Oshu Kei and Echigo Myoan-ji Den

Oshu and Echigo were two neighboring regions in the North of Edo period Japan. Oshu Kei literally means Oshu ‘family’, refering to the honkyoku styles of the various Fuke temples in the area. Myoan-ji was the name of the Fuke temple in Echigo, so Echigo Myoan-ji Den means the ‘Lineage of Echigo Myoan temple’. This is not to be confused with the famous temple in Kyoto bearing the same name, Kyoto Myoan-ji.

The styles of Oshu and Echigo are very similar, both being highly ornamented, somewhat mournful and yet exquisitely beautiful. They include an element of improvisation, being less fixed than the 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 of the pieces is very large.

Oshu Kei

The Oshu repertoire does not exist as a separate school but is incorporated into schools across Japan. There are three main pieces played: Reibo; Sanya; and Tsuru no Sugomori. Takahashi Kuzan also transmitted two additional pieces, Miyagino Sugagaki and Sakura Otoshi, bringing the total to five.

Since there were so many variations of the pieces, Justin has researched the various lineages and histories, and travelled across Japan in order to understand the special character of this style – see below for a chart of the Oshu lineages Justin has received.

Takahashi Kuzan

Takahashi Kuzan grew up in Yamagata in the Oshu region, and so naturally Oshu Kei was Kuzan’s first shakuhachi style. Studying with his student Fujiyoshi Etsuzan has been an invaluable source for this style for Justin, for both the precious pieces in the repertoire and the authentic Oshu nuance.

Yamaue Getsuzan

Yamaue Getsuzan was a great master of Oshu style, having studied the style from five different teachers. He was meticulous at preserving pieces as he has been taught them, and taught each version of the pieces separately, even if they differed at times only slightly. Justin studied Yamaue’s lineage with Otsubo Shido in Kyushu.

Uramoto Setcho

Uramoto Setcho studied Oshu Reibo and Sanya with Konashi Kinsui. Among the people he taught this style to were Iwata Seien, Watazumi and Takahashi Ryudo. Justin studied in Nagoya with Iwata Seien, who is also his Seien Ryu teacher; with Yokoyama Katsuya and Furuya Teruo of Watazumi’s lineage in Tokyo; and most recently had the good fortune to study from Takahashi Ryudo in Europe. It was reassuring to note that Ryudo’s version of the piece was almost identical to the piece as transmitted by Iwata Seien. Perhaps the extra length of Yokoyama’s lineage, and the genius of both Watazumi’s and Yokoyama’s musicianship have led to slightly more divergence, but all of these branches retain the distinct Oshu character and outstanding musical charm.

Takahashi Rochiku

While Justin has learned a great deal from all the teachers he has studied these pieces with, he has found it most exciting to study under Takahashi Rochiku. If we regard Hasegawa Togaku, the last head of Fudaiken temple, as 1st generation, Rochiku is therefore 3rd generation, his teacher Goto Tosui having learned from Hasegawa directly.

Bearing in mind that most teachers today are 6th~8th generation, it was remarkably good fortune to find a 3rd generation player. Furthermore, whereas many players are keen to play in their own unique way, often incorporating the Oshu pieces into the broader style of their particular repertoire, Rochiku is renowned for both his scholarship (having published numerous books on honkyoku) and his strict attention to detail. He never tries to create his own style, but follows meticulously the way he was taught. There is of course nothing wrong with making ones own style. However, since Justin takes it as a specific aim to understand and play the distinct regional honkyoku styles, the combination of Rochiku’s short lineage and his strict adherence to his teacher’s style and technique has been invaluable.

Lineage Chart

Ōshū lineage for Fudaiken and Shoganken temple’s honkyoku received by Justin

Echigo Myoan-ji Den

After the dissolution of the Fuke sect, the two sources for Echigo honkyoku were Saikawa Baio and Jimbo Masanosuke. As with Oshu Kei, the main pieces in the Echigo repertoire and Reibo and Sanya. In addition, Jimbo Masanosuke transmitted a unique version of Tsuru no Sugomori.

Justin has worked hard to research the most reliable sources for Echigo honkyoku, and has learned from teachers of six different Echigo lineages.

Listen to Reibo, from Kinjoji Temple:

This piece is one of the versions of Reibo, and was played by a wandering Buddhist komuso named Onodera Genkichi of the Kinjoji Temple in Northern Japan, and therefore falls under the Oshu syle. This style is highly ornamented while embodying a gentle quality and using unique varieties of ‘yuri’.

The piece was transmitted by Onodera to the Kimpu Ryu shool of shakuhachi in around 1888 in Hirosaki. Justin received this piece from his teacher Otsubo Shido, and plays it here in the Prague Shakuhachi Festival in 2012, on a 2.6 jinashi shakuhachi which he made. [weaver_youtube http://youtu.be/vqzvthjhMGo sd=0 percent=80 ratio=.5625 center=1 rel=0 https=0 privacy=0]