Koten or “old” honkyoku’s are solo pieces for shakuhachi. They don’t have a fixed form and the more important musical element is free rhythm. Different melodic lines are placed in a row. Many stereotyped intervallic units occur here and there.
The Honkyoku pieces of the Fuke sect (30 to 40 pieces) are based on the religious ideas of Zen Buddhism.
Honkyoku of the Kinko School took over the repertoire of the Fuke Shakuhachi, but modified into a more artistic style. Then, too, new compositions not religious in nature were added to the repertoire of the Kinko-ryu Honkyoku (36 pieces).
In the Hijiri-ryu, we play both honkyoku’s from the Old Zen tradition and from the Kinko-ryu.