Oshu-kei and Echigo honkyoku
The significance of Oshu kei and Echigo honkyoku for the student
Perhaps the most difficult pieces from the Edo period, the honkyoku from the former Oshu and Echigo provinces are highly ornamented and rare in that they can include an element of improvisation. The Oshu and Echigo honkyoku make use of various unique yuri or “vibrato” including yuri using the lips and or jaw. They are virtuosic styles which can take the player to new heights of nuance and skill.
Oshu kei history
Oshu and Echigo were two neighboring provinces in the north of Japan during the Edo period. Oshu-kei literally means “Oshu family” and refers to the honkyoku styles of the various Fuke shu temples that were in that region during the Edo period. Myoan-ji was the name of the Fuke shu temple in Echigo, however, it had nothin to do with the temple in Kyoto bearing the same name. The Oshu-kei and Echigo honkyoku do not exist as separate schools, however, their honkyoku are incorporated into other schools across Japan.
There are three main pieces played which are Reibo, Sanya, and Tsuru no Sugomori. The styles of Oshu-kei and Echigo Myoan-ji are similar, both being highly ornamented and including an element of improvisation. The honkyoku from these regions are less fixed than other styles, having been passed down orally without the aid of notation up until recent times. It may be for this reason that even though the repertoire is very small there are extensive variations of each piece.
One of the most interesting stories is that of the komuso monk Onodera Genkichi from Kinjo-ji in Oshu who traveled further north to Tsugaru. There he was heard playing Kinjo-ji Reibo when a one shakuhachi teacher Nyui Getsuei heard him and invited him to teach him and his students. There were no komuso or komuso temples in Tsugaru and all of Aomori so shakuhachi was practiced by active or former samurai class and laymen. Later on Nyui Getsuei became the first Ieomoto or “head” of the Kimpu ryu. Therefor, the teachings of the komuso Genkichi most likely played a role in the forming of the Kimpu ryu honkyoku style. The styles from the Oshu and Echigo also had a large impact on masters Watazumi and Jin Nyodo, the former having been born in Tsugaru.