First, I’m not some kind of expert on this topic and I do not plan on acting like it. Despite this, Japanese dance and culture has always interested me, so I have learned a few things along the way. Many of the traditional Japanese dances are slow and graceful, yet strong and steady. I find that words from Mulan’s song “Lesson Number One” fit very well: “Like an oak, you must stand firm.” And “Like a cloud, you are soft. Like bamboo, you bend in the wind.”
Kabuki is a type of traditional Japanese dance drama, almost like a play that focuses on dance. It often requires elaborate costumes and makeup. Kabuki began in the Edo period (1603 – 1868) and involved various dances mainly performed by women. However, these women were prostitutes, and because their trade did not fit with public standards, they were banned from kabuki by 1630. Because of this ban, men dressed up as women and performed instead. Even to this day, only men perform kabuki. Makeup and all!
Here is a photo of modern kabuki actors in action:
Regardless, kabuki is still a beautiful art form, and can even be scary or funny as well, depending on the genre of the chosen play. The history of kabuki is more than 400 years old and there is much to tell. If you are interested in learning more about kabuki, here is a link to the brief history of Kabuki.
Bon Odori, or “Bon Dance” is traditional Japanese folk dance that was originally used to welcome deceased ancestors hundreds of years ago. Bon Odori is still present in many festivals, through there are variations for each region. For example, there is the traditional Bon Odori that is performed at most festivals, or the more upbeat Awa Odori that is performed at the Tokushima Prefecture’s Awa Odori festival, or even the odori that is performed at the Owara Kaze no Bon festival in Yatsuo. All of these are very fascinating to me. One aspect that is specifically fascinating is the attire. Usually, summer yukatas are worn, along with large straw hats that cover the face. Here is a photo of the owara dance from the Owara Kaze no Bon festival:
If you have found interest in Bon Odori and its many styles, you can learn more with the overview here.
If you want a peek at a Bon Odori dance, here is a video:
If none of the dances that I have mentioned here caught your interest, fear not! I have barely scraped the surface with this post, and I urge you to look deeper into the amazing world of traditional Japanese dances.
Keep on dancing, my friends. Till next time!