“Whether it’s a squash blossom fading or a horse getting thin in the face, it all comes down to a tale of the body.” – Tatsumi Hijikata19
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.
body = words
Hijikata connected words to the body in a way that reinforces the idea of the butoh body, which is that of something dead (Shisha) or empty, which words are like. Kurihara elaborates: “Instead of liberating the body from language, Hijikata tied the body up with words, turning it into a material object, an object that is like a corpse. Paradoxically, by this method, Hijikata moved beyond words and presented something only a live body can express.”17 Yoko Ashikawa adds: “Existence is driven by words. When the words don’t move, the self-abandonment begins. The word reaches its peak in the condition of self-abandonment. In this condition, the word is embodied little by little. In this phenomenon, the sub-conscious will also create.”18
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 deterritorialize Hijikata’s butoh-fu and replace his qualias with our own as we see fit, which I call mad-libbing. For instance, in Bugs Crawl, we can replace the qualia of bugs to that of any other qualia (e.g. banana peels, so with everything else remaining the same, banana peels will be doing the crawling). 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, Yoko Ashikawa, Kurihara Nanako, Endo Mariko, Sawako Nakayasu, Seisaku Nagaoka, and Kayo Mikami.
Last on the list is Kazuo Ohno’s fragments of butoh-fu translated by Mariko Miyagawa.
Hijikata also had 16 scrapbooks of butoh-fu which combined words and art. Below see the pictures that were in these scrapbooks. A complete butoh-fu for Hijikata incorporated various art/pictures.25
Yukio Waguri Translations²
Most of the written butoh-fu translations can be credited to Yukio Waguri and his butoh-fu CD-ROM.
World of Flowers
World of Abyss
Flamen14 — (Not listed in the original Waguri CD-Rom)
World of Birds and Beasts
World of The Neurology Ward
World of Anatomy
World of Burnt Bridges
World of Wall
Rhizome Lee Translations
Quiet House³ — Last piece of Hijikata where he also participated as dancer.
Sick Dancing Princess (Ch. 1) — Also known as “Ailing Dancer” and “Ailing Dancer Mistress.” This is 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 Through the Woods of Bresdin9 — This was Hijikata’s last butoh-fu.16
Kurihara Nanoko’s Translation12
Unidentified Jean Fautrier Painting — (This title references Fautrier, but the painting is that of Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh iii, 1957.)
Endo Mariko’s Translation
Sawako Nakayasu’s Translation
Costume en Face — Translation of Moe Yamamoto’s notes.20
Seisaku Nagaoka’s Translation
Walk of a Measure aka Walk of a Log21 — From Seisaku Nagaoka’s notes.
Kayo Mikami’s Translations & List of Butoh-Fu “Postures”
List of Butoh-Fu “Postures” — AKA Choreographic Units (CUs) from Kayo’s Laboratory Notes ’78 to ’81.8 Waguri (see above) recorded Hijikata’s butoh scores/”necessary conditions” for several of these CUs.
Mariko Miyagawa’s Kazuo Ohno Translations10
Admiring La Argentina (1986)
The following is from Water Lily (1987)
Hijikata’s Scrapbook Pictures/Artists
The breakdown of these scrapbooks in English is due to the wonderful scholarship of Kurt Wurmli in his PhD dissertation called The Power of Image – Hijikata Tatsumi’s Scrapbooks and the Art of Buto.27
Scrapbook 2 (Flower)
Scrapbook 3 (Stage Hints, Circus) — This entire scrapbook almost entirely dedicated to the circus.
Scrapbook 4 (On Material II Fautrier) — This scrapbook is more abstract.
Scrapbook 5 (Beggar-Hanako Material) — Very likely the scrapbook that inspired A Story of Smallpox.
Scrapbook 6 (On People/Character) — Focuses on characters.
Scrapbook 7 (Bird-Snipe) — Focuses on birds.
Scrapbook 8 (On Animal(s)) — Focuses on animals.
Scrapbook 9 (Da Vinci) — Focuses on facial expressions of Da Vinci paintings.
Scrapbook 10 (Picasso Character) — Focuses on Picasso, yet also has other artists. Other than Guernica and one other image, no other specific pieces noted from Wurmli.
Scrapbook 11 (Stone Wall) — Multiple artists depicted.
Scrapbook 12 (Nerve)
Scrapbook 13 (Shooting Star)
Scrapbook 14 (Light) — Focuses on the 3d.
Scrapbook 15 (Blue Scrapbook)
Scrapbook 16 (Yellow Scrapbook) — No images available.