Butoh-Fu & Choreo (New)

Butoh-fu is simply butoh qualia notation. It was coined by Tatsumi Hijikata who made great use of words since he was also a poet. Nanako Kurihara even claims, “For Hijikata the body is a metaphor for words and words are a metaphor for the body.”1 Butoh-fu creates qualia sceneries, and can make great use of qualia metamorphosis. Butoh-fu is inherently poetic, which is why surrealistic or absurdist poetry is a great resource to play with.

According to Kayo Mikami, Hijikata’s choreographic units (CUs) were single images (or qualias), and these came along with “necessary conditions,” which Mikami says are made to “evoke the direction, speed, feeling, etc. that will bring forth the ‘movements,” but are meant to be experienced and created with, to be made ones own.7

We can also of course form our own butoh-fu. Choreography using the butoh-fu tends to bring out depth in performance. It is a good way to avoid fitting into shapes or falling into mere mime.

We can look to Hijikata’s butoh-fu for inspiration. We have a list of Tatsumi Hijikata’s butoh-fu as written down by the notes of Hijikata’s pupil Yukio Waguri. We also have butoh-fu translations from Rhizome Lee and Yoko Ashikawa.

Yukio Waguri Translations²

World of Flowers

World of Flowers


Peony Petals

Odilon Redon’s Flower


Plum Tree and Flower


Flower Nerves

Wild Flower


The Girl Who Walks On Monet’s Water Lilies

Hanako Basked In Light From Behind Her

The Choir Girls

The Blind Girl

Flowers and Children


World of Abyss


Prince of Smoke

Your Body Disintegrates Because You Are Being Watched From All Angles


Women In “Ukiyoe” Have Become Ghosts

Stuffed Birds

Mechanism of the Person Blowing Thread From His Mouth

Evaporation Process

Flowers of Light


World of Toyen

World of Abyss

Walking Just As Pure Measurement

The Relation of Being Watched and Being Deprived of The Soul

Various Places


World of Birds and Beasts




World of Birds and Beasts




Bird Dances

World of The Neurology Ward

Strange Man With Frog On His Head

Threads of Drawings of Noble Ladies By Beardsley

Sleep Walker

Sketches Of The Neurology Ward

A Strange Neurotic

“Kinka-To” Walk

From The Forest To The Swamp

Prince of “Bekko-Ame”

The Strange Prince

The Appearance Of The God Maya Made Of Nerves

The Nerve Walk

The Bird’s Nest Walk

See Through The Crystal

One Finger

World of Anatomy

King Solomon’s Palace

Traces of Salvador Dali

Behind The Mask

Leper Hospital

Heavy Neck

Auschwitz Walk

Ear Walk

World of Anatomy


Monstrous Animals

Pus and Flower of Epilepsy

Thin Wall of Pus Shining In White

World of Burnt Bridges

World of Burnt Bridges

Person At The War-Ravaged City

Celebration Within The Wall

From Dolls to Ghosts

World of Wall

You Live Because Insects Eat You

The Materials Walk

“Dozo”, A Storage Building Made of Dried Mud

World of Wall

“Gaki”, The Hungry Demon

Appearing First As Girl of “Hagoita”

Flowers In The Wall

Things The Body Remembers When I stood Against The Wind

Breeding Dust

A Flower Is Stuck On The Mirror

From Dry Dirt To Ghost

Ghost Holding a Baby

Rhizome Lee Translations

Quiet House — This was Tatsumi Hijikata’s last butoh score.³

Sick Dancing Princess (Ch. 1) — Hijikata’s post-Quiet House stream of (sub)consciousness notation, which was never performed.4

Flower of Kan — Gathered Hijikata Butoh-fu lines/images specifically related to physical and/or mental disabilities, edges, problems, etc.5

Yoko Ashikawa Translations6

Walking of Measure

Goya Or The Pope of Pus

Michaux or The Man of Light

Beardsley No. 1 Thru 4

The Flower Garden of Bresdin

Bugs Crawl

Walking Through the Woods of Bresdin9

Kayo Mikami’s List of Butoh-Fu “Postures”

List of Butoh-Fu “Postures” — AKA Choreographic Units (CUs) from Kayo’s Laboratory Notes ’78 to ’81.Waguri (see above) recorded Hijikata’s butoh scores/”necessary conditions” for several of these CUs.


¹ Nanako, Kurihara. Tatsumi Hijikata: The Words of Butoh. 2000. Page 16.
² Waguri, Yukio, Butoh-Fu CD-Rom. 2006.
³ Lee, Rhizome. The Butoh. 2017. Pages 120 – 137.
4 Ibid. 337 – 354
5 Ibid. 208 – 212.
Mikami, Kayo. “Tatsumi Hijikata: An Analysis of Ankoko Butoh Techniques” 1997. Tokyo. Page. 100, 101, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 113.
7 Ibid. 105.
Ibid. 161 – 169.
“The Human Body as a Vessel-an approach to Tatsumi Hijikata’s Ankoku Butoh” 1992. ANZ Publishers.