In Japanese culture it is tradition that a shakuhachi master give a name to the graduating apprentice. My name was given to me by my teacher, Monty Levenson.
In a way, it is a play on my name, Jem. My full name is Jemeson, but I've gone by 'Jem' as far back as I can remember. Many people think my name is Jim, but it's pronounced like "Gem".
Ho, the top configuration in the hanko, can be translated as a gem, jade ball or treasure.
Setsu, the bottom configuration, shows my lineage with Monty. His hanko is 'KuSetsu'. Setsu is translated to mean "the joint that divides the bamboo".
Hosetsu can be translated as the "Treasure of Bamboo" or "Gem of the Bamboo Joint"
I love bamboo. I love how it grows, how it looks, how it smells and feels, how it is. As a flute maker, it's my job to hollow out the bore of the bamboo, to make it empty. I break through the barrier of the bamboo. The joint or node divides the bamboo into sections, when I empty the node the bamboo becomes one hollow piece. When I do this, the bamboo is transformed and amazing sound and vibrations can come through it. I feel this is true of myself also. When I empty my mind beautiful things happen. When I take apart my own dividers or barriers of judgement, illusion, ego, and self absorption I rest in the beauty of everything. I see with clear vision. This is my life work, undoing the barriers in bamboo and in myself.
All my flutes are stamped with my maker's mark or hanko. I fill my stamp with a natural mineral I find on walks in the hills. It is a red ochre mineral, soft in texture.
If you are lucky enough to handle or see a very old shakuhachi you will sometimes see a hanko with many characters. This shows the linage of who the maker learned from and who the maker's teacher learned from, and so on and so forth. If I am lucky enough to be able to pass on my skills on to an apprentice one day. I will hand down part of my hanko as Monty has done with me.
I am honored and deeply grateful to have such an amazing teacher. There are no words in the English language is convey my gratitude to Monty. He is and has been an amazing teacher for me, not only in the realms of flute making but in his demeanor, his character, his humor, wisdom, kindness, and being.
My Hosetsu hanko, gifted to me by Monty & Kayo Levenson: