During the Edo period, there are said to have been more than 100 Fuke-shu temples all across Japan. These were the temples of the Komuso, whose spiritual practice it was to play shakuhachi, and their repertoire was the ‘honkyoku’ (original pieces). In Edo, Kurosawa Kinko made a defined collection of honkyoku which was passed on in the Kanto temples as Kinko-ryu. The temple in Kyoto is also known to have had a large repertoire, whereas some temples elsewhere are said to have as few as one honkyoku. These pieces would be shared and passed around as komuso wandered on their pilgrimages to other parts of the country.

At the end of the Edo period, the new Meiji government opposed the ancient Buddhist tradition, and closed many temples across Japan in favour of a new nationalistic Shinto. This was a hard time for shakuhachi, as up until that time the Komuso were the only ones legally allowed to play the instrument. It was largely thanks to the efforts of the Kinko Ryu Grandmasters Araki Kodo II (Chikuo) and Yoshida Itcho that shakuhachi could continue at all as the Meiji government came close to banning it totally.

In the following years, ensemble music became very popular and shakuhachi became a mainstream instrument, while the honkyoku also continued to be transmitted both within groups playing ensemble music and also in solely honkyoku groups. But as the tastes changed and the new generations of players had less interest in the older traditions, and also through the difficulties social change brought about by the Meiji government and later by war, many honkyoku were lost and many lineages died with their last players.

Schools with Edo Period Origins

The honkyoku taught at Ichigetsuji and Reihoji temples were preserved in the long established Kinko-ryu. Those taught at Fudaiji temple were preserved in Seien-ryu. The pieces from Aomori were passed down through Kimpu-ryu. Myoanji temple’s repertoire, along with a number of other honkyoku from the Kyoto area were collected into Shimpo-ryu.

Later Collections

and in the Meiji period Higuchi Taizan collected pieces and composed some of his own to make his own school, which also continues to today. Apart from these schools, the preservation of the honkyoku which we have today was largely thanks to certain players who traveled across Japan, learning what they could from the remaining keepers of the pieces and gathered together their own repertoire which they could then pass on to their students. Among these people are Takahashi Kuzan (1900~1986) (said to have collected more than 250 pieces), Jin Nyodo (1891-1966), Yamaue Getsuzan (1908~????) and Watazumi Doso Roshi (1911-1992).

Justin has had the good fortune to study the honkyoku of Ichigetsuji and Reihoji (Kinko-ryu) from Araki Kodo V; the honkyoku of Fudaiji (Seien-ryu) from Iwata Seien; the extremely rare ancient honkyoku of Kyoto Myoan-ji honkyoku from Takahashi Rochiku and Otsubo Shido; the honkyoku of Watazumi from Furuya Teruo and his teacher Yokoyama Katsuya, and from Otsubo Shido; honkyoku of Jin Nyodo’s lineage from Sato Jokan in Kyushu and Kurahashi Yoshio in Kyoto; honkyoku of Takahashi Kuzan from Fujiyoshi Etsuzan; and the honkyoku of the Northern regions of Aomori and Oshu, and the island of Kyushu, from several of the teachers above through various lines of transmission.


Gaikyoku refers to the music which is ‘outside’ of the Komusou’s shakuhachi honkyoku tradition, and refers to the popular ensemble music such as Jiuta, Sokyoku and various other music for which shakuhachi may accompany koto, shamisen and voice. When all three instruments are played together this is known as Sankyoku.

The school of Yokoyama Katsuya also teaches the repertoire of music composed by Fukuda Randou, who was an important composer in the new Japanese music movement in the early 20th century; and also a variety of modern compositions both solo and ensemble, as well as compositions by Yokoyama Katsuya himself; and some of the Edo period Sankyoku music. These Justin has studied with Furuya Teruo and Yokoyama Katsya.

Kinko-ryu is known for its excellant Sankyoku music, Jiuta and Sokyoku. Justin’s teacher for this style was Araki Kodo V, the leading master of this genre for which his lineage is particularly renowned, and which his great grandfather Araki Kodo II (Chikuo) and grandfather Araki Kodo III played a large part in making popular as shakuhachi transitioned from the last part of the Edo period into the Meiji period. The level of mastery and depth and subtlety of expression which Araki embodies is truly inspiring.

For more details about each lineage, see this page on regional honkyoku styles.