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 Abyss
World of Birds and Beasts
World of The Neurology Ward
World of Anatomy
World of Burnt Bridges
World of Wall
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
Kayo Mikami’s List of Butoh-Fu “Postures”
List of Butoh-Fu “Postures” — AKA Choreographic Units (CUs) from Kayo’s Laboratory Notes ’78 to ’81.8 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.
6 Mikami, Kayo. “Tatsumi Hijikata: An Analysis of Ankoko Butoh Techniques” 1997. Tokyo. Page. 100, 101, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 113.
7 Ibid. 105.
8 Ibid. 161 – 169.
9 “The Human Body as a Vessel－an approach to Tatsumi Hijikata’s Ankoku Butoh” 1992. ANZ Publishers.