◆Writer: Ryota (DeepExperience Content Creator)
If you like Kabuki, then let’s learn traditional Japanese dance!
From long ago, Kabuki actors have studied traditional Japanese dance. Through dancing, actors are able to learn much about how to move their bodies properly. Indeed, the two performance arts are intimately connected and this time, we’ll learn the basic etiquette and movements for that kind of dance so that you too can naturally move like a Kabuki actor!
Furthermore, this plan includes a guide who will take you from the closest station to the venue and provide interpretation for the training instructions. You don’t have to worry about not understanding Japanese! Ask your guide all the questions you want and learn as much as you can about Japanese dance!
8 minutes from Abenobashi Station by train!
Taking the Kintetsu Osaka Line, it’s about 8 minutes from Abenobashi Station, to the meeting place, Harinakano Station. If you’re coming from Osaka Station, then take the Midosuji Line to Tennoji Station, and from there it’s a quick walk to Abenobashi Station. After that, just get on the train bound for Fujiidera.
▼Once you exit the ticket gate at Harinakano Station, go downstairs and the FamilyMart where you will meet up with your guide should just ahead of you. Your guide will meet you in front of the store. There is a McDonald’s nearby as well, so if you happen to arrive early, you could kill some time there.
▼Your guide will then lead you to the venue for the activity, Asuka Hall. I think you’ll be surprised by the sudden appearance of this peculiar building while you’re walking in the middle of the residential area! This is a little known spot that most tourists would probably never find on their own.
With a kimono change, you too can feel like a real dancer!
Once you go into the building, you’ll first take off your shoes, and then head to the practice space on the second floor. Upon seeing the room, I was taken aback by the large space. Before stepping inside, we take a bow.
All right, once the space is prepared and you’ve put your stuff aside, it’s time to put on the kimono. The staff will bring a kimono set according to the specifications you make when booking. It’s okay if you don’t know to put it on. The staff is there to help. Just start off by putting on the tabi, traditional Japanese socks with a split between the big toe and the rest of the foot.
▼Our instructor was the third-generation head of Asuka-ryu, Sakon Asuka. Asuka-ryu is one of the schools of traditional Japanese dance.
※The instructor for the day happened to be Sakon-san. You may get a different instructor.
▼Yukata, obi, tabi, and folding fans. This time, black yukatas were prepared for men and pink ones for women.
▼Let’s begin by putting on the socks. These two were apparently trying on tabi for the first time, and they seemed to be having some difficulty.
▼The staff will tie the obi, the sash that holds together the kimono. He’s looking good in the black kimono, isn’t he? He’s a good looking guy to begin with, but the kimono gives him a more polished look!
▼There are pink yukatas for the ladies. It really suits her, doesn’t it?
Before getting on stage, let’s work on basic etiquette.
Hearing the word etiquette might give the impression that's it's a formal affair, but it seemed like everyone’s first time, and we all had fun. And actually, you don’t have to master etiquette before moving on to the practice. Your guide will translate the instructor’s explanation, but the purpose of the course is for you to experience Japanese culture firsthand. Just relax and have fun learning how to perform seiza and how to use a folding fan!
▼First off, we learn the basic of the basics, seiza. Seiza literally means “proper sitting” in Japanese, and it looks like someone sitting down from a kneeling position. In one motion, keep your upper body perpendicular to the ground as you sit. It may look easy, but it’s actually quite difficult and you may lose balance if you don’t concentrate.
▼Next, we learn about the folding fans. There’s actually a reason why the fans are placed in front of you. As the instructor explains, the guide translates.
▼After that, we learn how to bow. Be careful not to extend your hands further than the fans in front of you.
▼Learning how to use the fans. The folding fan is very important for, and is used very frequently in traditional Japanese dance.
All right, let’s start the practice on Asuka Hall’s grand stage!!
In Asuka Hall’s 2nd floor practice room is a large stage. It is on this stage and under the guidance of the instructor, that you can train in traditional Japanese dance. From the audience’s point of view, the right side of the stage is what’s called the kamite and the left is called the shimote. Characters with higher status are supposed to stand in the kamite while those with lower status are in the shimote. In a real Kabuki stage, near the left is also an elevated walkway, similar to a fashion runway, called a hanamichi. Here, during the performance, actors will walk out towards the audience and do a mie pose.
Unlike western dances, where the shape of the body is accentuated, Japanese dance utilizes the kimono to create exaggerated shapes that couldn’t be achieved with the body alone. This time, we’ll learn both feminine and masculine movements.
▼Hiding your hands inside the sleeves of the kimono is a gesture that expresses femininity. As seen in the picture, the higher your right hand is on your chest, the more childlike you appear.
▼This time, we're going to practice a rough, masculine gesture. The instructor’s looking really strong. Our foreign guest here has got a cool expression on his face.
▼In the climax of a Kabuki performance, you strike a pose called the mie. Spread your arms and legs and put on a menacing face, as you stare into the audience. Don’t hold back and give us your best look.
▼To have the audience really feel the movement, shift your feet quickly.
After the dance practice, chat over some tea and Japanese sweets!
Enjoy some tea and sweets after working up a sweat through dancing. As it was May, we were given kashiwamochi, in line with Boy’s Day celebration (Children’s Day). Simply put, the day is meant to pray that children grow up healthy.
In this way, the sweets will change according to the season, and you can feel the hospitality of Asuka-ryu. As you enjoy the Japanese sweets, you can also learn about Japanese culture.
▼The kashiwa leaf used in kashiwamochi is said to have a natural preservative effect that allows the mochi to be kept for longer just by being wrapped in it.
▼Trying the Kashiwamochi for the first time. They seemed a bit hesitant at first, but soon gobbled it up.
▼A final picture of our two guests after finishing the sweets. They seem really close, but they’re just friends. It was a culture shock for me. (lol)
Japanese dance is so cool!
First, I was impressed by the wonderful stage on the second floor. To be able to take in the dance training in such a place was truly enjoyable.
The instructor this time, Sakon-sensei, was very nice and thorough in the way that she taught us, from the basic bow to how to move on stage. This was a great experience to really enjoy traditional Japanese dance. For foreigners, I’m sure everything including the basics such as the proper way to open a folding fan, will be a new experience.