Oshu kei and Echigo honkyoku
The significance of Oshu kei and Echigo honkyoku for the student
The Oshu kei and Echigo honkyoku are highly ornamented and rare in that they include an element of improvisation. The komuso monk Onodera Genkichi from Kinjoji temple in Oshu traveled to Tsugaru and by chance was asked to teach by the first Ieomoto of the Kimpu ryu, Nyui Getsuei (read more below under Oshu history). Therefor, the Oshu sound may have played a role in the forming of the Kimpu ryu style. The styles from the Oshu and neighboring Echigo region had a large impact on master Watazumi and Jin Nyodo. The Oshu kei 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 regions in the North during the Edo period of Japan. Oshu kei literally means “Oshu family” and refers to the honkyoku styles of the various Fuke shu temples in that region during the Edo period. Myoanji was the name of the Fuke shu temple in Echigo, not to be confused with the temples in Kyoto bearing the same name. The Oshu kei repertoire does not exist as a separate school, however, it is incorporated into other schools across Japan. There are three main pieces played which are Reibo, Sanya, and Tsuru no Sugomori. Takahashi Kuzan also transmitted two additional pieces, Miyagino Sugagaki and Sakura Otoshi, bringing the total to five.
The styles of Oshu kei and Echigo Myoanji are very 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 number of pieces in the repertoire is very small, the number of variations is extensive. Justin Senryu Williams traveled across Japan in order to researched the various lineages and histories so as to better understand the many variations of the Oshu kei and Echigo Myoanji honkyoku.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing stories is that of a wandering Oshu komuso monk, Onodera Genkichi from Kinjoji temple. He traveled further north to Stugaru, Aomori prefecture, where by chance the first Iemoto of the Kimpu ryu, Nyui Getsuei heard him playing for alms. Getsuei invited Genkichi to teach him and his students. One can not help but wonder what effect Onodera Genkichi had in shaping the Kimpu ryu style.
How I received the Kimpu ryu Tsugaru shakuhachi honkyoku
My teacher for Oshu kei was Justin Senryu. Justin’s teachers for Oshu kei and Echigo Myoanji were Otsubo Shido (Yamaue Getsuzan lineage), Iwata Seien VI, Furuya Teruo (Watazumi lineage), and lastly, Fujiyoshi Etsuzan (Takahashi Kuzan lineage).
The Oshu kei honkyoku
1. Shirabe (調)
4. Tsuru no Sugomori
5. Miyagino Sugagaki
6. Sakura Otoshi