‘Flute Guy’ Who Drew Backlash at E3 for Wearing Japanese Clothes Has a Surprising Backstory

Sony’s “Flute guy” played just two minutes at this year’s E3, but he sparked an endless amount of memes and some heated discussion on social media.

Reactions vary from the annoyance of gamers who just wanted to watch gameplay at the event to ridicule of the performance itself from online critics.

On YouTube, people made fun of the performance by substituting the audio with random flute music.

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Meanwhile, Reddit and Twitter exploded with debate on whether him being a White man playing the flute in a Japanese garb qualified as “cultural appropriation.”

But many have since pointed out that the so-called “flute guy” was not just a random White guy as some netizens suggested.

The man, whose real name is Cornelius Boots, is, in fact, an expert on the shakuhachi flute and maybe one of the very best in the world with the instrument. Many may see his life’s dedication to learning this instrument as the greatest gesture of respect to Japanese culture, potentially disqualifying him from criticisms of appropriation which implies adopting aspects of another culture for personal gain or mockery.

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According to his profile at The International Shakuhachi Society website, Boots received his shakuhachi master teaching license in the dynamic Zen lineage of Watazumido under shakuhachi master Michael Gould.

Boots’ shakuhachi name is 深禅 (Shinzen) deep Zen and “now only plays bamboo shakuhachi as a living art form evolving from the depths of contemplative Zen Taoist practice, specializing in jinashi and large-bore shakuhachi.”


He also composes his own music, having released over 20 musical albums and created dozens of original film scores and collaborative projects. Boots, whose work has earned him multiple international awards, has performed at concerts in Japan, festivals in Switzerland, Italy, Prague, San Francisco and Chicago, and given lecture-performances at Esalen, S.A.N.D., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Cal Arts, UCLA, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Sanshinji Temple, University of Memphis, University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), University of Southern Oregon and beyond.

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Feature Image via Twitter/corneliusboots

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