There are many traditional dances and art forms in Japan. While there is a strong tradition of performance dance, many of the traditional dances of Japan are associated with annual festivals. These festivals usually have some kind of religious over tone. Usually dance in Japan is associated with the worship of spirit deities. However, while traditional Japanese dance is still very common today, many other art forms have evolved from such ancient traditions and festivals. This paper will discuss a brief history of Japanese dance and will then touch upon other dances and art forms such as the Bon festival, Kabuki, and Geisha.
The first historical record of Japan's history is the Kojiki, one of Japan's oldest books. It was put together in 712 AD but tells about much earlier events. It tells of a dance performed by Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, deity or goddess of divine movement, marriage and meditation. Some of these dance styles may be seen today in the oldest styles of Shinto ritual dance accompanied by drums, flutes and chanting, and the masked shamanistic performance associated with Shinto festivals, and the performances of shrine priestesses. Numerous other dance rituals were also performed in Shinto ceremonies and may continue for up to eight hours or longer. Today it is common for people to drink sake (rice wine) during the performances. To keep the Shinto gods happy, only virgin girls and males can dance, not married women. Performers often wear carved masks. These Shinto dances were supported by the rulers who united Japan. Shinto was the official religion many years ago and the rulers encouraged the dance rituals to bring rain to the crops, good weather, etc.
One of the most famous and common dances is the Bon dance, called "Bon Odori" in Japanese. People dance the Bon Dance during the Bon Festival, held every summer in districts and neighborhoods in every city in Japan. Bon week is held in August every year, and Obon, as it is often known,...