Of all honkyoku, this one is most often played in Zen temples. It comes originally from Itcho-ken Temple in Hakata (Fukuoka Prefecture) on the island of Kyushu.
The music is supposed to represent the Zen concept of “seeing with the heart” as opposed to normal seeing with one’s eyes. The “a” of the title Ajikan refers to Zen priests in meditation: the “ji” represents the primary or original sound: and the word “kan” means “to see”. Thus, this honkyoku is about “seeing the original sound”, a special sort of vision that is associated with enlightenment.
“A” in this title is pronounced “Ah” and is the first sound of the Japanese alphabet. In the Mikkyo (“secret teachings”) of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, “Ah” represents the “basic essence” of all things. “Kan” means to “see” this essence with one’s Heart/Mind (kokoro). These teachings were expounded by Kukai, the famous founder of the Shingon sect at Toji Temple in Kyoto. The beginning of all things is in the heart and mind and these find their manifestations in the physical world. One must concentrate on this to understand how any idea one holds can change the shape of the seen and unseen world.
The title refers to an important meditative practice of Shingon-sect esoteric Buddhism. “A” is thought to be the first sound uttered by humans once they open their mouths. Once one has moved away from this “A” nothing is explicable in words, thus becoming pure “nothingness.” Thus reflecting (kan) on the ideograph (ji) of “A” gives “Ajikan.”
Source: The International Shakuhachi Society (www.komuso.com)
Recording: Practice recording on shakuhachi 2.4