Dance is the gift to the gods.
Chiyo Hanayagi（花柳千代）Photos from The Basis of Japanese Dance（日本舞踊の基礎）
Amaterasu, watching the dance from her cave.
The Birth of Japanese dance
When Japanese classical dancer plays on the stage, she puts a sensu (扇子, a holding fan) in front of her holding her legs under herself. The meaning is that sensu expresses a line (Kekkai, 結界) between the world of the gods and human beings. Because primarily dance had been dedicated to the goddess, Amaterasu-Oomikami (天照大神).
The birth of Japanese Dance.
----Originating from Iwato Legend （Iwato Densetsu 岩戸伝説）----
The mythology comes from Kojiki（古事記, 680AD）and Nihonshoki（日本書紀, 720AD）
A long, long time ago, Amaterasu-oomikami（天照大神）, the sun goddess, disappeared from this world, then the world went black. Because her younger brother Susanoo-no-mikoto（素戔嗚尊）, the powerful storm of Winter, behaved in a very rough and mischievous manner, she had trusted him but she was disappointed in him and got really angry. Because the sun was hidden effectively for a long time, there occurred many misfortunes in the world. All gods gathered and talked to each other. They decided to dance and sing in front of the place she hid, Ama-no-Iwato（天の岩戸, heavenly rock cave）. They began this enjoyable entertainment so that she could feel interested and open the door of the Iwato (岩戸) .A goddess‘s turn came around. Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto（天細女命）started dancing, Amaterasu glanced outside to see what was happening. Then, she came out from the Iwato, and the world started shining again.
It is said that this performance of Ame-no-uzume is the origin of Japanese Dance.
Amaterasu-oomikami（天照大神）is the goddess who represents the sun, but also the universe. She is a daughter of Izanagi-no-mikoto （伊弉諾尊）and Izanami-no-mikoto（伊弉冉尊）, the Creators of the Japanese Land and Islands. It was the order from the universal God. Now Amaterasu is one goddess from the Imperial House pantheon. The Japanese Imperial Majesty; ( Emperor of Japan) is said to be a direct descendant of Amaterasu. Her shrine is Ise-Jingu（伊勢神宮）, it is located in Ise city in Mie prefecture .
It is the most dignified shrine in Japan.
Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto, dances, and as Amaterasu emerges the light returns to the world.
A heron in a rice field.
This is a photo of me, playing the Heron dressed in her bidal Kimono.
"Sagimusume (鷺娘) "
We are connected with each other.
We human live with animals in harmony.
A white heron falls in love with a man, but this love is forbidden. So she has to suffer from the judgement of hell. She is dying. This play is famous for Kabuki dance and Japanese classical dance. The music played is a shamisen music style of Nagauta (長唄) . White herons used to visit rice fields for preying on fish, insects and so on near grassland or forests. Japanese farmers used to live with the animals, birds and nature and they are connected to each other in a circle of nature , the people love the white and beautiful herons and other birds.
Scene: Everything is covered with snow and the snow is falling fast....
First, in the snow, a young and beautiful girl is standing lonesomely wearing a Japanese white bridal Kimono and a fine, traditional Japanese wedding cap while holding umbrella.
In truth, she is the embodiment of a white heron who falls in love with a man. And she expresses her deep feeling and longings of love for him. She is a heron fairy, so her movements sometimes look like a bird's steps and wing flaps.
Next, as the scene turns, she becomes a fascinating town girl, and expresses her love for him through various dances.
Finally, she suffers because of hell's judgement and she starts to die.
As the story ends, the bird is suffering which is a similar scenario in the ballet "Swan Lake".
First scene: I am dressed in very traditional wedding Kimono. A heron in disguise. Through a slow dance i try and express my heartache and love, for a young man.
Second scene: Here i am playing the heron dressed as a typical town girl. This scene is bright and colourful in contrast to the previous scene. Notice the heron decorations on the Kimono. This is actually the same Kimono as before but reversed. This requires a special stage technique called hikinuki (引き抜き)
"Huji-Musume（藤娘）" : Dance of a Wisteria Fairy.
The lyrics at the beginning of the dance, express appreciation for the harmony of wisteria with its deep purple color and flow of pure water.
Murasaki（紫）: the purple color has several deep meanings.
It means the city Edo, a knot, the relationship between the Kabuki actor and Edo civilians, and Yukari: the color purple color.
This actor was getting used to fitting in with the Edo life, so he thanked them.
When this branch of wisteria was soaked in the pure waters, it became a more beautiful deep purple color. It shows the beauty of the natural world.
These lyrics describe the purple color of the wisteria is related with pure water.
Japanese people have loved and have taken care of pure water.
Water is the source of life. Japanese people appreciate and cherish pure water for making Sake and dyeing Kimonos the color Yūzen and so on, by using the flowing water of beautiful rivers.
Japanese people love wisteria.
Wisteria blooms in April and May.
(left) Posters of Ōtsue（大津絵）are sold as souvenirs in front of the Mitsui temple（三井寺） near Biwako lake（琵琶湖）. One kind of them was a poster of a girl who shoulders a branch of wisteria.
Later, Kabuki dance was born from this picture, it is called Nagauta "Fuji-Musume（藤娘）".
A Kabuki actor, the second Seki Sanjūro（二世関三十郎） in Osaka, performed this dance for Edo civilians at Edo before he went back Osaka.
The first time this dance was performed was one of five dances that expresses the five kinds of Ōtsue.
Now the dancer performs this dance as a wisteria fairy's love, separately, wearing a black coated cap and shouldering a branch of wisteria.
Dance Kiyomoto "Ryūsei（流星）"
This Kabuki dance has a story, which is based on the Tanabata festival.
The only day which the fabled characters Hikoboshi and Orihime can meet on the Milky Way.
In the story they can finally meet after a long time, because they couldn't cross the river as there had been long hard rainfall for two years.
As they are enjoying their long awaited time together, a falling star comes and tells them important news.
Hikoboshi asks him, "what's going on?"
The falling star answers and performs the story with funny gestures.
This news is about an argument between the god and goddess of thunder.
The thunder god was interested in writing and creating Haiku, and maybe he has fallen in love with his teacher of Haiku. Then his wife became jealous.
He is in charge of making thunder, lightning and rain, but recently his thunder is very weak.
His wife asks him,"Why do you perform like that? Please look at me."
She started making thunder and lightning, and creates a great sound and bright light.
"Goro Goro Goro, Pika Pika Pika."
But he denies her attempt and says, "Mine sounds better, it's suitable at this time. "
And later their small child come to them in bed and says, "What are you doing? "And cries. And their grandmother comes and says, "Stop! Please make a good relationship."
When she admonishes them, her artificial teeth fall into her throat and she starts to choke . At last, these teeth are removed, and she was relieved.
Then, the thunder couple continue to quarrel.
It is very interesting and funny story.
A dancer has to perform all these characters just by himself. It's a very difficult dance for dancers.
A dancer uses four kinds of masks or puts on four kinds of caps which have two horns symbolising each character's shape.
You can enjoy this amusing dance on stage in Kabuki Dance or Japanese traditional dance.
Nihon-Buyō（日本舞踊）; Japanese traditional dance.
Have you ever seen Nihon-Buyō （日本舞踊）; Japanese traditional Dance?
The source of Japanese traditional performance is prayer.
Japan is called Mizuho-no-Kuni（瑞穂の国）; the land of rice fields.
Prayer, for a peaceful world, tranquility in the nation and good harvest have been performed since ancient times.
The sound calls forth spirits from the ground and the stamping soothes the earth.
Japanese traditional Dance takes same method.
I'd like to compare Japanese dance and European ballet.
One feature of European ballet, is that it tries to describe space thats higher from ground.
Japanese dance describes and sends to the heart of the God of ground, using methods of movement on the ground to create peaceful situations.
another future of European ballet is that it express' abstract art physically, using images through instrumental music.
Japanese dance expresses contents through words and lyrics and using the movement of the body, which is accompanied by music, Nagauta, Tokiwazu, Kiyomoto and so on.
it is called Furi（振り）.
A Kabuki dancer, Sadoshima Chōgorō（佐渡島長五郎）said two points of dance in his book; Shosa-no-hiden（『所作の秘伝』）,
Furi and rhythm are very important parts of dance.
Costumes are also a very important part of the performance.
When Japanese women put on kimonos, they feel something has changed, their actions and manner becomes quite different to when they wear Western clothes.
I hope many women can enjoy wearing kimono all over the world, as it brings you something of that unique feeling of ancient Japan.
Mizuho-no-Kuni. Painting by Takaou Seiken
Decorative fan used in traditional dance.
The performance of women by men.
Decoration from Kanda temple.
Umbrellas used for dance.
Many foreigners are surprised that female characters are played by actors who are men when they see the graceful Kabuki dance.
Izumo-no-Okuni（出雲の阿国） is a founder of Kabuki dance, and she performed "Kabuki-Odori（歌舞伎踊り）"；Kabuki dance at Shijo-gawara（四条河原）in Kyoto.
Later, in 1629, prostitute's Kabuki was forbidden and it was reformed as men's Kabuki, same as the recently style.
Kabuki which is performed by male actors playing women, is called Onna-gata or Oyama （女形）.
It is not unusual for Japanese people.
There are many Japanese performance arts in Japan from a long time ago.
They are Noh, Kyōgen and Bunraku puppet shows.
In Noh style, actors put on graceful masks and speak with a deep voice which are meant to come from the most beautiful of woman.
Most of women in Kyōgen are very tough characters.
In Bunraku, a story teller; Tayū（太夫） speaks every part properly, men,women, children and old men, Tayū expresses every part by Jōruri（浄瑠璃）; describing a passional warm heart.
In Kabuki, actors try to perform women gracefully and gently, they have been training to know exactly what the most beautiful style is for a long time.
Kabuki actors; Nakamura Tomijūro (中村富十郎) and Segawa Kikunojō（瀬川菊之丞）were influential persons in the Kabuki world.
The women who are expressed by male actors are sometimes more attractive than women.
I hope Japanese women become more graceful in the way of, Yamato-nadeshiko（大和撫子）; Japanese beauty, by wearing and enjoying kimonos.
The pine tree on the stage.
There is often a Matsu, a painting of a pine tree on the dance stage.
When you see a Kabuki dance, Fuji-Musumes（藤娘）, it is a wonderful view, a beautiful wisteria fairy is standing holding a branch of a wisteria tree, beside plenty of wisteria, in front of a big old pine tree.
This story came from a beautiful painting Ōtsu-e（大津絵）which was sold in front of Mistui-ji temple in Ōtsu.
From ancient times, Japanese people have thought that pine trees can gives them long lives as green and fresh as a pine trees colour.
It is a symbol of infinite life. During New Year's Day, people decorate pine branches and place them close to their gates.
It is said God comes in pine branches, and it brings good fortune.
Japanese performance arts are connected with pine trees.
In a festival at Kasuga-taisya temple in Nara city, Shinto priests call God and dedicate performances to God under a sacred pine tree.
On a Noh stage, there is only a simple background of a painted old pine tree.
In Japanese dance, there are many connections with Noh arts and prayer.
For example, Sanbasō（三番叟）who performs and prays for good harvest.
It is based on the tradition of a Heian poet; Ariwara-no-Narihira （在原業平）.
A love stories at Suma（須磨） the seaside. Pine trees are also used for celebration dances.
When you see Japanese traditional dance, please notice the pain trees on the stage and understand its purpose.
Noh performance, with the pine tree background.
Noh stage with pine tree.
This performance is based on a Noh play.
Kiyohime（清姫）loved a monk, Anchin（安珍）, and she pursued him with passion. To escape he hides himself inside a big bell at Dojo-ji（道成寺 She then changed into a big snake , coils around the big bell and burns it, killing him in the process.
This story was written by Kisyu, Wkayama（和歌山）；”Legend of Anchin and Kiyohime”. It depicts the obsession of a woman who falls in love with man and it is an universal theme of art all over the world.
But in this story, they were released in peaceful mind by the sutra of Hoke-kyo（法華経）；A way of Buddhism.
This story is, the bell was melted by Kiyohime, and on this day, there is a celebration day for a new bell and the monks offer prayers for the new bell.
A beautiful girl, Shirabyoshi（白拍子）who is a dancing girl goes to the temple, and the ghost of Kiyohime appears again.
Then, it was prohibited for women to enter this temple.
This dance was established by the first Nakamura Tomijuro（中村富十郎）and later it has been cultivated by many Kabuki actors.
This dance has all of the skills of Japanese dance, and many dancers want to challenge themselves with this dance to prove that they are great dancers.
We can enjoy many beautiful dances. One of highlight is Jikata(地方)；with shamisen players and singers on the back of the stage.
Cherry blossom is a special thing for Japanese people.
Everybody goes to see cherry blossoms with an excited feeing when these flowers are blooming.
In ancient ages, it was thought that the God of rice fields lived in cherry trees.
Cherry trees would influence if work in the rice fields would go well or not during the year.
The Japanese word, Sakura means: "sa" for rice field God and "kura" for representative of the God.
People praying for a good harvest also have a good time with the God drinking sake.
This custom the evolved to a cherry blossom party, called: O-hanami party.
In traditional Japanese dance, cherry trees and flowers are symbolised on stage in the same style as the pine tree on the Noh stage.
When cherry blossoms are blooming, it makes many Japanese people feel something emotionally, and it makes them drink and dance under the tree during the night. Cherry trees have some sort of power and magic.
When the petals are falling down, it is as if rice flowers were dropping down. People offer these festivals to the God so that the petals don't fall.
This is a symbolic dance of Cherry blossoms, “Kyo-ganoko musume-dojoji（京鹿子娘道成寺）”.
You can see a big bell, a big cherry tree and a red and white coloured rope in front of stage, and a temple with cherry tree mountains on the back stage.
Dance born from a citizen’s life
Kaminarimon (雷門) The main gate of Senso-ji temple in Asakusa.
Edo city was called a million people city.
There were many various classes of people; samurai, merchants and farmers who came from farm villages, gathered in Edo city. They all made their own group and area, it had an exciting and powerful energy.
In Edo city, there were many kinds of jobs, and some commoners had their own businesses.
Now we can see their stories in Japanese traditional dance.
Edo city was a central place of news from the many regions of Japan.
Edo people could obtain real information in the Bunka-Busei ages.
The Edo art had realism. Then there were many various ways of dance that were created, based on customs and events from each area.
In that time, "Echio-jishi（越後獅子）” was very popular.
Echigo -jishi means boy’s acrobatics entertainment joined by the rhythm of Japanese flutes and drums. They came from Echigo (Niigata) as street performers.
In Kabuki performance, The 3rd Nakamura Utaemon（三世中村歌右衛門）was a great Kabuki actor and he performed “Echigo-jishi” . He took folk songs and popular songs and combined them with dance.
And there was performances in New Year, street performers entertain in front of each gate bring happiness and god fortune with dance or performance.
They came from Mikawa（Aichi） and so on.
The dance is called “Toge-no-manzai（峠の万才）”. After their work, they go back to their own towns. When they part from each town, they make a promise to meet next year with sorrowful feeling.
Many people did gather from many region's towns, then they could understand this emotion.
In the Edo period, it was a powerful age of the citizens, they lived vividly and many great arts were born, for example, Ukiyo-e（浮世絵）, Torii Kiyonaga（鳥居清長）,Utagawa Toyokuni（歌川豊国）, novels, Shikite Sanba（式亭三馬）.
At an Edo citizen’s town, there were many teachers of music and dance.
The sound of shamisen, Tokiwazu-bushi and Kiyomoto-bushi is often heard.
For more information on this, please visit:
Mikoshi (神輿) A portable shrine from Kanda Miyojin temple.
This is a special dance which was cultivated in Kamigata（上方）; the Osaka and Kyoto area.
It was created by wealthy merchants in Osaka. They were patrons of Jiuta（地歌）and Jiuta-mai（地唄舞）music. (See Music section.)
A great author, Ihara Saiaku（井原西鶴）, wrote about the Osaka merchants, in his book,”Nihon-Eitaigura（「日本永代蔵」）” , there were many excited events for merchants in this age, because merchants were very wealthy and had lots of gold and silver.
It is said that Kamigata-mai needs only one tatami; 1jo（１畳）; Kyoma（京間）which is 955mmX1910mm, or Edoma（江戸間）is 880X1760mm.
On the stage, there is only one screen behind the dancer and a candle is put on
each side. The candles are old fashioned ones and have a flickering dreamlike effect.
there are only two musicians, a singer and a shamisen player. You can hear a very special music from them, gentle and with a lot of feelings.
Do you know the dancer, Takehara Han（武原はん）?
She brought Kamigata-mai to Tokyo and she enhanced it to an art.
Her masterpiece was “Yuki （「雪」）.
She crested the use of a white kimono and white silk umbrella. As if she were a Ukiyoe（浮世絵） girl.
This performance describes a woman’s emotion and has deep emotion.
When she was a geisha （芸者）in Osaka, her lover left her, so she became a nun, but she still feels sorrow through the memory of him.
Takehara Han explained about the “Yuki”,
a woman loves a man and she is waiting for him for a long time during quiet white snowfall. This is the emotion of women’s heart given to a lover.
I express this feeling and perform this emotion closely.
The dance is performed very quietly and slowly on the stage.
It looks very quiet but the mind and feeling is very strong in the dancer.
The space is shared with only a few people.
Kamigata-mai has been made in a small space such as a tatami room creating a special world.