Japanese traditional dance

Japanese traditional dance has a long history, the oldest known ones may be among those transmitted through the kagura tradition, or folk dances relating to food producing activities such as planting rice (dengaku) and fishing, including rain dances.[1] There are large number of these traditional dances, which are often subfixed -odori, -asobi, and -mai, and may be specific to a region or village.[1] Mai and Odori are the two main groups of Japanese dances, and the term Buyō (舞踊) was coined in modern times as a general term for dance, by combining mai (舞, which can also be pronounced bu) and odori (踊, can also be pronounced ).[2]

Mai is a more reserved genre of dance that often has circling movements, and dances of the Noh theatre are of this tradition.[2] A variation of the Mai style of Japanese dance is the Kyomai or Kyoto-style dance. Kyomai developed in the 17th century Tokugawa cultural period. It is heavily influenced by the elegance and sophistication of the manners often associated with the Imperial Court in Kyoto. Odori has more vigorous stepping movements and is more energetic, and dances of the kabuki theatre belong to this category.[2]

Kusakabe Kimbei - 378 Dancing
An early photograph of Japanese women in dance pose.

Dance genres

Japanese Traditional Dance

There are several types of traditional Japanese dance. The most basic classification is into two forms mai and odori which can be further classified into genres such as noh mai or jinta mai, the latter style having its origins in the pleasure districts of Kyoto and Osaka. The mai style is reserved and typified by circling movements where the body is kept low to the ground. The odori style includes bon folk dances and dances that were part of traditional kabuki performances. Odori style features larger movements and is typically more energetic.[3]

Traditional dance forms in the present day have also been influenced by Western dance forms like ballet, which were introduced to Japan during the Meiji Restoration. In Sagi musume (The Heron Maiden) the dancer's role is the spirit of the heron. In classical versions, the spirit assumes a handsome, strong pose at the end of the dance. However, this classical ending was altered in later versions (which borrowed heavily from Anna Pavlova's performances of The Dying Swan) so the spirit gradually became lifeless, ultimately sinking to the floor.[3]


Renjishi by Heisei Nakamura-za during the APEC Summit week
A Renjishi performance

Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.

The individual kanji characters, from left to right, mean sing (歌), dance (舞), and skill (伎). Kabuki is therefore sometimes translated as "the art of singing and dancing". These are, however, ateji characters which do not reflect actual etymology. The kanji of 'skill' generally refers to a performer in kabuki theatre. Since the word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary", kabuki can be interpreted as "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre.[4] The expression kabukimono (歌舞伎者) referred originally to those who were bizarrely dressed and swaggered on a street.

The history of kabuki began in 1603, when Izumo no Okuni, possibly a miko of Izumo Taisha, began performing a new style of dance drama in the dry riverbeds of Kyoto, and they were then called "strange" or "unusual" (Kabuki).[4] This new form of dance drama is thought to have been derived from folk-dances performed only by women, Furyū-ō Odori and Nembu Odori.[4] Kabuki became a common form of entertainment in the ukiyo, or Yoshiwara, the registered red-light district in Edo. During the Genroku era, kabuki thrived. The structure of a kabuki play was formalized during this period, as were many elements of style. Conventional character types were established,the types were established because of the emperor at the time Kharun the worshiped.

Noh Mai

The origin of the Noh Mai can be traced back to as far as the thirteenth century.[5][6] Noh Mai is a dance that is done to music that is made by flutes and small hand drums. At some points they dance to vocal and percussion music, these points are called kuse or kiri. Noh Mai dances are put together by a series of forms.[5] Forms are patterns of body movements that are done elegantly and with beauty.

There are several types of Noh Mai dances. A type that is neither slow nor fast is called Chu No Mai. A female usually performs this type of dance. A slower type of dance is the Jo No Mai. A female does this dance as well and can dress up as either a ghost of a noble woman, a spirit or deity. A male’s dance is Otoko Mai. The performer does not wear a mask in this dance and is portraying the character as being heroic. Another male dance is Kami Mai, where the dancer acts as though he is a deity. This is a very fast dance. The female version of this would be Kagura and can be performed in various ways. Gaku is a dance that is imitates music played by the imperial court and is usually done by the main character. These six types make up the Noh Mai dance and help give the dance its beauty.

Costumes are a huge part of Noh Mai. Sometimes a dance or play may start out very slowly, so the actors create very flamboyant costumes to keep the audience interested. They also dress to fit the region in which they represent, such as a bamboo hat worn during a play would represent country life. The most important part of the costume is the mask. The Noh Mai masks are thought to be the most artistic masks in Japan. The masks are only worn by the main characters.[7] Also, the masks have neutral expressions so it is the job of the actor to bring the character to life.[8]

Nihon Buyō

Two maiko performing a dance

Nihon Buyō is different from most other traditional dances.[9] It is intended for entertainment on stage. Nihon Buyō is a refined dance that has been improved throughout four centuries.[9]

There are four parts to Nihon Buyō, the most significant part being Kabuki Buyō.[9] Most of the repertoire has been borrowed from 18th and 19th century kabuki theatre and even from the yūkaku (pleasure quarters) of Edo Japan.[3]

Nihon Buyō was created directly from Kabuki Buyō before it became theater. The second part of Nihon Buyō is Noh.[9] Nihon Buyō takes a few key elements from Noh such as the circular movements and the tools used in its dances. The third part of these dances comes from the folk dances; the spinning and jumping used in folk dances was incorporated into Nihon Buyō. The last part came from a mixture of European and American culture that is found in Japan today.[9]

Nihon Buyō did not reach its present form until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 during a time when Western dance forms were being introduced to Japan. Thus, the present day form of Nihon Buyō was influenced by dance forms like ballet.[3]

Folk dances

Culture Day Parade (Nagoya, Japan)
Dancers in Nagoya

There are a wide variety of folk dances in Japan. Folk dances are often the basis from which other dance forms developed. An example of a Japanese folk dance is the sparrow dance (雀踊り suzume odori) is a dance based upon the fluttering movements of the Eurasian tree sparrow.[10] It was first performed, improvised, by stonemasons who were constructing Sendai Castle for the daimyō Date Masamune. The emblem of the Date clan incorporates two tree sparrows. The sparrow dance is now performed yearly in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture at the Aoba festival in mid-May.[10] School children in Miyagi prefecture learn and perform the sparrow dance, especially during the Obon Festival.

Bon Odori

Bon Odori is a type of folk dance performed during the Obon Festival.[11][12][13] It was originally a dance to welcome the spirits of the dead. These dances and the music that accompanies them are different for every region of Japan. Usually, the bon dance involves people dancing around a yagura, a high wooden scaffold. The people move either counter clockwise or clockwise, away and towards the yagura. Sometimes they switch direction.

The movements and gestures in a bon dance often depict the history, work or geography of the region.[14] For example, Tankō Bushi is a coal mining work song that originates from Miike Mine in Kyushu, and the movements in the dance depict digging, cart pushing and lantern hanging. Soran Bushi[15] is a sea shanty, and the movements in the dance depict net dragging and luggage hoisting. Bon dances may employ the use of different utensils, such as fans, small towels and wooden hand clappers. For the Hanagasa Odori,[16] the dancers use straw hats with flowers on them.

Jinta mai

Jinta mai (or kamigata mai) is a refined dance form that comes from the pleasure quarters in Osaka and Kyoto. The dance style is represented by classical elements of mai style such as fan movements, pantomime and circular movements. This form of dance is intended to be performed only by women.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b Frederic, Louis (6 May 2005). Japan Encyclopedia (new ed.). Harvard University Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0674017535.
  2. ^ a b c Oshima, Mark (29 June 2009). Sandra Buckley (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture. Routledge. p. 75. ISBN 978-0415481526.
  3. ^ a b c d e Buckley, Sandra (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture. Routledge.
  4. ^ a b c Frederic, Louis (6 May 2005). Japan Encyclopedia (new ed.). Harvard University Press. pp. 441–442. ISBN 978-0674017535.
  5. ^ a b Introducing the world of Noh : Noh Dance. The-noh.com. Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
  6. ^ Noh Dancing. Don Herbison-Evans (2009-05-07). archived at the Wayback Machine, 2009-07-02.
  7. ^ Ishii, 1994, pg. 43
  8. ^ Pitt Rivers Museum
  9. ^ a b c d e The Japanese Classical Dance Association Inc.|What is nihon buyo?. Nihonbuyou.or.jp. Retrieved on 2012-03-13. Archived July 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b Sendai Suzume Odori (Sendai Sparrow Dance ). Aoba-matsuri.com. Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
  11. ^ Bon Odori – Japanese Traditional Dance. Japan-101.com (2007-01-27). Retrieved on 2012-03-13. Archived December 7, 2003, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Invitation to Bon Dancing. Bonodori.net. Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
  13. ^ 2012 Japanese Obon Festival & Bon Odori Schedule. Japanese-City.com (2012-02-29). Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
  14. ^ The Framework of Bon Dancing10. Bonodori.net (2002-08-31). Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
  15. ^ Mawaca – Soran Bushi Lyrics. Lyricstime.com. Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
  16. ^ Hanagasa Odori (Flower Hat Dance). Ikechang.com. Retrieved on 2012-03-13.

External links

Akiu no Taue Odori

Akiu no taue odori (秋保の田植踊) is a traditional rice-planting dance in Akiu, now part of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Performed since the seventeenth century, ten female dancers accompanied by two or four males enact a repertoire of six to ten dances to the sound of flute, drums and bells. In 1970 measures were taken to document the dance and in 1976 it was designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. In 2009 Akiu no taue odori was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


Bugaku (舞楽, court dance and music) is the Japanese traditional dance that has been performed to select elites mostly in the Japanese imperial court, for over twelve hundred years. In this way, it has been known only to the nobility, although after World War II, the dance was opened to the public and has even toured around the world in 1959. The dance is marked by its slow, precise and regal movements. The dancers wear intricate traditional Buddhist costumes, which usually include equally beautiful masks. The music and dance pattern is often repeated several times. It is performed on a square platform, usually 6 yards by 6 yards.Gerald Jonas, in his 2008 book Dancing: The pleasure power and art of movement explains that "some bugaku dances depict legendary battles, others enact encounters with divine personages or mythical beasts like the phoenix; one famous set-piece shows two dragons frolicking" (p. 102). He also discusses the ancient instruction manual that describes precisely the refined movements and postures that gagaku and bugaku performers must attain. Its descriptions often use natural metaphors to describe how their movement should be. For example, the dancers might be encouraged to be like a tree swaying in a cool breeze.Amaterasu, the sun goddess had hidden herself in a cave because she was hurt by her brother Susano-o's unacceptable behaviour. Near the cave entrance, the goddess Ame-no-uzume, turned a tub over and started to dance on it in front of the worried assembly of gods. As Ame-no-uzume was half naked already, with clothes falling off, the gods started laughing loudly. When Amaterasu heard the commotion, she came out to see what was happening. Thus the world had sunlight again. The imperial family of Japan is said to have descended from Amaterasu and Ame-no-uzume is considered the patron goddess of music and dance.

This story comes from Japanese Shinto mythology. It could be said to be the start of dance as entertainment for the gods. As Japanese emperors where descended from Amaterasu, royalty and divinity often are closely associated. When Buddhist culture came over to Japan from Korea and China in the seventh century, it brought dance-drama traditions that involved intricate costumes and processions. Bugaku court dance draws heavily from the Buddhist imported culture, but also incorporates many traditional Shinto aspects. These influences eventually mixed together and over the years were refined into something uniquely Japanese, bugaku.Gagaku is the court music that goes beside the bugaku court dance. Tadamaro Ono is a palace musician whose family has been performing for the emperors of Japan for almost twelve hundred years. This makes him the thirty ninth generation in an unbroken family line of gagaku court musicians. Musicians have to be thoroughly involved with focused minds and bodies so they are engaged in the same way the dancers are. The traditions of gagaku and bugaku are the oldest known surviving court dance and music in the world. Other court dances/musics, including the original influences on bugaku, have long since died out.

With all of the new, modern culture flourishing in Japan, one may be surprised that such an ancient and slow tradition has survived. Some people note that Japanese culture is ever accommodating and expanding. So while accepting new culture, Japanese people feel a sense of duty to keep such traditions alive.

Dance of the Dead

Dance of the Dead may refer to:

Danse Macabre, a late-medieval allegory on the universality of death

Dance of the Dead (film), a 2008 American horror film

Dance of the Dead (novel), a Dungeons & Dragons tie-in novel

"Dance of the Dead" (Masters of Horror), an episode of the TV series Masters of Horror

"Dance of the Dead", a 1954 short story by Richard Matheson; basis for the TV episode

"Dance of the Dead" (The Prisoner), an episode of the TV series The Prisoner

The Dance of the Dead, a Bernice Summerfield audio drama, based on the TV series Doctor Who

Folk dance

A folk dance is developed by people that reflect the life of the people of a certain country or region. Not all ethnic dances are folk dances. For example, ritual dances or dances of ritual origin are not considered to be folk dances. Ritual dances are usually called "Religious dances" because of their purpose.

The terms "ethnic" and "traditional" are used when it is required to emphasize the cultural roots of the dance. In this sense, nearly all folk dances are ethnic ones. If some dances, such as polka, cross ethnic boundaries and even cross the boundary between "folk" and "ballroom dance", ethnic differences are often considerable enough to mention.

Geta Dance Art

Geta Dance Art is a performing style that combines traditional Japanese dance with modern dance, singing, and live painting. It was created and developed by Japanese performance artist Miyuki Matsunaga, with music by Cirque Du Soleil adapter and musician Pierre Dubé.

Gia Gunn

Gia Gunn is the stage name of American drag performer Gia Ketaro Ichikawa. She is known for competing on the sixth season of RuPaul's Drag Race, the second season of The Switch Drag Race, and RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars season four.

Hiroe Suga

Hiroe Suga (菅浩江, Suga Hiroe, born April 21, 1963 in Kyoto) is a Japanese science fiction and mystery writer. She was first published in 1981. She has won three Seiun Awards – in 1992 and 2001 for best novel of the year, and in 1993 for best short story of the year.

She is also a musician and a qualified dancer in the Wakayagi school of Japanese traditional dance.

Music and dance have figured in her fiction.

She is married to Gainax founder Yasuhiro Takeda.

Hiroko Hatano

Hiroko Hatano (畑野 ひろ子, Hatano Hiroko ; also known as 畑野 浩子) (born November 23, 1975) is a Japanese model and actress. As an 18-year-old, she made her model debut on Japanese fashion magazine JJ in March 1994. She was one of the top models for the magazine until 2001, when she temporarily quit modelling to concentrate on her acting career. She is now working for the fashion magazine, CLASSY.

Index of Japan-related articles (J)

This page lists Japan-related articles with romanized titles beginning with the letter J. For names of people, please list by surname (i.e., "Tarō Yamada" should be listed under "Y", not "T"). Please also ignore particles (e.g. "a", "an", "the") when listing articles (i.e., "A City with No People" should be listed under "City").

Index of dance articles

This is an alphabetical index of articles related to dance.

Isuzu Yamada

Isuzu Yamada (山田 五十鈴, Yamada Isuzu, 5 February 1917 – 9 July 2012) was a Japanese actress whose career on stage and screen spanned eight decades.

Japan–Qatar relations

Japan–Qatar relations are the bilateral relations between Japan and Qatar. Diplomatic relations were established in 1972. The two countries share strong economic ties, with Japan being Qatar's foremost trading partner, and Qatar ranking as Japan's sixth most significant import partner in 2016. Japan has an embassy in Doha. Qatar also has an embassy Tokyo.

Juri Manase

Juri Manase (真瀬 樹里, Manase Juri) (also known as Julie Manase, born 1 January 1975) is a Japanese actress.

Miho Konishi

Miho Konishi (小西 美帆, Konishi Miho, born 13 August 1977) is a Japanese actress.


Odori may refer to:

Odori, a Japanese traditional dance

Odori ebi sometimes just called Odori, which in sushi refers to "dancing prawns", so called because they are alive and still moving on your plate.Odori can also refer to

Bon Odori, meaning simply "Bon dance" is an event held during Bon Festival, the Japanese Buddhist holiday to honor the departed spirits of one's ancestors.

Awa Odori, a traditional Japanese dance from Tokushima also a feature of the Koenji Awa Odori festival in Koenji, Suginami, Tokyo which takes place on the last weekend in August each year.

Kasa Odori, dance with paper umbrellas performed at Tottori City's Shan-shan festival.

Parasol dance

The Japanese Parasol dance is an example of a simple Japanese dance that uses an umbrella. The dance is suited for girls making use of shuffling steps that is basic to a typical Japanese. The Parasol dance is from Kabuki. The song played during the dance is called Mikado (a song in 4/4 time).

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (立命館アジア太平洋大学, Ritsumeikan Ajia Taiheiyō Daigaku), commonly referred to as APU, is a private institution inaugurated April 2000 in Beppu, Ōita, Japan. APU was made possible through the collaboration of three parties from the public and private sectors: Ōita Prefecture, Beppu City and the Ritsumeikan Trust.

The university has an enrollment of about 5,850, including approximately 2,900 domestic, and 2,900 international students (a 50-50 domestic-international ratio) originating from 90 countries and regions. Half of the 172 full-time faculty members are also foreign nationals who come from 24 countries and regions.

Tokushima (city)

Tokushima (徳島市, Tokushima-shi, Japanese: [tokɯꜜɕima]) is the capital city of Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku island in Japan.

As of October 1, 2016, the city had an estimated population of 258,237 and a population density of 1,400 persons per km². Its total area is 191.23 km². The city is situated in the north-eastern part of Tokushima Prefecture at the mouth of the Yoshino River. In terms of layout and organization, Tokushima displays the typical characteristics of a Japanese castle town. Tokushima was developed under the Hachisuka clan. Its prosperity was built on a strong indigo dye industry.

The modern city of Tokushima was founded on October 1, 1889. At the time, it was the 10th largest city in Japan. The city is served by Tokushima Airport (recently renamed to Awa Odori Airport), in nearby Matsushige.

Social context
Major present-day genres
Regional traditions

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