Monday, April 14, 2008

Nihon Buyo 日本舞踊

I’ve wondered many times before what good deeds have I done in my past life to deserve such love and kindness from the BYJ family, especially the amazing Japanese sisters. By now, I’ve come to realize that it’s really not a matter of whether I deserve it or not (which I still don’t), BYJ sisters are simply the most caring, considerate and hospitable people.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to attend a Japanese traditional dance performance by the daughter of a very dear sister. I was very touched and honored to be invited to such a memorable event in her family. As I love arts and Japanese culture so much, I was most looking forward to this exquisite experience.

It was a very chilly and wet Sunday morning and I, mindless as usual, just rushed out of my home without even checking outside. By the time cloudnine and I arrived at the National Theater of Japan (国立劇場), this silly woman practically felt like a frozen popsicle out of a refrigerator. Our dear sister, who looked so gracious in her elegant kimono, greeted us enthusiastically and introduced us to her lovely family. When she noticed how awkward I looked, she immediately took off her shawl and wrapped it around me. Even though I was shivering in the rain and wind, my heart had never felt so warm.

While my body temperature was slowly regaining to an acceptable human level, I noticed many graceful kimono-clad ladies strolling in such poise and chatting softly with each other (how I wish I could dress like them). Meanwhile, the men were the more practical bunch, a few have already started some major eating by themselves on the lobby benches!

Dear sister was so thoughtful and bought us some bento boxes so we would not be hungry during the long show. Cloudnine told me that it’s customary for the hosting family to provide lunch for their guests. She also mentioned that only affluent families can afford to learn traditional Japanese dance since it takes many years to acquire the skills, and the expenses of the costumes and the recitals are extremely high. You see, dear sister is so considerate and modest that she felt appreciative of her guests taking the time to attend her daughter’s performance. From my end, I felt completely the opposite - that I was so honored she even considered inviting me and I felt very conscious not to impose! I still have so much to learn about Japanese psychology.

Hehe, see the beautiful bento box I chose, with a hot green tea too.

Voila! Cloudnine told me this is Osaka style zushi. Hehe, Osaka zushi, Tokyo zushi, I'll gobble them all up :)
Oops sorry, too hungry, forgot to take picture of this cute egg wrapped wonton-y zushi ....... oiishi desu yo!

We had to stop cause the performance was about to start. See, dear sister was so thoughtful and gave me her delicate handkerchief to wrap my bento box! Sorry, no pictures are not allowed inside the theater :( This is the smaller of the two in National Theater of Japan, but still it can accommodate 590 people. The inside is actually very modern using natural color wood and warm lighting. There is the main stage which has this huge gold floral embroidered flat screen as the stage curtain and then a long runway on the left which extends all the way to the back of the theater.

Nihon Buyo (日本舞踊) meaning Japanese dance, originated from the early Edo period (17th century), is influenced by the traditional Kabuki (歌舞伎) stage theater. The dancers are dressed in elaborate kimono costumes and make up. There is an underlying story or theme in each dance. The dance movements show great control and restraints and the forms are very artistic, very much like posing for a picture. The dance is accompanied by Shamisen (Japanese lute) musicians and background singers ( like chanting and humming to me) sitting on the right side. A small orchestra (where the loud drum sound comes from) hidden by a screen sits on the left.

There were 10 dance recitals and a short break between each performance. Our dear sister’s daughter appeared in the second recital titled ‘Maiko’ (舞妓). I think it’s about 2 lovely young geisha and their love aspiration. The two dancers were dressed in brightly colored kimonos and their faces displayed such youth and innocence. Their movements were so lively, playful and fun showing their worlds were full of hopes and dreams. I particularly like their handling of the fan, flipping it from front to back in such an elegant and smooth fashion. Since the elaborate kimono is an integral part of the dance, there were 2 dressers on the stage whose role is to fix the bottom of the costume to ensure that it maintains a fishtail shape, isn’t that cute? I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 young ladies’ performance.

Immediately after their performance, dear sister asked us to go to the backstage to meet her daughter. I was so excited to have this opportunity to meet the talented dancer. I just ran after everybody in freezing cold around the building to the back. Oh, what a scene! I thought I was transported back to the old Edo era – the wooden foyer and platform full of slippers, the dark narrow alley way leading off to different tatami dressing rooms. Just like those old b&w Japanese movies I watched when I was a child, men and women were running around in a hurry - some in their yukata, some in costumes with partial make up and wigs. I was totally fascinated by the sight.

Dear sister was so sweet to ask for permission so I could take this picture, thanks.

Dear sister's daughter received us with such graciousness. We congratulated her on her successful performance and thanked her family for being such generous host. Thanks dear sister for sending me a picture of your beautiful daughter, see how wonderful her posing style was :)

She gave each of her guests a gift to thank us for coming to her performance. I feel so embarrassed as I should be the one thanking her! See how pretty the basket is ......

Inside, some very pretty sweets :)

Because of some private celebrations, dear sister’s family had to leave early. You see, there was no fixed seat in this recital and people could come and go as they please. I really wanted to watch some more, so cloudnine and I decided to stay as late as we possibly could (cloudnine has been so kind to take me here as she had another fabulous Kabuki theater show to catch that afternoon, thanks so much).

Could it be the graceful movements of the dancers, the stunningly beautiful kimono costumes or the rich culture of Japanese dance? While I was walking out of the National Theater, I have this strong urge to take up this beautiful art form – of course I’m not even qualified to play the part of the clown or the villain?

Thank You so much, my dear sister for introducing me to this rich culture of your beautiful country! You don't know how much I appreciate your kindness. Doomo arigato


bb said...

wow....!! what a treat!

that sounds real grand and interesting! and oh my, the backstage too!!

and yea, it's quite amazingly unbelievable how the bae journey has brought along with it such good and warm-hearted people and how some of us manage to meet the nicest of this nice lot.... :)

maybe there is some truth in the saying... birds of the feathers flock together... wuri yong joon nice, so the nice pple are drawn to him..? :p

glad you're enjoying japan :) and gosh, you make me wanna live there! not much in life can be better than to have japanese food everyday :p

jaime said...

dear princess bb,

Believe me, I am thankful everyday of my life here in Japan. I know it's not permanent, so it's like a good dream come true for me. Just that I don't want to wake up from it. It'll be very hard for me to leave.

It's a blessing for me to find Yong Joon and all of you :)

love .. jaime

Anonymous said...

Hi Jaime,

I'm a bit surprised to know (of course it was a good surprise!) that you enjoyed the performance of Nihon Buyo. I love kimonos, too, so just watching those costumes is a great fun but the dance is sometiems tiring even to Japanese audience unless you know the story or understand the music.
You got an 'eye' for beauty. Your comments on the slow movement and posing are relevant indeed.

The dressers or helpers called
'kuroko'-black person are common in Kabuki too. With their help the dancer can quickly change her kimono into the one she wears underneath.

The fan is one of the most common props and used also as a mirror, letter, sake bottle etc.

As you mentioned the stage curtain
, the one I saw at Kabuki-za
theater was the one donated by your hubby's company in Japan. The white and partly silver birds were embroided on it.

cloud nine

jaime said...

dear cloudnine,

I do appreciate Nihon buyo immensely. I think that's why dance, music and visual arts are universal language that bring people together. We use our hearts to enjoy :)

Hehe, an 'eye' for beauty? You are so kind. Isn't it obvious? Don't we all have it? That's why we converge here, right? For that most gorgeous man!

love ... Jaime

gosijo said...

Dear Jaime and friends,

I am truly enjoying this post and the comments. There are so many byways in all cultures and here is one I would never have visited, even virtually.

Please be well everyone and remember that Spring can still be quite chilly (except in Singapore, naturally).

Anonymous said...

Wow that is just precius
I'm really impress
and thankful that you share this with us to.


bb said...

haiz... i wish wish wish one day singapore can be described as chilly too!

actually during my first trip to tokyo, a bae-fan brought me to kabuki-za... i remember we only bought tickets for one part of the entire program, but it was a wonderful experience. i enjoyed it so much that i wanted to stay on, but think we had to meet other fans, so had to cut it short. i remember many ladies went into their kimonos and yea, they too brought bentos and stuff.. and oh, there''s even english translation! how nice!

jaime said...

dear gosijo,

sorry for responding late. Yes, there is so much history and culture I want to learn here. I think that's why I haven't missed home yet.

But you do remind me of there is also a beautiful city in the North called Toronto. I am so happy that weather is warmer for you and I remember how pleasant and lively spring is overthere. I can't wait to hear about your gathering w/ the other sisters :)

Please take care of yourself

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi Hi moontime,

I am so glad that you enjoy this piece. Yes, this is such a rare opportunity for me. I do cherish the experience and like to capture this feeling.

Thanks for reading and writing me a comment. Please take care!

love ... Jaime

jaime said...

Ah bb, so you watched a partial Kabuki theater performance? Yeah, I saw a lot of tourists lining up in the Ginza Kabuki theater for that. What a great idea that they have English translation. I 'll definitely go someday.

love ..... jaime

Yoko said...

Hi, I'm Yoko living Gifu near Nagoya. Actually it's 30 minutes train. Yes, I'm happy to have goshire there.

I'm here to say that I'm happy to hear you enjoyed Japanese dance coz I'm also its dancer.Been learning it about 10 years for now.

Have a good weekend.

jaime said...

dear yoko,

thank you for leaving me a comment and sorry for the late reply.

Oh Nagoya, it means you will soon be able to go to Gosireh all the time.

Wah, you are a Nihon Buyo dancer too. Do you still do performance now? You must be very talented.

love ... jaime