History of Nihon Buyo


The history of Nihon Buyo (Japanese Traditional Dance) is believed to date back to the world of Japanese myths.

白玉斎「男舞」There is a well-known story that Amaterasu Omikami, the sun-goddess of the Shinto religion, danced in front of the heavenly rock cave called Amano Iwato where Ameno Uzume no Mikoto, the goddess of dawn, mirth and revelry, hid herself, but her dance succeeded to lure her out of the cave. From there the Kagura dance was born, a dance with a religious characteristic of magic rituals. Later through cultural interchanges with China and other Asian countries, the Bugaku and Gagaku dances were invented. After sometime other traditional dances like Dengaku and Sarugaku which were later recognized as art of farmers also came up. Having its foundation in these elements, Noh-gaku was born with its own characteristics. In the history Noh-gaku greatly affected Kabuki as well.

The most distinguished origin of Nihon Buyo lies in Nenbutsu Odori by Izumo no Okuni.
Although Izumo no Okuni is generally known as the founder of Kabuki, it can be said that Nihon Buyo was originally referred to Kabuki back then. Kabuki developed its own characteristics a little by little; “dance” elements were gradually added into primary “steps” of Kabuki movements. Shamisen, the featured musical instrument of Kabuki, was originally invented from the Jabisen, an Okinawan musical instrument. Its accompanying music started to evolve into more sophisticated orchestra. Actors who originally engaged in choreography in Kabuki plays or others whom we call directors today initiated to teach their own dance to their disciples, which made a first clear distinction between subsequent Kabuki and Nihon Buyo.

In the Kabuki world, a woman is not allowed to perform on stage unless for some special occasion. However, after these two types of art branched off in the history, lots of women have been given more chances to be involved in succeeding the tradition of Nihon Buyo.

Today many branches of dance schools were created, and each school has respectively been making the greatest effort to preserve its tradition and development by holding onto its own character.