Horagai [hora, kai]
- Henry Johnson
Conch horn of Japan. The term horagai connotes performance context (ho: ‘Buddhist law’) and form (ra: ‘large conch’; gai/kai: ‘shell’). Other names are specific to particular regions. The shell, 30 to 36 cm long, normally comes from a female conch, usually a Charonia tritonis. A blow-hole about 2 cm in diameter is made by removing the narrow end of the shell, and it is played with or without a mouthpiece (wooden or metal) built over that end. The player holds the shell in both hands, with fingers of one hand inside the opening. The shell is sometimes covered with a net that is wrapped over the player’s shoulder. Sometimes the performer speaks into the mouthpiece. Overblowing produces different pitches, and several mnemonic terms are used to represent the sounds. The horagai is known especially in Buddhism (i.e. esoteric Buddhism and Shugendō, or mountain asceticism-shamanism) and has been used as a signalling instrument or during rituals to call deities, and in some folk performing arts. Historically, it was also blown during battle, and nowadays it is also found in off-stage ...