Honkyoku are the most venerated pieces of shakuhachi music. They were mostly composed by the Komuso monks during the Edo period. Many distinct regional styles of honkyoku developed across Japan though few have survived to this day. Honkyoku are unique in that they are mostly solo pieces with pauses of silence. Honkyoku (本曲) literally means “original/true/real music” and the word can refer to a single piece or to the genre as a whole.
Honkyoku are highly nuanced making it virtually impossible to transcribe them to staff notation. Even the Japanese systems of notation for the shakuhachi cannot convey many of the subtleties found in honkyoku. It would be like trying to infer or convey the accent of a regional dialect through written text alone. For this reason the passing down of honkyoku must occur between teacher and student.