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I acquired a two-piece Shakuhachi about 25 years ago and for almost the entire time, it was stored and not used. It seems to be in great shape (it was stored in a plastic bag inside a document tube). I'm now playing it again (finally) and would appreciate advice on proper care of the joint (nakatsuki). It hasn't been separated in 25 years. Do joints need to be regularly separated? Should I attempt to separate the joint (it seems tight but I haven't pulled with much force)? Is it okay to twist as I pull apart or ??? If I do pull it apart, is there a proper method to clean and care (lubricate?) the joint itself?
Thanks for any help.
Hi Barry, it's very unusual that you have a shakuhachi which has not been separated for 25 years.
If you don't need to separate it for travel purposes you may as well leave it as is. However if you are curious or want to separate for travel purposes do not pull it apart as you describe. Grab the area around the joint with one hand. Hit that hand with the other hand. This will usually loosen the joint somewhat. Then twist it and pull gently. Don't just pull it without twisting. I would be cautious with this considering the years. After that, if it's a properly fitted nakasuke you can put vaseline, hair pomade of some other lubricant there for ease of separation and reassembly. If the joint is too tight and doesn't want to come apart, don't do it because you could disrupt the urushi. If it is too loose you can have a repair person add a few layers of urushi, or just do a temporary fix with a piece of paper or cellophane tape. This area of the shakuhachi is very vulnerable and is one of the main causes of structural problems, which is one reason nobe (one piece) flutes have fans. Please let us know how you go with this.
Thanks very much! If I do get it separated without too much effort, is there a safe solvent I can use to clean the joint before I re-assemble with lubricant in place?
There's not much need to clean it but probably a little natural soap is OK. The thing you don't want is to chip the urushi. There are some people who simply never take the flute apart and store it joined together.