c.1880/1900: Komuso “Basket” monks

“A komusō (虚無僧) was a Japanese monk during the Edo period. Komusō were characterised by the straw basket (tengai) worn on the head, manifesting the absence of specific ego. They are also known for playing solo pieces on the shakuhachi flute. The Japanese government introduced reforms after the Edo period, abolishing the sect. Komusō means “priest of nothingness” or “monk of emptiness””

- Wikipedia

Sources: What’s That Picture? / Myoan Shakuhachi

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Goggles aficionado. Retronaut’s founder and curator.

5 Responses

  1. Joanne

    “Monk of emptiness”. To be known as an empty person or actually a non-person or nothing. How awful.

  2. Ohma

    Eh, as far as personality destroying religious practices go, trying to turn oneself into the metaphysical equivalent of Jacques de Vaucanson’s “The Flute Player” in order to attain enlightenment is on the less sad-making end of things to me.

  3. Red Cardinal

    I know a few people who could do with wearing baskets on their heads :)

  4. Alexandra Domeracki

    These baskets were also used by pilgrims so that they would concentrate on their spiritual journey and avoid any kind of distractions one would often encounter on the Tokaido road.

    These pictures are so quirky and slightly creepy – I love them!

  5. Jim

    that nothingness refers to absence of ego – they practiced a form of zen buddhism. The government was at the time still trying to keep Shinto above Buddhism which was established by then having been introduced to Japan about 1,000 years earlier along with Confucianism. Shinto temples received a subsidy towards their upkeep and there were and still are a lot of them.


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