Goyokai by Mr. Minosuke Nishikawa

In Tokyo, I took lessons of traditional Japanese dance from Mr. Minosuke Nishikawa (Minosuke-Sensei), who is an eldest son of Prof. Senzo Nishikawa, one of human national treasures in Japan. Recently I received a note of invitation to Goyokai, which means “Five Luster Society”, from Minosuke-Sensei.


In New York, many people tend to regard traditional Japanese dance as accomplishment by geishas under the influence of some Japanese movies, while it is only one aspect of Japanese culture. It’s said that there are more than 200 schools in traditional Japanese dance now. Among them, Hanayagi, Fujima, Wakayagi, Nishikawa and Bando are called five major schools.

Each major school has a unique character. Minosuke-sensei told me “Dance in Fujima, Bando, or Nishikawa School is bold, because it was originated in accomplishment at Kabuki. Dance in Hanayagi or Wakayagi School is sensitive, because it was originated in accomplishment at reception rooms.” My mother recommended me to study dance in Hanayagi School, but because I have been buried in kabuki, I can tend to see traditional Japanese dance which reminds me of the tales of kabuki, like dance in Bando or Nishikawa School. Actually I didn’t like to dance by myself. In my childhood I started studying traditional Japanese dance, but I felt it waggly and laughed at my own dance, so I couldn’t take my lesson seriously. More than likely, I was very happy to take Noh lessons, which I started studying later by chance. Especially I loved feeling of tension when I shouted heartily.

After much meandering, I have learned traditional Japanese dance from Minosuke-sensei. In these lessons, I seemed to become a heroine of the tales, unlike just to play or dance a traditional Japanese dance. When I performed a dance “Treasure Ship”, I should play as Hotei-san, one of the 7 gods of happiness: putting a fan in front of my stomach, spreading my legs like a crab, making my pelvis down, declining my body to one side, and going further to another side. It was really amusing! I was always thinking whether I would look like Hotei-san, if I were dancing at the stage.

I find some description about traditional Japanese dance at the web page of the Japanese Dance Association.

Embodying elements of performing arts which originated earlier, such as “Bugaku”, ceremonial performance of the Imperial Court and “Nohgaku”, Noh theater and its
origins, and incorporating the refined essence of a range of folk arts, traditional Japanese dance can be described as a treasury of Japanese art from ancient to modern times.
Over a history of nearly four centuries, traditional Japanese dance acquired its many aspects, represented today in Kabuki Buyo based in the Kabuki theater, Kamigata Mai and Kyo Mai traditionally performed in more compact, Tatami-matted Zashiki spaces, and creative, original dancing.

It has carried on the craft transmitted from Noh and other performing arts that can be traced back three hundred years earlier, and it has incorporated techniques refined in later eras. In this sense, traditional Japanese dance has been accomplished through a repeated process of polishing.
To summarize, traditional Japanese dance is an artistic dance based on the tradition of classical techniques transmitted from preceding forms of art, and expressed through the medium of the stage.

(Cited and modified from “What is nihon buyo?”)

I realize that I enjoyed learning traditional Japanese dance more because I learned Noh dance at the same period.

Minosuke-sensei sent me the following message; “I launched Goyokai with other four independent Japanese dancers in their forties. We desire to let us recognize traditional Japanese dance as not only culture lesson, but also stage art, which is appreciated by more people.” The world of dance by Minosuke-sensei is really a stage with stories, which we have sympathy with. If you feel performance time of Kabuki too long, you had better see fast-paced traditional Japanese dance and feel its narrativity. Thereafter, if you see Kabuki performance on the similar story, you could easily understand the story. I think that it is interesting to make a comparison of means of expression between Kabuki and Japanese dance on the similar story.

When I told Minosuke-sensei about the article “Wrestling the Silk” on the New York Times, which were published on my kimono class in April, he primarily sent me a message; “Wonderful!” I was very pleased with his message. I appreciate him very much. If I didn’t learn Japanese dance from him, I would be different now.

If you are interested in Goyokai, please see the web page at http://www.goyokai.com/.


I love Danny Aiello

Suddenly after I came back from Spain to New York City last Sunday, I was asked to attend the music video shooting of

Danny Aiello, an actor appearing in more than 60 movies, as well as a singer, as a kimono stylist and coordinator. Danny Aiello is really a big-shot Hollywood actor to play great supporting parts in many films, who appeared in one of my favorite movies, “Dinner Rush.” He also appeared in The Godfather Part II, Once Upon a Time in America, Léon, and so on.
As a kimono stylist, I will coordinate two actresses in kimono style, appearing behind singing Danny, for the promotional video of his new release CD.

I had very short preparation period, only 4 days, for this shooting. The client initially asked me to make modern kimono style like tango beat, secondly like Federico Fellini’s movie. He didn’t seem to confirm the image of the video shooting. In addition, I heard that some backup dancers would dance the tangos. I should expect to ad-lib on the set. So, I brought a certain number of kimonos and obis on the day of shooting.

The video shooting was held at Staten Island. It took 2 hours from Manhattan to Staten Island by car. We departed at 3PM and arrived at 5PM. The shooting was scheduled from 5PM to 5AM. It would be midnight shooting. At the set of shooting, there were 3 buildings, many bronze statues, and a huge fountain on its property. The backyard faced to beautiful sea, which we could see from windows of buildings very closely. The site of the video shooting looked like a palace, rather than a mansion.

There was a recording room on the basement. Actually this mansion was often used for movie shooting. After I introduced myself to the owner of this mansion, he showed me a wonderful kimono, which a famous Japanese actor had given him for a souvenir.
Subsequently Danny appeared! The client introduced me as a kimono stylist to him. Then he and I shook hands. Danny showed full of a spirit of service. Because the photographer took photos for actresses with kimono and Danny, I took a few steps backward, but he beckoned me in. We all were shot together. It was like a dream come true to be shot side by side with Danny and me.

Thanks to his fascinating personality, the big-shot producer, who has produced many Hollywood movies, collaborated with him on the shooting. Staff members for makeup and hair arrangement were surprisingly students of the beauty school. I was impressed that he might provide young people with good opportunity.
Because I would like to make models’ hair go with their kimonos, I attended this video shooting with my friend, Shin, a hair artist. I thank him for accommodating me, instead of my urgent request.

After set her hair style, I requested him to make her hair curl up, like a shower cap. He readily remade her hair. It is always pleasant time to create something.
Because I had heard that models would dance in kimonos, I tied their obis as they would be wavering during their dance, and as they would be reflected on video scenes. Superficially they looked somewhat ordinary, especially on the photo, but I believed that they would look exciting, once they danced.
Afterward, we had to wait for our turn for a long time, from midnight to early morning

But, accident happened! The video shooting of kimono ladies was unexpectedly canceled. The client made light of confirming our shooting schedule. One of our models in kimono had to go home at 5AM, before our turn, because of her family event. After the long wait, we realized that our turn had been scheduled around 5AM, almost at the last scene. So, finally, the client should determine to cancel our scene. I was really stunned, rather than shocked.

When I kept stunned on the set, Danny approached me, grasped my arm, and said, “Sorry.” Danny, it was not your fault! You need not apologize.
Danny was very very gentle, full of compassion. I felt a lump in my throat. Most of staffs were also tender. This accident was caused by lack of mutual awareness. We couldn’t help it.

When I walked out of the set, the owner of the mansion also said, “Sorry.” I shook my head and said to him, “It can't be helped. I am very disappointed, but I appreciate you for providing me the wonderful opportunity very much.” The owner introduced me to many people including the producer. So, I could give them my business cards. I shook their hands, saying “Thank you”, not “Sorry.”

After one hour drive, I arrived at home at 7AM. Because a student came to my kimono class at 10AM, I could catnap for a short time. Although I wondered if I have been shocked, I felt relaxed when I waked up. In addition, I genuinely thanked Danny and his staffs for providing me the opportunity to stay on the set over night.

Danny will be performing the live show in Staten Island, New York on August 7. I would like to go to the show, wearing my kimono.
I love Danny.
* This photo shows that I styling of kimono her in kimono backwards.


Color in Barcelona and textile in Okinawa

Recently I stayed in Barcelona, Spain for one week. I saw many architectural works designed by Gaudi and paintings drawn by Picaso, as well as many ZARA shops, selling various kinds of clothes, everywhere in the city. The first ZARA shop opened in 1975 in Spain and now ZARA shops expand all over the world. Clothes in these shops are eye-catching and colorful, which remind me of Spain

At the same time, I recall colorful ryukyu Bingata kimonos in Okinawa, the most southwest prefecture in Japan, which reflect climate and culture of Okinawa. Alternatively I think about textiles in Okinawa. Indeed it is bright and rich in nature, but many delicate textiles, like Miyako-jofu, hemp clothes made by weaving flax known as choma with smooth surface like polished by wax, in Okinawa.
Okinawa is full of different textiles, for example: Basho-fu, Yomitanzan Hanaori, Shuri te-ori, Ryukyu-kasuri, Kumejima Tsumugi, Miyako-jofu, Yaeyama-jofu, and so on. At first glance, these textiles look like discreet, but keep dynamic beauty inside. I wondered why they were originally made in Okinawa.

From various books about textiles, we can find the reason in their historical background of Ryukyu, a former name of Okinawa. The most festive wears in the dynasty of Ryukyu were unpatterned monochrome kimonos with white ikats. The second festive ones were Hanaori kimonos, where thousands of small star-like patterns were woven using colorful yarns. In this way, because various kinds of Ryukyu textiles have been inherited through the dynasty of Ryukyu by craftsmen, they imply discreetness.
On the other hand, some textiles, Miyako-jofu, Kumejima Tsumugi, etc, were woven for poll taxes for long years. As Ms. Okabe Itsuko wrote on “Textile-dyeing is the testament of history. (Japanese Textile, Vol. 20, Tairyu-sha)”, Miyako-jofu textiles should be paid as poll taxes to Shimazu Clan, which put pressures upon the dynasty of Ryukyu, and craftsmen have woven them with silent aesthetic feelings and prominent techniques during their drudgery.
Therefore, we can get various points of view on textiles from historical backgrounds.
I am very impressed to read the following description:
“In Okinawa, clothes are scapegoats for wearers and textiles are spiritual things, which imply natural beauty. Spin threads and weaving textiles are really women’s activity to weave women’s mind.”

I sometimes recall our past kimono lesson in Tokyo. My teacher, who educated me on various kinds of things about kimono and kimono dressing, was over 70 years old. She was generally very gentle, but once I strode across a skirt of kimono, she told me in a stern tone that I need not ever come to the lesson. At that time, I supposed I just got chewed out by her, but now I realize that she really loved kimonos and textiles, even woven craftsmen, and wanted me to tell everything about her loving kimonos. Whenever I recall this episode, I am deeply impressed by her posture and appreciated her very much.
“Noble Activity for Weaving and Dyeing”
Beauty could be inherited from generation to generation, because people in each generation have been feeling it beautiful.

Basho-fu in Kijoka

Yomitanzan Hanaori

* Images are excerpted from Japanese Textile, Tairyu-sha