94Butoh Studies 2003 Number 26 Secondary Fundamental Points

Tatsumi Hijikata: Reception and Change in Ankoku


-The Question of Originality in the Current Research into Present Day

Nationalized Society: The Example of Kurihara’s Theses-

By Dr. Kayo Mikami of Kyoto Seika University

Translated By Joshua Gibbs

Aims and Methods

At the Keio University’s art centre the Hijikata archive opened the Butoh volumes such as the Butoh score to the public. In August 2002 there was an open “Butoh Summit” which was held in Tokyo. Here scholars of Hijikata such as Satoru Kawamura and Masaru Shimizu discussed works such as the “The Dancing Girl in Sickness” (Yameru Maihime) by Hijikata and it’s French language version “Butohs”. Accompanied by university lecturers and others these scholars discussed this topic for a one year period. But does this discourse on Butoh show any prosperity? It is still not clear to what extent Hijikata and Butoh have been understood.

As the most important feature of this international research project is Japan and the rest of the scholarly world’s grasp of current events in Butoh and Butoh practitioners’ reception and change, this paper has two of the world’s leading Hijikata scholars, Kayo Mikami who wrote “The Human Body as a Vessel: an Approach to Tatsumi Hijikata’s Ankoku Butoh Techniques” and Nanako Kurihara, who wrote “Hijikata Tatsumi the Words of Butoh” and her university theses “The Most Remote Things in the Universe: Critical Analysis of Hijikata Tatsumi’s Butoh Dance” (New York University 1996.9) looked at from the perspective of originality and then has them compared and contrasted. The reason why this paper discusses this comparison is that an American scholar suggested that both scholars had the same ideas independently.

By way of this theory, the book “The Human Body as a Vessel” which was based on the worlds first Hijikata Butoh theses, which was also written by Mikami, “The research of Tatsumi Hijikata’s Butoh Technique Trial Theory, Ochanomizu University M.A Dissertation 1991.3”, is not shown to have any pioneer spirit in the work of Kurihara and this lack of reference points to intellectual violation. In this current paper the academic danger which is inherent in international research and in aspects of contemporary international Butoh will become clearer.

Consideration of the Topic

(1) “The Human Body as a Vessel” and Drama Review Theory

The objective of explaining Hijikata Butoh’s ideas and techniques from the relationship between body and language is stolen by Kurihara. The methods for deciphering the Hijikata code which have their basis in the researcher’s (i.e. Kayo Mikami) own experience of Hijikata Butoh is stolen by Kurihara. The difficulties and necessities of deciphering Hijikata’s linguistic code are included in Hijikata’s “the Butoh Score” are stolen by Kurihara. The foundations of his independent ideas and excess from the personal history of Hijikata to Butoh’s establishment in the cultural and sociological background are also stolen from Mikami by Kurihara. Continuation and change in the product’s themes and techniques throughout the performance product’s history is mentioned as is the relationship with the traditional performing arts and discussion of Butoh and the body from the perspective of “weakening”[i] and “fading”[ii] are also themes which are stolen. The similarities of these themes and constructions, are, to conclude, vital to the role of understanding the Hijikata Butoh body and these themes have been stolen from Kayo Mikami by Nanako Kurihara.

There are also similarities between the translation of Hijikata’s original materials which are attached to Kurihara’s essay and quotes in Mikami’s piece about the material mentioned above. The above similarities with Hijikata’s first thoughts, “Butoh Score”, are a peculiarity of Mikami’s theory.

Kurihara’s theory restructs the body by using techniques, and from 1989 the theme of deconstruction can be compared with a similar theory which belongs to Mikami who carried on the work of Hijikata. Despite this, there is no reference in Kurihara’s corpus to Mikami being her intellectual predecessor.

Furthermore in the first official English language translation of the Hijikata texts, performed by Kurihara, one of the key pieces of terminology in the work “Kaza Daruma”[iii] is misspelled as “Kaze Daruma”. Here we can see that the responsibility for accuracy and academic standards held by people dealing with primary sources i.e. Hijikata texts is immense.

(2) Mikami’s text “The Human Body as a Vessel” and Kurihara’s university dissertation.

Similarities of aim, method, structure and overall feeling of piece can be seen in (1). Keywords such as “shamanism”, “transform”, “sacrifice”, “passitivity”, “negativity”, “experience”, “becoming “ “nerves” “a condemned prisoner” and other phrasal similarities as well as the main themes “mushikui[iv]” and “walk as length” and shared references and the like also show “borrowing” from Mikami without reference and this is inappropriate. In the middle of the Kurihara text, there are mistakes in passages where she is, using quotes from Mikami to discuss the Cult of Hijikata

Ideas are used without proper reference such as a section in Shigeo Goda’s Hijikata Butoh history’s “Banzai Woman” (Banzai Onna), “Daughter in Law (Yome)” s. This paper connects the body and the memory of Tōhoku, where Hijikata was born, the period of the establishment of the technique, and the Karayukisan[v] motif from the oeuvre of Ashikawa amongst many other things and due to this informality of acknowledgement it is a violation of it’s intellectual predecessor.

Finally in the main points of research there are similarities with Mikami’s work but, the Mikami book it is compared to “The Human Body as a Vessel”, does not even have any subtitles’ and it is not mentioned in Kurihara’s degree dissertation that there is reference that Mikami’s “Body as a Vessel Book” is based on Mikami’s M.A. theses. This mixture of solid fact and severe doubt points to theft from previous theories and leaves the very originality of Kurihara’s theses held in doubt.


By showing new vision, new methods and new materials the essay shows originality[vi], in contrast to it’s predecessor’s “new” it is truly “original”.

Kurihara uses the “same idea” retort[vii], replying through a lawyer that “The Human Body as a Vessel” subtitle was ‘overlooked’ and she did not know of Mikami’s degree dissertation. But is there some scope for mistake in this argument? It is unfair that Kurihara only chooses to present herself as a researcher outside of Japan.

Now, although obvious similarities between the theories of Kurihara and Mikami are accepted, Kurihara’s ideas must not be repeated and interpreted as original ideas. The M.A. students and researchers of Hijikata who only pick upon the writings of Kurihara to read say “Butoh research is more advanced abroad than in Japan because of Kurihara”. The fact is that there are people who think in this way: it is no wonder Butoh research is not moving forward and this is a serious problem in dance studies.

This example shows the problem of the whole of Butoh dance studies, the fact that historical facts cannot be established. This paper opposes Kurihara’s dance theory and thinks it should be judged fairly by the Japanese Society for Dance Research. It is hoped that further understanding of the situation and that the important function of academia called “the preservation of the originality of the text” is a thing which can be achieved by the Japanese Society for Dance Research.

Kyoto Seika University Research Association Assistant

[i] “Suijakutai” is the original Japanese. The first two kanji 衰弱are glossed in the Canon Wordtank Dictionary as weakening, enfeeblement, and debility and the final kanji 体 means body but as a suffix it means “state”.

[ii] “Kieru” is the original Japanese. The translator’s mind automatically replied “fading” but the Canon Wordtank Dictionary gives “to die out” “to put (a light) off” as well as “fade”.

[iii]The kanji 風may be pronounced as kaze or Kaza depending on the other kanji it is in a compound with. Kaze is translated as wind and Daruma is a borrowing from Chinese for Bodhidharma the founder of Zen Buddhism. “Daruma” is written with Hiragana in the original text though the kanji for “Daruma” are 達磨.

[iv] Mushikui is glossed in the Canon Wordtank Electronic Dictionary as vermiculation, though a more colloquial rendering would be “worm eaten”. Having said this the latter translation implies that only worms “have eaten” whereas in the Japanese any “insect” could “have eaten”. The first kanji 虫 is often glossed as “insect” and 食い means “eating”.

[v] Karayuki is a word for a Japanese prostitute who worked outside of Japan in East Asia in the last half of the nineteenth century. San is the prefix equivalent for the English suffix Mr or Mrs although it can be used after plurals.

[vi] In the Japanese text Kayo Mikami uses the Katakana script to draw attention to originality and this Katakana script catches the Japanese reader’s attention. Hence originality is put in bold and other words which are either written in Katakana or are found in “Kagikakko” (「 」) are but in bold in this translation.

[vii] i.e. That because there is only so much the human mind may do, two humans often have the same or similar ideas.