Horagai (Conch) (ホラガイ)

Horagai, with the scientific name Charonia tritonis, is a type of snall that belongs to the Cymatiidae family, formerly classified under Cymatiidae, Mesogastropoda. It is the largest snail living in Japan. It is one of the natural predators of onihitode (crown-thorn starfishs).

Musical Instrument

Musical instruments made by chipping the apex of shell by 4 to 5 centimeters, with its mouth fixed in plaster, are found in Japan, Southeast Asia and Oceania. In Japan, it was used to signal in battle and to lift fighting spirits during the Warring States period.

In shugendo (Japanese ascetic and shamanistic practice in mountainous sites), practice called ryura saho (manner of blowing the hora, conch-shell) is implemented. Styles of ryura saho vary in different branches of shugendo such as Tozan school and Honzan school, thus making each sound slightly different. Combined with a variety of sounds such as otsuon (low pitch), kanon (high pitch) as well as shirabe, hanon (semitone), atari, yuri, and tome (very high pitch), it is considered to be a Buddhist preaching, has the power to beat evil spirits, and is even used as a tool of communication between monks who run up mountains.

"Ryura Hikan" (Secret book of playing the hora, conch-shell trumpet) by Ryuen HONMA, of Tozan School of Sanboin of Daigoji Temple, which was published in the early Showa period, has been recognized as an indispensable text and handed down to later monks, especially those who train shell trumpet players.

During 'Omizutori (Water-Drawing Festival)' in Nigatsudo Hall of Todaiji Temple, horagai (conch-shells) are blown to drive oni (ogre) out of the temple.

Horagai (conch shell) player Yota HIROSE of Olympos 16 Toshin is among well-known horagai users.

[Original Japanese]