In Japan, dance, theater and music were inseparable. It is impossible to make a distinction certainly not for the traditional forms.

The ancient dance form was called "kami asobi", game of gods. A kami could possess someone and lead him to dance. Dancing goes back to the creation story, where the sun goddess is ogled from her burrow by a dance of Awful Sky Woman. We find this still back at shintô ceremonies and parties.

The combination of song and dance from the peasant folklore and celebrations around the planting of rice was later staged as Dengaku at the court.

JapansedansBugaku is an old, in the 8th century from China imported, some serene form of music and dance that was performed exclusively to the court. Today it is still performed in some temples. It can be considered as 'dance'. ' Bugaku ' means 'dance music'.

Like Bugaku is Sangaku imported from China in the 8th century. He is lively, with a lot of acrobatics, and also comic skits. After about 950 this dance no longer might be staged at the court. He continued to live amongst the folk and was called Sarugaku (monkey music). This dance form was adapted in 1350 into Noh or Nogaku.

Noh so was a dance on agriculture, with acrobatics, lively and humorous. Later (14th and 15th century) it was more a pastime for the shogun and the military caste. Characteristic are the masks that portray the characters played. Noh is played only in special theaters (Nogakudo) and exclusively by male actors (just like kabuki). It plays on a bare stage, without decor. Some pine trees on the back still refer to the time that one played nô outdoors.
It are the movements of the dance that put the expression in the theater. Small dance moves can give a dramatic effect. 'Mai ' is the dance with flowing circular movements and gliding steps and 'hataraki ' the dance of the short powerful steps, in which are often a god or a demon pictured. The unnatural way of moving is very important, but is completely fixed in principle. Two figures next to each other on the stage could be in the story in completely different places.
In a nô game actually only the protagonist (shite) and sometimes the helper (waki) wear a mask (nômen or omote). There are 200 types of masks, divided into four groups: women (ko - omote), men, old men and demon masks (kobeshimi).
 The masks are made from the wood of Japanese cypress. This wood is prepared for 5 years before the mask maker goes to work.

Kyôgen is like nô arisen from Sarugaku. It was a humorous part and was staged in breaks between noh plays. The whole of nô and Kyogen is called Nogaku.

Kabuki dates from 1603, the beginning of the Edo period. Then danced in Kyoto a dancer of Izumo company: Izumo no Okuni. She brought along with others a combination of (more or less sensual) folk dances and sacred dances. There was also sung. This appealed greatly. This resulted in a form of dance and drama, which they called "kabuki" or kabuki odori. Kabuki meant 'strange’ because by women staged scenes were unusual for that time. Prostitutes played many female roles. This was seen by the Tokugawa shogunate as bad for public morality. In 1629, the shogunate forbade this. So young men or boys took over the woman rolls (wakashu kabuki). The game remained sexually explicit. Therefore, this form was banned in 1652. Later, the more serious form originated yaro kabuki or kabuki of the man.

The oldest still in use kabuki theater of Japan is in Kotohira (Shikoku). Just like before, the visitors of this theater crouched inside.
All women's roles are still played by men. These actors, called onnagata or oyama, are highly specialized and are much admired. The course goes from father to son.

A very well known and famous kabuki play is "Chushingura". It is the true story of the 47 Ronin. These are samurai who have lost their master or lord. The story takes place in 1701/1702 at the time of shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. The samurai revenge as promised, 12 months after their master was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide by stomach-cutting).

Bunraku is a puppet show where the puppeteers are also on a (special) stage. The puppets are nearly life-size. They are operated by three men. It takes about 30 years before one might occur a fully qualified ‘omozukai '. As an apprentice puppeteer one plays first 10 years as ashizukai ' (legs operator), then 10 years as ‘hidarizukai ‘ and finally another 10 years as a future 'omozukai’.

A modern Japanese dance form was created in the sixties of the last century and developed by Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986). Here, the dancers are painted all white and perform a usually slow somewhat absurd -looking dance, which can be fiercely realistic and focused on death and destruction.

Japanese traditional dance

There are two types of Japanese traditional dance: Odori, which occurred in the Edo period, and Mai, which occurred in the western part of Japan. Odori came from the Kabuki drama and is more oriented towards masculine. Mai is traditionally performed in Japanese spaces rather than on the stage. It was influenced by the theater of Noh.

Kyomai or Kyoto is the dance of the style developed iIn the 17th century. It is heavily influenced by the elegance and sophistication of the manners on the Imperial Court in Kyoto.

Another famous dance is the dance of Obon. The Obon Festival is celebrated every summer in districts and neighborhoods in every city. It is a Buddhist event for commemorating the ancestors. It is believed that the spirits of the ancestors return every year to this world to visit their relatives during Obon.

Suzume Odori, is a dance that is based on the fluttering of a bird. He was first improvised by masons who made ​​the Castle of Sendai. This sparrow dance is now performed annually in Sendai, on the Aoba festival in mid May.