Friday, June 11, 2010

Shakuhachi Prices: "Do you take unemployment checks?"

Years ago on Tom Deaver's older Bei Shu Shakuhachi website, he mentioned that the standard of pricing a shakuhachi was equated with the shakuhachi buyer's monthy salary times 2. It's an old Japanese traditional thing. "Old" meaning 19th century. Late Edo, early to mid Meiji.

Naturally the buyers would have been fairly well-to-do (at worst upper-middle class*), maybe landed people with enough leisure time to learn and enjoy playing shakuhachi. Not too many farmers and laborers taking up shakuhachi in old Japan.

I noticed today, in keeping with the poor economy worldwide, that some shakuhachi makers and sellers are moving more toward accepting deposits and time payments for their wares. Many have been doing this for a number of years, but today is the first time I've seen a seller's terms made public on their website (in English). Case in point being Tom Deaver's website:

I know Monty Levenson at Tai Hei Shakuhachi has been doing an installment practice for some time. One frequently notes "HOLD" notices on flutes on his site. Now more than ever. Mejiro in Japan has more "Reserved" notes on their flutes, new and used. I'm sure many other makers and sellers make time payment accommodations for customers on a case-by-case basis. Tom Deaver is still the only one who actually spells it out on his website (in English, that is).

Might be something for more sellers to think about doing. A lot of people do not like to ask. But if they know they might have a chance at financing an instrument, they might more seriously consider the prospect. The age of putting 3 or 4 thousand dollar flutes on a credit card seems like a fond memory for those who used to be fortunate enough to have good jobs and good credit scores. The downside is increased bookkeeping, but that just may be the new cost of doing business in a very flat economy ... in a "jobless recovery" -- whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

*upper-middle class in modern terms: At least one mortgage (preferably not an ARM), 2.5 kids with at least 1.5 bound for college, 2 cars in the driveway with one being a Soccer-Mom SUV. At least one full time career job (still employed).

OR ... one monthly trust fund check, not adjusted for inflation.

*upper-middle class in Old Japan: 500 koku of rice, give or take a few koku.


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