakuhachi. Even when he lost everything at war, he carried with him the shakuhachi. When he went Nichiro Senso (the war between Japan and Russia), he always carried the shakuhachi. He was in love with shakuhachi that much, he never lost his way among any hardship in life.
The old man seems to have built a business in Yokohama before World War II, but he lost everything. He is now living here with his wife at Mikuni Port. All his kids now grown up and left parents. When he talked about shakuhachi, the old man’s eyes were sparkling. We are quite moved by what he said. He mentioned that he practices shakuhachi even now 2 hours everyday. Then he played for us a couple of folk songs and at the end the three of us played together “Chidori no Kyoku.”
Also, the old man said that the shakuhachi you start with, better keep using it, better not change “take” (bamboo) so often. It is not important how well you play, but the spirit of playing shakuhachi that is important. And he said the more you play, the more you get to understand that the basic piece is the more important, not the variety but the quality. He is so happy to see the young students who love the same hobby he likes.
He said he will write in his diary what happened today and ended saying that he likes to have a letter going between us. We send him off at the entrance of our inn. He stepped out quietly into the dark night of the street, it was slightly raining.
Next day, it was really cleared up, a nice day.
We started to our next destination “Toujin-Bo” with a wonderful memory of last night in our heart.