These regions were known for playing the longest shakuhachi of the Edo period at 2.2 shaku and for continuing to pass down the honkyoku without the aid of notation far longer than any other schools in Japan. Oshu and Echigo (奥州国, 越後国) were two neighboring provinces in the North of Japan (Tohoku ken) during the Edo period. The honkyoku from Oshu and Echigo hailed from various temples, most notably Oshu’s Fudaiken temple and Echigo’s Myoanji temple (unaffiliated with Kyoto Myoanji).
There are just three honkyoko which are played – Reibo, Sanya, and Tsuru no Sugomori. However, there are extensive variations of each piece, some credited to specific individuals. The tradition allows for and encourages such customization in fact making it perhaps the most alive. These honkyoku are also the most nuanced. They make use of various unique yuri or “vibrato” including yuri using the lips and/or jaw. These honkyoku had a large impact on masters such as Watazumi and Jin Nyodo.
Onodera Genkichi (小野寺 源吉) from Kinjoji
One of the most interesting stories is that of the Komuso monk Onodera Genkichi (小野寺 源吉) from Kinjoji in Oshu. He traveled further north to Aomori, Hirosaki (c. 1888). There, he was heard playing Kinjoji Reibo by the Kinpu Ryu master Nyui Getsuei (乳井月影). Getsuei invited Onodera to teach him and his students so he accepted and stayed for three months. In Riley Lee’s PhD thesis he points out that, “Nyûi did not merely recognize and acknowledge the technical (and, one might assume, spiritual) qualities of Onodera’s shakuhachi playing, he even allowed Onodera to teach his students for three months. There is no hint of any of the ‘loss of face’ that a shakuhachi player of Nyûi’s position might experience today if confronted with similar circumstances.”