Japanese Dance History
Japanese Dance Costume

It is said that the history of Japanese dancing goes back to the mythical age. A famous Japanese myth tells us that Amenouzume no Mikoto danced in front of the Amano Iwato to open the cave entrance that Amaterasu Ohmikami had concealed herself in. The 'kagura' dancing in its religous and mystical influence is said to have came into existence from this story.

'Bugaku' and 'Gagaku' were brought over from China while 'Dengaku' and 'Sarugaku' sprang up as the entertainment of Japaese farmers. From these, the uniquely Japanese 'Nohgaku' came into being. 'Nogaku' came to have an influence on Kabuki. It is thought that the current form of Japanese dancing is the direct descendant of Iizumo Okuni's Nenbutsu Odori'. The dance of Okuni is different from ' Nohgaku', but it was a dance that has its origin in ethnic dancing. Izumo Okuni is also credited as being the founder of Kabuki.

It can be said that Kabuki and Janapese dancing used to be synonymous. Later, however, the Okuni Kabuki was played by prostitutes and was passed down from generation to generation. During the Edo period, it was prohibited because it was thought to be might be immoral. Iregardless of this suppression, kabuki passed down form generation to generation while changing style.

Kabuki used to be simple dancing (odori), but the element of performance was introduced into it. The ryukyu (Okinawa snake-skin shamisen) was brought to mainland and changed into a shamisen. From then the accompaniment of music progressed. Gradually the element of story-telling performance became the focus of the performance. Many performances based on authentic news accounts were writtern.

Even though it has changed to the dramatic performance of today, the posturing of Japanese dancing, the vocalization of traditional Japanese music and the stage presentation has been preserved carefully. Furthermore the training and endowment of Japanese dancing has been essential basis of Kabuki theater.

In Kabuki programs there are many pantomime dances called 'shosagoto'. It was the evidence of shosagoto in Kabuki that illustrated the use of Japanese dancing by choreographers and directors of Kabuki.

In kabuki performance, only men can appear on the stage, women are allowed in the exception of a special case. Since Japanese dancing branched off from Kabuki, many women became concerned with the inheritance of Japanese dancing. And until today, many schools were organaized and concentrated their efforts on inheritance and evolution of Japanese dancing by making the best use of their unique, distictive features.