The honkyoku from the former Oshu (奥州国) and Echigo (越後国) provinces (Tohokuken) are perhaps the most nuanced and deep of all the honkyoku. They’re also 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. These honkyoku had a large impact on masters Watazumi and Jin Nyodo, to name a few. These regions were known for playing the longest shakuhachi of the Edo period at 2.2 shaku. They also passed down the honkyoku without the aid of notation much longer than any other schools in Japan.
Oshu and Echigo were two neighboring provinces in the North of Japan during the Edo period. The Oshu and Echigo honkyoku do not exist as separate schools, however, their honkyoku have been incorporated and often reworked in other schools across Japan. There are just three main pieces played which are Reibo, Sanya, and Tsuru no Sugomori they’re are less fixed than other styles with extensive variations of each piece.
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 who 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 and 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.”