Oshu-kei (Fudai-ken aka Futai-ken, Kinjo-ji) and Echigo Myoan-ji 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 nothing 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 (小野寺 源吉) from Kinjo-ji in Oshu who traveled further north to Aomori, Hirosaki. There he was heard playing Kinjo-ji Reibo when the founder of the Kinpu Ryu, Nyui Getsuei (乳井月影), heard him and invited him to teach him and his students. He stayed and taught them all 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.” 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.