Okuda Atsuya at his studio Zensabō at Kokubunji, Tokyo. Photo: Kiku Day

Zensabō is basically the amazing player Okuda Atsuya. I am very lucky to have had the chance to study with him during this life. I am very grateful. He is not only an amazing player of jinashi shakuhachi but also a very generous teacher and person.

Okuda has a kaiden under Okamoto Chikugai (1915-2000). He also studied with Yokoyama Katsuya. But he considers himself more autodidactic than having studied and following one style of playing. He received many scores from Okamoto Chikugai, who was a collector and an amateur researcher of shakuhachi, and Okuda keep on adding pieces to his vast repertoire by studying these old scores. Of coruse based on the living transmission that hs has received from Okamoto. Okuda is also influenced by Watazumi Doso – although he never studied with him. Okuda went to many live concerts with Watazumi and listened carefully to his playing as well as recordings.

Okuda created his own playing style, which is nothing like Okamoto’s, Watazumi’s or any others’. However, he stays very true to honkyoku playing and its philosophical meaning as we as playing techniques. He is staying true to honkyoku as a living tradition – one that changes over time.

I consider Okuda to be one of the real masters of jinashi shakuhachi. I feel blessed.

Okuda Atsuya at the World Shakuhachi Festival 2018 held at
Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

I came to Zensabō in 1989 with Taku, a student who unfortunately passed away too early. At that time Okuda was still running a café called Zensabō. Here I had the most wonderfully tasting coffee while Okuda played for us. I loved it and enrolled immediately. Although I went to Japan to study the shakuhachi, I had waited for the shakuhachi to come to me once I arrived in Japan. It took me more than a year for me to arrive at Zensabō – but when I heard Okuda’s playing, I knew I was home. I started by jinashi shakuhachi journey with Okuda Atsuya January 1990. Okuda only teaches honkyoku – and I was blessed.