Japanese bamboo flute making

Japanese bamboo flutes, also known as shakuhachi, have been around for centuries. They are a traditional Japanese instrument that has gained popularity worldwide due to their unique sound and the fact that they are relatively easy to make. In this article, we will discuss the art of making Japanese bamboo flutes, their history, and how they are used in Japanese music.

History of Japanese Bamboo Flutes

Japanese bamboo flutes have a long and rich history that dates back to the 8th century. They were originally used by monks as a meditation tool and were known as hitoyogiri. The term shakuhachi was adopted later during the Edo period (1603-1868) when it became a popular instrument for playing traditional Japanese music.

In the early days, shakuhachi were made from a variety of materials such as clay, bone, and wood. However, it was the bamboo flute that became the most popular due to its unique sound and ease of use. The shakuhachi became an integral part of Japanese culture and was used in various music genres such as folk, classical, and modern.

See also: Making a simple bamboo flute

Japanese Instrument - bamboo flute "Shinobue" - JapanMade - YouTube

How to Make a Japanese Bamboo Flute

Making a Japanese bamboo flute is a delicate process that requires patience and skill. Here are the steps involved in making a shakuhachi:

Step 1: Selecting the Bamboo

The first step is to select the bamboo. The type of bamboo used will affect the sound of the instrument. The bamboo should be smooth, straight, and without any cracks or knots. The most commonly used bamboo for making shakuhachi is madake bamboo.

Step 2: Cutting the Bamboo

The bamboo is cut to the desired length, which is usually around 1.8 meters. The nodes are then removed to create a smooth surface.

Step 3: Drilling the Holes

The holes are drilled using a special tool called a uchikomi. The position and size of the holes will determine the pitch of the notes produced.

Step 4: Shaving the Inside of the Bamboo

The inside of the bamboo is carefully shaved to achieve the correct thickness and shape. This is done using a special tool called a nakatsugi.

Step 5: Applying the Lacquer

A lacquer is applied to the outside of the bamboo to protect it from moisture and to give it a glossy finish.

Step 6: Adding the Mouthpiece

Finally, the mouthpiece is added to the bamboo. This is usually made from a separate piece of bamboo and is carved to fit snugly into the end of the shakuhachi.

Playing the Japanese Bamboo Flute

Playing the shakuhachi requires a lot of practice and dedication. It is played by blowing into the mouthpiece and using various finger and breathing techniques to produce different notes. The shakuhachi is often used in traditional Japanese music and is also used in modern music genres such as jazz and pop.


Japanese bamboo flutes have a long and rich history and continue to be an important part of Japanese culture. Making a shakuhachi requires a lot of skill and patience, but the end result is a beautiful instrument that produces a unique and soothing sound. If you are interested in learning more about Japanese music or the art of making shakuhachi, there are many resources available online and in-person that can help you get started.