2016-03-16

Komuso legends

- BACK to the Daruma Museum -
. Japanese legends and tales 伝説 民話 昔話 - Introduction .
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komusoo 虚無僧 伝説 Komuso legends about begging mendikant monks

. Komuso and the Shakuhachi Flute 尺八 .
- Introduction -



Isoda Koryūsai 磯田湖竜斎  (1735–1790)
Komuso and Beauties

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The komusō (虚無僧 komusō, hiragana: こむそう; also romanized komusou or komuso)
"monks of nothingness"
were a group of Japanese mendicant monks of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism who flourished during the Edo period of 1600-1868. Komusō were characterized by a straw bascinet (a sedge or reed hood named a tengai or tengui) worn on the head, manifesting the absence of specific ego.
They were also known for playing solo pieces on the shakuhachi (a type of Japanese bamboo flute). These pieces, called honkyoku ("original pieces"), were played during a meditative practice called suizen, for alms, as a method of attaining enlightenment, and as a healing modality. The Japanese government introduced reforms after the Edo period, abolishing the Fuke sect. Records of the musical repertoire survived, and are being revived in the 21st century.



They wore a straw basket (tengai 天蓋) that covered their head as they played. Because some of these komuso were in fact spies for the government,
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !

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. どんころ独楽 Donkoro spinning top for gambling .
with a Komuso image on one side

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Komuso Dolls - click for more !

mamako no utae 継子の訴え complaint of a stepchild
While the father had to go on a trip, his two children were killed by the stepmother. A Komuso buried the two children, made a Shakuhachi from the bamboo near the grave and blew it. The sound reached the ears of the father and he returned as fast as he could. He recovered the bodies from the grave and put the stepmother to trial and punishment.
This is the origin of the Shakuhachi melody called
「継子と笛」「継子と鳥」.
- reference : blogs.yahoo.co.jp/therinmeis1979 -


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shakuhachihebi 尺八蛇 Shakuhachi Serpent
tsuchi no hebi 槌の蛇 "hammer snake"


source : nazo108.sblo.jp/article

. nozuchi 野槌 tsuchinoko ツチノコ / 槌の子 "hammerspawn" snake .
- Introduction -

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source and more komuso monsters : togetter.com/li

お猪口が變化した小さな虚無僧のような姿をした妖怪
little Toad monster wearing a 猪口 Sake cup as Komuso hat.

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- - - - - ABC List of the prefectures - Komuso and Shakuhachi legends:

........................................................... Kagawa 香川県 .............................................................

yumemi 夢見 seeing a dream
Once a man was on the pilgrimage to Konpira san in Shikoku 金毘羅参り. On the way he saw a bamboo shoot coming out and growing big right in front of his eyes. So he cut the bamboo and made a Shakuhachi out of it. When he blew it, the melody sounded like:

笛も太鼓もいらんぞ、ととさま恋しや
I need no flute or drum, I long for my daddy!


When the man returned home - - - you know the tragic end from the story above.
Therefore in Kagawa it is a bad omen to see a large bamboo shoot in a dream.

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source : geocities.jp/shaku8tm/komusou

虚無僧人形 hand-made bamboo dolls - click for more !



........................................................... Kochi 高知県 .............................................................
安芸郡和食村 Aki district / Tosa 土佐

warai onna 笑い女 the laughing woman
In the hamlet of Wajiki there lived a man deep in the mountains and blew his Shakuhachi every night in front of his hut. One day a beautiful woman came up and asked him to play the Shakuhachi for her. She said her name was "Laughing Woman".
The man smiled and told her he would play a tune to make her laugh.
Her laugh became louder and louder as he blew his Shakuhachi and was heard all over the mountain.
Now the man became angry and trew his ax and hammer at her, but the woman just picked them up and ate them with good appetite.
When the man did not know what to do any more now, suddenly the sound of a rooster came up from the valley and the "Laughing Woman" disappeared.
But the voice of the rooster did not come from an animal, but from an amulet that was hanging at the breast of the man to protect him.
This is a dangerous Yokai, because if you begin to laugh with her, you will be eaten by her.

. warai onna 笑い女 the laughing woman .
and more about 土佐の妖怪 Yokai Monsters from Tosa



........................................................... Kumamoto 熊本県 .............................................................

kani no hi 蟹の火 the light of a crab
Once a Komuso walked in the mountains, when a green-whitish light came nearer. The Komuso questioned it and found out it was a malicious crab. So he hit the crab with his Shakuhachi and killed it.
This is why the local crabs (gazami ガザミ) in the Amakusa region 天草地方 to our day have a scar on the back of their shell.


source : amakoma.sakura.ne.jp/diary

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The sad story of the stepchildren is also told. In this version, the father was visiting Kyoto.
The stepmother killed the children by boiling them in a huge chauldron.


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Komuso Kappa 虚無僧河童


- at yahoo auctions -

. 河童 / かっぱ / カッパ - Kappa, the Water Goblin of Japan! .



........................................................... Kyoto 京都府 .............................................................

kosha 瞽者 a blind person
A blind man named Joomatsu 城松 Jomatsu had very keen ears and was quite skillful in playing the Shakuhachi. When he played toward a waterfall, the sound of the waterfall was not heard any more. One day in the early Edo period, in the morning suddenly there was a stange sound of wind and waves when he played.
And that evening, a strong earthquake hit the region.


........................................................... Osaka 大阪 .............................................................

yookai 妖怪 monster
In the year 1774 in October every day there walked a Samurai from Osaka in the area of Mount Sanadayama 真田山. Many could hear him but not see him. Once a Komuso and a villager walked together and the villager realized that the Komuso was in fact a Yokai monster. So he decided to kill him but could not see him any more. He must have fled in fear.


........................................................... Tochigi 栃木県 .............................................................
宇都宮市 Utsunomiya

daija 大蛇 large serpent
In the beginning of the Meiji period there lived a craftsman who made Chinese lutes (gekkin 月琴). He used the skin of serpents to cover the body.
One evening he was sitting in front of his shop, playing the Shakuhachi. He saw a large serpent coming down the hill and winding itself around his flute. The man soon killed the serpent, but he became ill and died soon afterwards.


........................................................... Yamanashi 山梨県 .............................................................

somabito 杣人 forest worker
When the forest workers go to the mountain forest for work, they take along a person skilled in Shakuhachi playing. They start after he has performed one melody.
This is because the 天狗 Tengu, who is the 山の神 "Deity of the Mountain", liked to hear Shakuhachi.


source : fuwaiin.com/kenendou/hougaku - 正和会

尺八合同競演会(天狗会)


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- reference : nichibun yokai database 妖怪データベース - 虚無僧



source : jxkura007.exblog.jp - 尺八 よもやま話

kooun ryuusui 行雲流水 "wandering monk", Unsui
"To drift like clouds and flow like water"

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虚無僧の二人つれだつ雲の峰
komusoo no futaritsuredatsu kumo no mine

two Komuso
wandering along -
billowing clouds


Izumi Kyooka 泉鏡花 Izumi Kyoka


. kumo no mine 雲の峰 billowing clouds .
kigo for summer

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. Japanese legends and tales 伝説 民話 昔話 - Introduction .

- Yookai 妖怪 Yokai Monsters of Japan -
- Introduction -

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. Join the friends on Facebook ! .

- #komusolegends #komuso -
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