The Art Of Listening (リスニングの芸術)

king oliver


As you all know, I am a professional saxophonist and percussionist/drummer, meaning I must rigorously practice every day to keep strong and fresh. Thus, in a previous post I discussed my process of preparing for tour auditions through a thorough study of musical styles and keys. This process is vital not only to auditions, but any creative lifetime project, e.g. becoming a professional jazz musician. Thus, if one is going to develop properly it is vital to use your time away from practicing as wisely as possible, considering how much more difficult it is these to make a living and perform/study your craft full time. But whether it was 8 minutes or 80 years ago, the great performers passionately seek to know everything and anything about even a single song. This also applies to fans too, if they want to really get into the music of their favorites artists.

The secret to this is context: knowing as much about what was happening elsewhere in music, culture, and history as well; what we might call focused listening. This study and understanding of context separates the great players from all others. For example, let’s look at what many consider the foundation of jazz: the recordings of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven groups between 1925 – 1929.

Listening to these recordings is mandatory in jazz history classes at college and many students are familiar with them. But having heard them, the ‘ordinary’ musician assumes that they now know enough about that period to move on. But the musician who wants to become a brilliant player knows that the Hot Fives existed in a musical continuum that included a lot of profound music being made at the same time and earlier. You can’t really know a single thing about the Hot Fives without knowing the recordings of Joe “King” Oliver from 1923; to hear a young Louis developing under the guidance of Oliver, and clarinetist Johnny Dodds in context of the work he was doing with Oliver before recording with Louis and pianist Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers in 1926-27. But in order to understand how we even “got to” Louis we must know the social context of New Orleans musical life. Thus, we must hear Alan Lomax’s interviews with Morton, recorded at the Library of Congress in 1938.



Morton’s recollections of events (including the origins of jazz) are both fascinating and the subject of much debate, as Morton was know to make his own work central/essential to jazz history. This is often true, but Morton’s claims to have invented jazz or written many of its greatest early works often border on hubris. Thus, it is very educational as a sociological, if not historical, document. What is also fascinating to discover is the relationship between songs like Tiger Rag, and the quadrille and mazurka, dances every jazz musician must be aware of if they are to truly understand the evolution of the social music that itself became what we now call jazz.

It is also important to know of these artists in context of Chicago, a city vital to jazz’s development and history “post – New Orleans.” We know of Louis and King Oliver, but who else was there? What we they playing? How was it different? We then must know the music of Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra, or Charles “Doc” Cook’s Dreamland Orchestra as well as Cook’s “14 Doctors of Syncopation.” Why? This is because their recordings from 1923 on included cornettist Freddie Keppard (pronounced with a French silent ‘d’: Kepparr). Keppard was known as the “King” of cornet/trumpet before Joe Oliver, a title he claimed after the legendary Buddy Bolden. Knowing Tate’s or Cook’s work not only educates us on Keppard, but we also get a better sense of what the social scene in Chicago was like at that time; knowing that it was Oliver, Tate, Cook, Armstrong, Dodds,and Keppard who were setting the pace and style for social music at the time (both locally and nationally).



Having heard this wider variety of artists and styles also teaches us something very valuable about the music, statistically. If one carefully examines the width and breath of Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens recordings they will notice that twenty four of them are in the key of G, which amounts to roughly 26% of the overall oeuvre. There are also eighteen songs in the keys of B flat and F, a further 20% each of the total. If we also look at King Oliver’s 1923 singles, we see that eleven of them are in the key of F (29%), while only four are in Bb (10%). This tells us something about each artist individually and comparatively: what songs were in what keys, and possibly, why certain songs would have been more popular to play (it is much easier, for example, to play the trumpet or clarinet in the key of G or F than it is in F#).

Many artists, like Keppard, also played the vaudeville circuit, thus you must also study what was also occurring in that genre. That means knowing the work of artists like Eddie Morton, or Jodie Edwards and Suzie Hawthorne – better known as the comedy duo Butterbeans And Susie. Sadly, most young jazz musicians have no idea who Butterbeans and Susie are, even though they recorded a rather cheeky blues about “hugging” (He Likes It Slow) with the Hot Fives!

But, now that you know the value of listening in greater context, you will be well on your way to expert level jazz performance knowledge, and/or hopefully a greater appreciation of the history of modern music.


Villutrú Reprised: エヴァ・インゴルフ…



Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Reprise

Wednesday November 11, 7:30 pm

Cafe Talulah, 240 Columbus Ave.

New York, NY.

Including works by: Douglas DaSilva, Daniel Mihai, Alon Nechushtan, Daniel Schnee, Carrin Tanaka and others.

Once again I am very very pleased to announce that Icelandic violinist Eva Ingolf will be playing my composition Villutrúalong with video animation (Gesture #2) by Nicole Antebi as 7:30 pm next Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at Café Talulah (240 Columbus Avenue, New York City). The evening is a reprise of her “Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame” concerts for electric violin and electronics with video animation held earlier this year at Gallery MC (NYC) and MOBIUS (Cambridge).

Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame is a series of curated performances featuring 15 one-minute works by 15 composers. For this particular concert Composers were asked to write one-minute works inspired by one of the three short animations by artist Nicole Antebi.  15 pieces were then selected to be performed as part of this very audio-visual experience.

So once again it is a major honor to have my work played by Eva, as she is a world-renowned interpreter of J.S. Bach’s solo violin works, and I am a huge fan of both Bach and Eva’s interpretation of his work.


MicroTonality In Asian Music: アジアの音楽の微分音



Though most people immediately think of Arab or Persian music when discussing microtones, it is interesting to note that both Japan and Viet Nam too have micro-tonality, specifically, in their ornamentation traditions.

In Viet Nam, for example, the Nam Ai scale used in Hûe music contains the notes hò – xư – y – xang – xê – công – phan (G A B C D E F). Each of these notes commonly takes one or two microtonal ornaments from a main set: rungmốmố đầu, and mố képHò, xang, and phan, for example, usually take the rung ornament, an unlimited micro “trill” (usually consisting of three to seven pitches) which moves anywhere between ¼ to ¾ of a tone. Công, on the other hand, usually takes either the mố or mố kép ornaments, both of which range within ¼ of a tone.

In Japanese gagaku or Shinto kagura music, the double reed hichiriki or ryuteki flute often play what are known as “sour plums” (embai): small semi-improvised ornaments used to color and embellish the melody. As the fingering charts for ryuteki and hichiriki (as well as the nohkan flute used in Noh Theatre) indicate only fingerings and not the exact pitch that may (or may not) come out of the instrument, embai are most often microtonal, depending on the skill and musical ‘ear’ of the musician. And considering the highly nasal quality of the hichiriki, these microtonal embellishments can sound extremely ethereal and give gagaku in particular a haunting, other-worldly sound.





What are Happidotto™?

As a graphic (ergo visual) score composer, I am interested the arrangement of colors, shapes and forms as tools for spontaneous composition: non-idiomatic improvisation. How can I compose with curves and triangles? How can I think like a circle?

Yumcha Cups

Also, as a percussionist and saxophonist (who also does ethnomusicological research in/on Asia, and writes articles) I have had to organize my time rather efficiently, as I don’t have enough hours in the day to practice each as long as I would like. So in the interest of getting more value out of my practice time I find ways to get more done in less time, more efficient ways of fitting 7 hours worth of learning into one or two hours of practice. One of the ways I have maximized this time is through the study of melodic cross rhythms on the drums: ways of moving around the kit to add an extra dimension of musicality to my standardized technique. And as a fun way to explain how one can move their hands and feet in such patterns I have used what I call Happidotto (Japanese-ish word I invented for Joyous/Happy Dots) – felt squares and circles to visually organize my hands. Consider it a type of gestalt kata – visual T’ai Chi.

How do they work?

Basically, they are a visual representation of a set of hand motions played around the kit in a way that creates an asymmetrical set of drum tones. What makes them so interesting though is that they make it sound like you are playing in 5/4 or 7/8 when in actual fact you are playing simple, even notes in 4/4, etc. And, when you do eventually play odd time signatures, this process will help you create exciting beast, fills and riffs with ease.

What are the benefits?

Happidotto™ are a great way to introduce kids to rhythm or the drumset in a more holistic way – which keeps them from learning rote patterns which they never develop any further, such as the standard 4/4 rock or swing beats.

There are also many benefits to studying melodic cross-rhythms through Happidotto™ for adults too. The soft felt means you can practice anywhere and not disturb the neighbors. Also, you can create your own unique set of patterns, and invent rhythmic follow-the-leader games to play with your kids as a way of introducing them to the actual study of drums. This process invariably inspires new patterns or licks as well as ideas for new songs, as well as opens up possibilities for the linear rudiments you have already studied in George Stone’s stick control book, etc. It also is a fun way to practice improvising drum solos and discovering new ways of playing syncopated fills, which helps percussionists of all types create grooves and patterns that compliment the rest of the band.

And the best part is they are DIY:  you can make them yourself out of old clothes and towels, thus you don’t have to send me money. It’s quiet fun for all, it’s educational, it builds coordination and spatial thinking, and it’s virtually FREE!

How do I start?

Create your own set using various colours to differentiate each hand, and use a separate colour to represent striking both hands down at the same time. For my set I used felt, which you can get pretty cheap at Fabricland.


Fig. 1: 3 and 2

In Figure 1 we see three blue shapes on the left hand and two yellow shapes on the right hand. Start with each hand on a circle. Tap each shape with your drumsticks at the same time going clockwise. You will notice that your left hand will make it back to the blue circle later than the right hand does the yellow circle, because there are more shapes to move through, and the right hand is moving horizontally. Doing this helps develop a rudimentary independence in your hands while keeping the process simple. Doing this for a few cycles helps you grow accustom to the process. Then, do the same thing moving counterclockwise for a few cycles. It is actually a little harder than it looks. Make a game of it. See if you can do ten cycles in either direction. If you can, reward yourself. I like to use Diet Pepsi – ten successful cycles? One nice long sip! Twenty cycles? The rest of the can. Make sure you move slowly and correctly, as this is not a speed exercise. This is a spatial exercise and, eventually, a musical vocabulary builder. Speed is unnecessary.


Fig. 2: Up Down And Side

In this game you move your right hand back and forth (yellow) and your left hand up and down (blue). Begin by tapping both hands at the same time. Do this five times. Then begin tapping them in order: blue-yellow-blue-yellow, alternating your hands. Do this Left/Right pattern in different directions. Then add another yellow or blue so you are tapping yellow four times and blue three times. Now we are beginning to get a feel for spatial creativity a the same time we are starting to building rhythmic symmetry and asymmetry, which will translate into a wide variety of tones and patterns on the actual drum set or percussion instruments themselves. Once again, keep this fun and don’t stress out. Rhythm should be a joy in our life, not a depressing regimen.


Fig. 3: Both Hands Return

Now we will add a new colour, which you tap with both hands together. Start with both sticks on the middle (grey) square and move your right hand right and you left hand left, returning back to the middle square. This begins to develop a kind of horizontal symmetry you want to be comfortable with before we begin creating asymmetry. Now, tap the shapes in succession: blue triangle, yellow circle, blue circle, yellow square, then jump both hands back to the grey middle square to tap it with both hands. This leads us to our next exercise.


Fig. 4: The Tower

Start with both your hands at the top then split them as your right hand goes down the yellow shapes and your left hand goes down the blue shapes until you arrive at the bottom square and tap it with both sticks. Then move back up, tapping your sticks on each side at the same time or alternating left/right or right/left. This helps develop a sense of vertical rhythm, which translates into a lot of variations you can use on the drum set when you move from your toms to your cymbals, or to different parts of your djembe, etc.


Fig. 5: Crossing Hands

Now you can begin crossing you hands and/or sticks as you figure how to move clockwise or counter clockwise around each set of shapes: tapping with both hands at the same time, alternating right/left, switching sides, etc. Exercises you invent based on this idea will be rather challenging, so take you time and find hand/stick solutions that you like – these will become part of your signature style on the drums or percussion.


Fig. 6: The Forest/Tanglesticks


Also, to add another level of fun and/or difficulty, start tapping some shapes twice on the left side while tapping the right side shapes once. Then, tap every second shape in your hand three times while striking  each left hand shape only once! Then, start making large circles and groupings of shapes all mixed together, creating you own little rhythm ‘labyrinths’ for you to negotiate. Now, can you play this set of Happidotto with a friend, without tangling your sticks together? Can you play yellow while they play blue, with the grey squares as your home bases? Personally, I like to make a large circle of shapes and practice sticking patterns based on South Indian solkattu syllables.



Fig. 7 & 8: Stoppidotto

In this game you stop your right hand/stick for one count when it touches the red shape, and the same when your left hand/stick touches the dark blue rectangle, creating a set of “Stop-y Dots”. Then, you can make the stop time two counts or three, or however many you want to challenge yourself. You can even add another stopping shape in either hand, and assign whatever amount of counts you want as an extra challenge. Keeping track of which hand is stopping or moving while the other does the opposite is a real challenge the more beats and shapes you add. The possibilities are endless, and a whole lot of fun!


Fig. 9: Dozodotto!

In this set you stop your right hand on the red dot to wait politely while letting your left hand go ahead (dozo), wishing it a merry trip before you cross over to the yellow dot on the left and return. Crossing back and forth for a few cycles means your right hand will spend a lot of time stopping and starting, developing timing and coordination.

BTW… I’ll let you in on a little secret about drumming: if you are going to be a commercial studio drummer, or record drums in the studio, often the engineer will need to ‘punch’ you in at a spot which needs to be re-recorded, or changed. Being able to leave small silences or gaps in your playing while keeping a good beat makes the engineer’s job waaayyyy easier, and they will greatly appreciate your ability to do this. A simple, spacious beat is easy/easier to punch into, and I have gotten a LOT of work as a session musician on both saxophone and drums because of this ability to play “open” solos/beats. I will never be the “best” drummer in the world, and there are millions of drummers who have a lot more technique than I do…but I will always be employed as a freelance musician…because I have developed this aforementioned ability. Trust me…it is way better to pay the rent with spacious drumming than to be able to play 64th notes at 100 mph alone in your basement.


Fig. 10: Fujisan

Now its time to take a trip around Mt. Fuji, the red rhombus in the middle. How will we go to Mt. Fuji? Will both hands move clockwise, alternate taps, or move counter clockwise, arriving at Mt. Fuji at different times? Plan your trip to Fujisan, and enjoy the ride.


Fig, 11: Fushigidotto

In this series you get to have fun improvising your way around the various shapes, figuring out how to travel through this  set. Do you stop on the red shapes? Do you touch both hands/sticks on the grey square in the upper left corner? How do you solve the mysterious (fushigi) ways of moving? That’s for you to decide!


Fig. 12: Clappidotto

In this set you tap your sticks or clap your hands together above the set whenever your right hand touches the green triangle. Having a slightly easier set after Fushigidotto is a nice way of slowing down and stopping after a full session of Happidotto™ challenges. This process should always be pleasurable as much as it is challenging, so choose/mix and match sets and ideas you enjoy.

Happidotto™ are a fun way to approach the amazing, beautiful art of expressing rhythm creatively. Go ahead and develop your own Happidotto set, and have fun. It’s my idea but it is FREE, and you owe me nothing. And if/when you pass this idea on, please at least do me the favour of mentioning you got it from me.

Thank You… and Good Luck!


© 2012 Happidotto™

© 2014 Daniel

Brief History of Buddhism: 6500 B.C.E. to 1300 C.E.



 Many who I meet who take an interest in Zen and/or Japanese fine arts do not happen to have a running knowledge of how Buddhism formed over time out of Indian culture, and beyond, to the world. So I thought I would outline a basic chronology of Buddhism from pre-Buddhist Vedic culture in India to Japan in the 14th century – when Zen became ubiquitous – to help East Asian Studies students organize their notes, or those casually interested in Buddhism in general to learn more about this fascinating religion. Also, this particular list ties in with my previous post on Japanese philosophy, as Buddhist history leads into religious socio-political history around the 8th – 10th century with the Nara “schools” developing into distinct sects and orthodoxies.

Basic Chronology

6500 B.C.E:      Verses from the Rg Veda, India’s earliest sacred texts, are said to have been compiled; taking their final form in approx. 1200-1000 BCE.

5500:            Astrological observations later mentioned in the Puranas.

4750:            Scholarly dating of Lord Rama’s sojourn in the material world. Tradition places this time in the Treta-yuga, approx. 1,004,750 BCE.

3237:            Traditional date given for Lord Krishna’s earthly existence.

3112:            Krishna leaves the world, thus the Kali Yuga, the world’s final epoch begins.

2000 – 1250:            Upanishads, Brahmanas, and Aranyakas seem to arise at this time.

1500 – 500:             Major Upanishads and philosophical texts are composed, along with the systemization of the Six Schools of Indian Philosophy.

599 – 527:            Life of Mahavira, “founder” of Jainism, though he was part of an ancient line of Jain-like masters.

563 – 483:            Date of the Buddha, Siddartha Gautama’s birth.

483:            Death of Siddartha and the First Great Council, where major portions of the canon were recited.

400:            Greek ambassador to India (Megasthenes) writes of Krishna as the Supreme Being, one of the earliest historical evidences of Krishna worship.

395:            Great Council of Vaishali and beginning of first major schism.

300:            Beginning of composition of Abhidharma (Further Teachings) text.

274:            King Ashoka ascends to the throne of the Mauryan Empire and eventually converts to Buddhism. Under his patronage Buddhism spreads out through India, and into Central/Western Asia.

250:            Third Council at Pataliputa under Ashoka

225:            Mahinda, Ashoka’s son, takes Theravada Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

200:            Beginning of memorial mound (stupa) cults, which involve increasing numbers of laity.

150:             Buddhist canon written down.

100:            Various schools of Scholastic Buddhism established; Heliodorus Column in Besnagar, north-central India, bears an inscription mentioning Vasudeva (Krishna) as a Divine Being, offering pre-Christian archeological evidence for Krishna worship.

50:            Earliest Perfection of Wisdom sutras written; beginning of Mahayana Buddhism.

25:            Introduction of Buddhism into China.

100 C.E:    Emergence of Mahayana as a recognizable movement in India, including Pure Land forms, and continued composition of related texts.

150 – 250:  Life of Nagarjuna, “founder” of Madhyamika (Middle Way) School, the most original thinker after Siddartha.

200:        Great monastic university of Nalanda founded, becoming a flourishing center of Buddhist study for 1000 years.

220:            Collapse of Han Dynasty in China and beginning of the “period of disunity”. Confucianism falls into disrepute, which opens the way for Buddhism to take hold in the populace.

344 – 414:     Life of Kumarajiva, Central Asian translator of Buddhist texts into Chinese.

350:            Beginning of Yogachara (Practice of Yoga) as a distinct school of philosophy in India.

372:            Introduction of Buddhism into Korea from China

399:            Chinese monk Faxian becomes first Chinese pilgrim to India.

500:            Emergence in India of Tantra, a pan-Indian ritual/occult esoteric movement.

526:            Legendary Bodhidharma brings Chan/Zen teachings to southern China.

538 – 597:   Life of Zhiyi, founder of Tiantai “Heavenly Terrace” School (“Tendai” in Japan).

550:      Early development of Pure Land and Ch’an (Zen) Schools in China.

574:      Life of Prince Shotoku, “founder” of Japanese Buddhism and author of Japan’s first “constitution” – who makes a concerted effort to bring Buddhism to Japan from Korea as part of Chinese cultural influence.

589:       China reunited under Sui and Tang Dynasties. Beginning of Buddhism’s Golden Age.

596 – 664:     Life of Xuanzang, Chinese Buddhist pilgrim who travels throughout Asia to India in search of the original Scriptures. He brings back thousands of texts to be translated and becomes one of the great heroes in Chinese culture, eventually immortalized in the famous novel Journey to the West (1592).

641 – 650:     Construction of the first Buddhist temples in Tibet to house images of the Buddha.

700 – 794:     Nyingma School (oldest order) of Tibetan Buddhism established.

710 – 794:      Nara Period of Japanese Buddhism in which Buddhism becomes Japan’s official religion (among the nobility). The great Eastern Temple, the largest wooden structure in the world, is built as a symbol of Japanese unity under Buddhism, housing the world’s largest bronze statue.

749:       Sam-ye monastery founded in Tibet.

750:       Spread of Buddhism to Indonesia and Java; construction of Borobudur, monumental pyramid temple outside of Jakarta.

775:       Padmasambhava, Tantric adept, transmits Vajrayana to Tibet, an event known as the “First Propagation of Buddhism”.

766 – 822:    Life of Saicho, founder of Tendai School in Japan, who establishes Buddhist Centre on Mount Hiei.

774 – 835:    Life of Kukai, founder of Shingon Buddhism (Japanese Tantra): also known as Kobo Daishi.

788:          Life of Adi Shankara, Hindu monk-philosopher who emphasized that the world is an illusion and that each living being is ultimately no different from God.

845:        Great suppression of Buddhism in China during latter part of Tang Dynasty.

866:         Death of Linji Yixuan (Japan: Rinzai Gigen), founder of what would become Rinzai Zen in Japan.

868:         Oldest existing printed book in the world: a Chinese translation of the Diamond Sutra.

983:         First complete printing of the Chinese Buddhist canon.

1000:      Spread of Theravada Buddhism throughout Southeast Asia, “Second Propagation of Buddhism” in Tibet under scholar-monk Atisha.

1100:      Construction of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

1200 – 1253:    Life of Dogen Zenji, Founder of the Soto Zen sect in Japan

1200 – 1300:     Biography of the Buddha translated into Greek in Christian guise as The Tale of Balaam and Josaphat by Euthymius, a Georgian monk. The two are venerated in the Greek Orthodox (Aug. 26), Slavic Orthodox (Nov. 12) and Gregorian (Dec. 2) calendars.


©2013 Daniel


Introduction To Japanese Philosophers: 日本の哲学者


西谷 啓治 

As an ethnomusicologist and East Asian aesthetician I often get asked by students if there is such as thing as “Japanese philosophy,” something akin to the lineage and/or chronology of Greek to Modern philosophy in the West. Though much Japanese religious thought before Prince Shotoku had a philosophical element, Shotoku’s reign can be considered the beginning of an organized “national” ideal, with six schools of Buddhist thought contributing to the development of organized, distinct sects, which eventually lead to a national discussion of what constitiutes “Japanese-ness” (Meiji Era). Thus, the following is a general overview of Japanese philosophy beginning with Prince Shotoku’s creation of a rudimentary National Constitution, and his subsequent promotion of Buddhism as a national faith – as a shorthand guide for students of Asian Studies and/or Eastern philosophy.

Shotoku Taishi (574 – 622 CE): Crown Prince; promoted Buddhism (Chinese Mahayana).

Kūkai (774 – 835 CE): Founder of (Vajrayana branch) Shingon Buddhism in Japan at Mt. Koyasan. Also known as Kobo Daishi.

Genshin (942 – 1017 CE): Tendai monk; meditation on Amida Buddha along with recitation of his name (nembutsu) ensures birth into the Pure Land.

Honen (1133 – 1212 CE): Founder of the Jodo (Pure Land) sect.

Jichin (Jien) (1155 – 1225 CE): Tendai poet/monk; History can be understood by reference to the Buddhist notion of the (declining) Latter Days Of The Law (mappō) and fixed by the intervention of the Shinto gods.

Myōe (1173 – 1232 CE): Kegon/Shingon monk. Moral action is a means for gaining enlightenment, as meditation is too hard for the layperson.

Shinran (1173 – 1263 CE): Once one not only says the nembutsu BUT entrusts oneself to the salvation of Amida (shinjin) as well, birth in the Pure Land is guaranteed.

Dōgen (1200 – 1253 CE): Founder of the Sōtō Zen sect. The practice of meditation (zazen) and Enlightenment are one and the same thing.

Nichiren (1222 – 1282 CE): The Lotus Sutra contains the highest truth of the Buddha, and the mere recitation of its title is sufficient religious practice.

Ippen (1239 – 1289 CE): Rebirth into the Pure Land is experienced not only in the afterlife, but also in this life for the duration of every recitation of the nembutsu.

Kenkō Yoshida (1283 – 1350 CE): Buddhist monk who wrote the free form work (zuihitsu) the Tsurezuregusa (“Essays in Idleness”).

Chikafusa Kitabake (1293 – 1354 CE): The ideal government is an oligarchy of courtiers ruling in the name of a non-acting Emperor.

Seika Fujiwara (1561 – 1619 CE): Scholar of Kyoto Zhu Xi School of Neo-Confucianism: Buddhism is false, contrary to the daily concerns of the Japanese, and must be rejected.

Shōsan Suzuki (1579 – 1655 CE): Samurai-turned-Zen monk. Daily work is a type of religious practice leading to Salvation.

Razan Hayashi (1583 – 1657 CE): Advisor to the Shōguns, scholar of Kyoto School of Zhu Xi Neo-Confucianism; Divine retribution (tembatsu) occurs when the Neo-Confucian principles are transgressed.

Tōju Nakae (1608 – 1648 CE): Founder of Wang yang-ming Neo-Confucian School in Japan. Innate knowledge is the key to wisdom and virtue.

Ansai Yamazaki (1618 – 1682 CE): Founder of the Shikoku School of Zhu Xi Neo-Confucianism – Reverence (and practicing virtues) is the central value of all human relationships and activities.

Sokō Yamaga (1622 – 1685 CE): The purpose of the warrior is to exemplify the virtue of duty to the rest of society.

Jinsai Itō (1627 – 1705 CE): The correct Way is the moral cultivation of the individual, the Way of Man (not Heaven or Nature). Humanity is worked out through social action, not character development.

Ekken Kaibara (1630 – 1713 CE): Confucian scholar; Benevolence is the Cardinal Virtue, and filial piety should be extended to the whole of Nature.

Sorai Ogyū (1666 – 1728 CE): The proper Way is the Way of the ancient Sage-Kings of China (government), and has nothing to do with the Dao. To realize one’s full human potential is to assist in the proper government of the land based on one’s talents and place in society.

Norinaga Motoori (1730 – 1801 CE): National Learning (Kokugaku) scholar, which proposed to reclaim Japan’s spiritual past from the interpretive frames of Buddhism and Confucian. Authentic human life is in feeling and expressing mono no aware (the melancholy of understanding the impermanence of life).

Atsutane Hirata (1776 – 1843 CE): Kokugaku scholar; led the “Return to Antiquity” Shinto School (Fukko Shintō) which sought to rid Shinto of Buddhist and Confucian influence. Family duty and daily work is the proper expression of the ancient way, not mono no aware.

Amane Nishi (1829 – 1897 CE): The Father of Western Philosophy in Japan. Introduced Western philosophy and especially, the idea of ‘aesthetics’ to Japan via a lecture series entitled Bimyōgaku Setsu (The Theory of Aesthetics, 1877).

Kitarō Nishida (1870 – 1945 CE): Zen practitioner who tried to reconcile Zen with Western philosophy. “Pure” experience equals knowing facts as they are.

D.T. Suzuki (1870 – 1966 CE):  Controversial Buddhist scholar and member of the Kyoto School of philosophy who lectured on Buddhism in the West, and was highly influential in the (mis) interpretation of Zen in Western philosophy and aesthetics.

Hajime Tanabe (1885 – 1962 CE): Philosophy has no essential social/moral responsibility; rather it is a process of relating to our deepest state of being.

Junichirō Tanizaki (1886 – 1965 CE): In Praise of Shadows (1933) treatise on Japanese aesthetics: Modernism is bright and garish, whereas the aesthetics of Japan are of shadows and subtlety, the patina of age vs. the Western model of newness. Critique of Western values through aesthetics; Western Modernism is bright and ugly.

Kuki Shūzō (1888 – 1941 CE): Philosopher (and Catholic), author of The Structure of Iki (1930) which analyzed social chic in the Tokugawa Era. Iki (chic); a more direct manner of behavior and taste contrasted the ethereal transcendence and ephemerality of Zen/warrior class aesthetics.

Sōetsu Yanagi (1889 – 1961 CE): Founder of the Mingei (folk crafts) Movement, discovering beauty in ordinary, utilitarian folk objects, especially Korean. Yanagi’s theories were criticized as a form of Japanese nationalism that posited a (racial) Korean “primitivism” to be curated/cultivated by (read: superior) Japanese scholars and aesthetes.

Senroku Uehara (1899 – 1975 CE): Religious experience of the Transcendental is achieved in one’s engagement with their time and place in society.

Keiji Nishitani (1900 – 1990 CE): Nihilism is the central problem of the 20th century, and science has contributed heavily to it. Buddhist ‘Emptiness’ is key in understanding Japanese philosophy, overcoming nihilism, and the study of emptiness offers a challenge to hegemonic Western notions of God, time, the self, and history.


©2014 Daniel