As is explained on the shakuhachi history page, traditional Japanese culture suffered greatly during the Meiji period. Not only did the government attempt to annihilate Buddhism, to which shakuhachi belonged, but also Japan as a nation was embracing all things Western. Western clothing, architecture and many other aspects of culture were adopted, and the standard music education in schools became Western music from that time. This, combined with the hardships experienced by the komuso who had been stripped of their way of life, led to the loss of much of the honkyoku repertoire. Some schools continued in their local area, such as Seien Ryu in Nagoya and Kimpu Ryu in Aomori; some such as Kinko Ryu remained strong in their native area (Tokyo in this case) and also spread out across Japan; some such as the pieces from Oshu survived only by being absorbed into other schools; and some disappeared entirely.
Within this tumultuous time, there have been important shakuhachi masters who have gathered together collections of honkyoku, often from well established schools but also some pieces which would otherwise have been lost entirely. Here follows a brief summary of these people. For more detailed information, please click on the links, or navigate the menu:
The first of these was Katsuura Shozan. Born in 1856, he went on to become the head of the Myoan honkyoku tradition, Myoan Shimpo Ryu. Katsuura’s repertoire included the 40 traditional honkyoku of the Myoan temple, with an additional 22 pieces which he gathered from other sources.
Higuchi Taizan was also born in 1856, and gathered honkyoku mainly from Seien Ryu and Kinko Ryu, while including other pieces from Kyushu and Oshu. He moved to Kyoto and his school remains popular today, with affiliated groups across Japan.
Jin Nyodo, born in 1891, grew up in the far North of Japan learning Kimpu Ryu. He later studied sankyoku and honkyoku extensively, and is held in high regard for his collection of 47 honkyoku from across Japan, which Jin taught in Tokyo and while travelling to other areas.
Takahashi Kuzan, born in 1900, grew up in Tohoku in Northern Japan, and travelled through Japan learning from the great masters of each style. He was renowned as a honkyoku master, and also as a shakuhachi scholar, and gathered many rare pieces together some of which he learned from the last remaining players. His lineage is therefore a very valuable source of historical honkyoku music.
Yamaue Getsuzan, born in 1908, travelled across Japan learning honkyoku from the top shakuhachi masters of his time. He gathered the most extensive repertoire of any player we know of, and many honkyoku have survived which would otherwise have been lost thanks to his efforts. It is also thanks to his work in collecting and recording historical information that we know so much about the lineages of transmission of the honkyoku.
Watazumi, born in 1911, was a Zen Buddhist monk from Kyushu. He made a revival of the Kyushu Itchoken temple, and later travelled around Japan learning from various teachers, eventually settling in Tokyo. His honkyoku repertoire is transmitted primarily in Yokoyama Katsuya’s school, Chikushinkai.