Tanko-bushi, Matsuken-sanba. Japanese local number of the Meiji era and the original song of Hawaii after the WW 2. There are various “songs” and “dances”, rich and attractive aspect of art in the Bon Dance of Hawaii.
Let’s join the dancing circle and approach to its state, at last.
“The basic unit” of the aspect of art of the Bon Dance
The way to analyze the complicated “aspect of art” with movements is a rather difficult issue. First, let’s focus on the “songs” and “dances”.
The “songs” and “dances” of a Bon Dance are always in a “set”. If we recall “Tanko-bushi”, “Tokyo-ondo”, “Pokemon-ondo”, either of them is in a set of original “songs” and “dances” related with each other.
The unity of “songs” and “dances”. Something that is often called in the name of “**-ondo”, “**-bushi”. This is “the basic unit” of the aspect of the Bon Dance, “odori-kyoku (dance songs)” (The left side of the chart 1).
Chart 1 Two “Basic Units”
The reason why we call this “the basic unit of the aspect of the art” is because in this “unity”, the 3 factors which are the main factors of the aspect of the art of Bon Dance that is, “language factor”, “musical factor”, “physical factor” are all included.
For example, the lyric of a song is “language factor”, and melody and rhythm are “musical factor”. And in the dance-“physical factor” there are the so-called “choreography” and the “formation” of the dance as a whole (wa-odori (circle dance), retsu-odori (line dance)). Besides these, there is “hayashi kotoba (refrain)” as language factor, and “playing the instrument (musical accompaniments such as, taiko (drums), fue (flute))” are included in the aspect of the art.
The trouble is that there is not a good term to indicate “the basic unit of the aspect of the art”. People who are at the place of Bon Dance call it in a various way such as “ondo”, “odori”, “bon odori”, and the naming is irregular. Therefore, in this site, we introduce the provisional word “odori-kyoku”*1.
Language, music, and body are the 3 factors of “odori-kyoku”
(2008, August 8, Ala Moana, Oahu Island)
The relation between the unit of holding the party and odori-kyoku
If odori-kyoku is the “basic unit of the aspect of the art”, there is another point of view, “unit of holding the party” in Bon Dance. (right side of chart 1).
It indicates the object that we usually recognize as “Bon Dance”, and it is Bon Dance that are held as annual events with local communities as their parent organization.*2 It is the unit=coherence such as in Japan, it would be “Gujo Dance” or “**neighborhood association Bon Dance”, and in Hawaii it would be “Pearl City Hongwanji Bon Dance”, “Bon Dance of the Shingon Mission of Hawaii”
The Characteristics of odori-kyoku
Now, if we look into the relation with the “unit of holding the party”, “odori-kyoku” has the following characteristics.
|The “pluralism” of odori-kyoku”||In the “Bon Dance” at one night, in many cases a lot of “odori-kyoku” (basic unit of the aspect of the art) are danced.
The number and types, the order and the number of performance will be an interesting subject of research.
|The “independence” of odori-kyoku||On the other hand, “odori-kyoku” have their own regional distribution, circulation, and history without being bound by the unit of holding the party of Bon Dance.
Therefore, when studying a Bon Dance of a certain area from the aspect of the art, the variety, distribution, and genealogy of the odori-kyoku that exist in that area will be the point.
The basic “cohesiveness” and characteristics of the aspect of the art is common between the modern Bon Dance in Japan and the Bon Dance in Hawaii as mentioned above. Therefore, when analyzing the aspect of the art of the Bon Dance in Hawaii, we’d like to apply the view points and terms common with that of the Bon Dance in Japan.
■The types of ”Odori-kyoku”
Now, let’s take a look at the type of “Odori-kyoku”.
The types of “Odori-kyoku” in the Bon Dance in Hawaii
“Traditional type” and “Modern type”
In this draft policy of classification, we applied the same classification axis with that we use in the classification of “Odori-kyoku” and “Bon Dance” within Japan, namely, “traditional type” and “modern type”
*Traditional type Odori-kyoku
Being “traditional” does not simply mean that that song is “old”. It is an odori-kyoku which has a character that is imported, handed down, and performed in the folk tradition method of voice transfer and face to face, not mediated by the modern prerecorded media such as (LP records and CDs).
Being a folk tradition, the creator of (melody, lyric, choreography) basically cannot be identified, and since it does not use the media such as LP records, it is performed in live music (sing alive or musical accompaniments).
*Modern type Odori-kyoku
On the other hand, “Modern type Odori-kyoku was produced after the modern age.
(In principle), it is possible to identify the creator and the time of creation. A modern prerecorded media such as LP records are used in the occasion of circulation and performance. And it often becomes closely tied with modern commercialism. From these points, it has a contrasting character with “Traditional Odori-kyoku.
Is it appropriate to apply the same classification “Traditional type” in the Bon Dances of Hawaii and Japan?
The way of “tradition” is different between Hawaii and Japan.
In the case of Bon Dance in Hawaii, the process of tradition is mediated by “the fact of immigration”, so the parent organization of tradition will be “the community of the immigrants” not like that in Japan; the community of the “traditional society”. Also, another different point with traditional type Odori-kyoku in Japan is that “the Bon Dance Club” became to be involved in the tradition after the WW 2.
However, Bon Dance originally had the character of moving, together with the move of the people. And the so-called “preservation societies” were formed also in Japan after the WW 2. If we take these things together, we can say that there are many things in common in the basic characteristics of the “traditional type” in Hawaii and Japan. Rather, by sharing the classification axis of “traditional type and modern type”, we think that we can get a rich contention in comparing Bon Dance in Hawaii and that in Japan.
The “Diverseness” and “Layered Structure” of Odori-kyoku
As it is clear in the Chart 2, there are a number of types which the time of import, the process of formation and the way of tradition and performance is different. The “Diverseness” and “Layered Structure” of Odori-kyoku tells the fact that Bon Dance in Hawaii has developped in a long historical circumstance.
Now, let’s look into the details of each of the types in Chart 2.
1. Traditional Type Odori-kyoku
The “Traditional type Odori-kyoku” is the Odori-kyoku which has the oldest history in Hawaii. This was that of the Bon Dance brought in by the Japanese Immigrants from their own hometown before WW 2 and then came to stay. This means that “Traditional type Odori-kyoku” which was danced in the Meiji era Japan was imported and handed down to Hawaii. There are Odori-kyoku that has already eliminated, but the existing Traditional type Odori-kyoku still presides among the Bon Dance in Hawaii.
The existence of these traditional types Odori-kyoku is not confirmed in other areas in the world including North and South America. So we consider that the existence of Traditional type Odori-kyoku is a very important characteristic in the present Bon Dance in Hawaii.
|Traditional type Odori-kyoku|
|Existent||Eliminated (those which are confirmed)|
“Iwakuni Ondo” (Yamaguchi Prefecture)
“Yagi Bushi” Fukushima Prefecture” *3
“Eisah type Odori-kyoku” (Okinawa Prefecture)
|「“Oko Odori” (Hiroshima Prefecture)
“Niigata Odori” (Niigata Prefecture)
In the sugarcane plantation in Hawaii, the immigrant’s community was formed basically according to the origin of the nation, and which prefecture they come from. It is considered that the early Traditional type Odori-kyoku was performed and handed down as a cooperative event by the immigrants who share a common hometown recalling the common memories.
For example, “Fukushima Ondo” was performed by the immigrants who come from Fukushima Prefecture, “Iwakuni Ondo” was performed by the immigrants who come from Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, a set of “Eisah type” Odori-kyoku was performed by the immigrants who come from Okinawa Prefecture, in the beginning of the import.
The popular “Live Music”
These Traditional type Odori-kyoku have an overwhelming popularity among the Bon Dance in Hawaii. We ourselves experienced “Fukushima Ondo” in Hawaii. Before the dance song starts, dancers rushed into the circle as if they were waiting to dance this dance. We could feel a special kind of excitement and beat.
There is no doubt that one of the reasons for this popularity is in what you call the “Live feeling” such as “Live songs” by the voice chairman and “Live play” by the festival’s musicians. At present, the “Bon Dance Club (discussed later)” is the main actor of the play (musical factor)
Dance-Choreography and Formation
The basic choreography of Bon Dance in Hawaii is decided, but the actual dance circle is not exactly taken hold. But each people dance in their somewhat own way, like that in Japan, and this is meaningful. The Hawaii University Professor Dr. Van Zile, who is also researching about Bon Dance, says that the degree of freedom in the dance movement of Bon Dance make it special among other performing arts which don’t have as much freedom.
As for Traditional type Odori-kyoku, please enjoy the aspect of the art and its ambience in the library shot below.
◆Column An illusive “Niigata Ondo”◆
Traditional type Odori-kyoku besides those that remain today, there were Traditional type Odori-kyoku such as “Oko Odori” which was imported to Hawaii by the largest group of immigrants, the people from the Hiroshima Prefecture, “Niigata Odori” by the people from Niigata. The tradition of both of them has ceased today, and they are not danced in the occasion of Bon Dance.
As for “Niigata Ondo”, it is confirmed that “Niigata Ondo Fan Club” existed until the 1970’s which is rather recent *4. We might have a chance to discover and record it by tracking back the memory of the people who had the chance to actually dance it.
2. Modern type Odori-kyoku
A “Modern type Bon Dance” starts before the WW 2 in the 1930’s, when they imported New Popular Folk Song of Japan, with its boom in homeland Japan as its background.
The big difference with the Traditional type Odori-kyoku which we mentioned above is that there is a mediation of modern media such as records. The import of this Modern type Odori-kyoku has been continuing until today with the WW 2 in between. As a result of the import for a long period, the “Modern type Odori-kyoku” occupies the large majority in terms of numbers of the Odori-kyoku of the Bon Dance in Hawaii, and a huge archive of repertoire is formed. If we enter into the circle of Bon Dance in Hawaii, we surprise at the large number of active Odori-kyoku which is actually danced, and many of those are this Modern type Odori-kyoku.
As there are a large number of types in “Modern type Odori-kyoku”, here, we attempted to classify them into 4 types by the difference of creation process; “Folk song dance type”, “Modern dance song type”, “Buddhist type”, “Hawaii Original type”.
(1)Folk song dance type Odori-kyoku
“Tokyo Ondo” and “Yagi Bushi” which was imported before the WW 2, “Tanko Bushi” and “Tokiwa Tanko Bushi” which was imported after the WW 2” comes under this classification. These Odori-kyoku have the oldest history among the “Modern type Odori-kyoku”. The characteristic of these Odori-kyoku is that they have “the regional characteristics” because originally these were created as “songs featuring local attractions” in the times when new folk song movement and folk song boom occurred around Japan. Tanko Bushi is also a popular number in Bon Dance in Hawaii, just like that in Japan.
|Folk song dance type Odori-kyoku|
“Tokiwa Tanko Bushi”
“Dai Niigata Ondo”
and many others
The aspect of the art of the Folk song dance-Copy from the Japanese and the Hawaiian Original
Something that meant a lot to the import of the “Folk song dance” is the appearance of modern media such as records. These Folk song dances were imported by the mediation of media such as records, tapes, CDs, and these media became the sound source directly. There are researches that name these characteristics of the aspect of tradition and performance which will be the copy of Japan as “Recording reproduction type”. (For instance, the researches of Bon Dance in California by Dr. Minako Waseda”.*5
However, even if we call it recording reproduction, Folk song dance type Odori-kyoku would not completely become the copy of the original one of homeland Japan. For example, before the WW 2, the music of Folk song dance type such as Tokyo Ondo was played (accompanied) by amateur music group.
Especially, as for the choreography, people referred to that of the homeland Japan, and on the other hand, choreography of Hawaiian original type was performed by the work of the professors of the Folk song club after WW 2. To begin with, even in the homeland Japan which is the place they referred to, the choreography was not exactly single. Dr. Barbara Smith of Hawaii University has confirmed 3 variations of choreography of Tanko Bushi in the Bon Dance in Japan in the summer of 1960, and 4 variations of that in Hawaii in 1961.*6.
(2)Modern Dance song type Odori-kyoku
On the other hand, a very new Odori-kyoku such as “Pokemon Ondo” and “Matsuken Samba” are instantaneously imported to Hawaii and enjoyed by the people. These are mainly created after the WW2, and title tunes of anime and popular music sang by popular singers were produced in “Folk song dance style” and released. For this reason, these Odori-kyoku basically don’t have particular “regionality”, and they have a strong commercialism factor.
In Hilo Hawaii Island, we were surprised to hear the Odori-kyoku of the “Beautiful Sunday (Japanese version)” (Original song from the U.S.A and Japanese version covered by Seiji Tanaka (NHK brother of songs). It is a good old song that was also popular in Japan in the Showa 50’s (1975～1984). It is still used in the Bon Dance in some parts of Japan, but it is interesting that people in Hawaii are dancing to the Japanese version intentionally.
|Modern dance song type Odori-kyoku|
|“21 seiki Ondo”
and many others
As we see above, it is interesting that the dances which people in Japan have fewer chances to dance are danced in Hawaii in active, and from here we can see the differences of the taste of both places.
(3) Buddhist type Odori-kyoku
The “Buddhist type Odori-kyoku” is the dance that the characteristics of Bon Dance of Hawaii clearly appear. To be honest, they are pushed into the background in the Bon Dance in homeland Japan, and we too didn’t even know their existence until we came to Hawaii.
According to the research by Kisaburo Ueda, already in 1970, “Daishi Ondo” was danced in Hawaii Shingon Betsuin Bon Dance, and in 1968, “Buddhist Dance (details are unknown) was danced in Sotoshu Betsuin.*7. It seems that the category of Buddhist type Odori-kyoku was established by the 1960’s, before the introduction of “Shinran Ondo” (1970’s) of Hoｍpa Hongwanji which is popular today.
|Buddhist type Odori-kyoku|
and a few more types
“Buddhist type Odori-kyoku” has the process of formation as the creation by the Japanese Buddhist Order, and probably several types of Odori-kyoku which can be thought as introduced by the request of the Hawaiian temple are danced today in the Bon Dance of Hawaii. For example, the “Shinran Ondo” which is danced mainly in the Hompa Hongwanji type temples, and “Daishi Ondo” which is danced in the Shingon type temples are the representative examples (It is heartwarming that both dances have the Ondo that have the name of the guru).
The involvement of Buddhism to Bon Dance
It is very interesting that there are many cases in which the “Buddhist type Odori-kyoku” are chosen as the starting number of the dance among many Odori-kyoku. It can be considered that they put them in context as the “memorial service of the Bon” together with the “sermon” by the Kaikyoshi before the dance.
Even in the Bon Dances in homeland Japan, in the types of Bon Dances that they repeatedly dance plural Odori-kyoku, there are times when they dance Odori-kyoku that they put a symbolic meaning in the first or last song of the night, so it might be fun if you compare them. Also, in the side of choreography, Buddhist color is added everywhere such as adopting movements that are conscious of “joining hands” rather than clapping, in line with the Buddhist thoughts.
The involvement of the Buddhist (temples) to the “aspect of art” of Bon Dance does exist in Japan too (refer to the column below). However, it is hard to consider that those Buddhist type Odori-kyoku had the presence as much as composing one of the types of Odori-kyoku. So, it can be said that Buddhist type Odori-kyoku is the characteristic of Bon Dance in Hawaii which has a strong involvement of Buddhist temples, and also the characteristic of Bon Dance of Japanese immigrants overseas.
These Buddhist type Odori-kyoku are weaved into the composition of ordinary Odori-kyoku at all times. Not only the believers in Buddhism dance, but also the ordinary dancers enjoy the dance like other Odori-kyoku. They are distributed and performed, mediated by the modern media, and it can be considered that there is nothing wrong in taking it as 1 category of “Modern type Odori-kyoku”.
◆ Column “Buddhist songs” and Odori-kyoku
After we came back to Japan, we were surprised to know when we studied that “Shinran Ondo” was an Odori-kyoku which Jodo shinshu Nishi Hongwanji (Honpa Hongwanji of Hawaii) itself was concerned in its creation.
“Shinran Ondo” (lyrics by Hachiro Sato, musical composition by Sanechika Ando) is one of the 3 songs in praise of Shinshu which was enacted by Shinshu Order Union in 1970 (the year 45 of Showa) before 1973 (the year 48 of Showa) when they held the memorial service of 800 years after the birth of Saint Shinran and after 750 years of the beginning of the propagation. The life of Saint Shinran is weaved into the lyrics, and it was cut into a record by the song of Kiyoko Suizenji.
(quote from the homepage of Nishi Hongwanji)
“Songs in praise of Buddhism” as the background of production
In each sect of Japanese Buddhism such as Jodo system, there is a unique musical genre, called “Songs in praise of Buddhism” which adopted the western music after the modern period.
Distinguished musicians such as Kosaku Yamada, Kiyoshi Nobutoki, Yuji Koseki, Yoshinao Nakada, Megumi Onaka, Ikuma Dan composed many songs. Sanechika Ando who composed Shinran Ondo is one of the composers of the songs in praise of Buddhism, and Buddhist type Odori-kyoku can be considered that they have been created under these cultural backgrounds.
The background of the introduction of Buddhist type Odori-kyoku in Hawaii
According to Dr. Van Zile of the University of Hawaii, the Buddhist circles of Japan and Hawaii at that time were similarly concerned with the prosperity of Folk song dance type Odori-kyoku and the spread of commercialism before the WW 2. Japanese Buddhist Music Society were creating Folk dance song style of Modern type Odori-kyoku (=dance songs) under the name of “Bon Dance” (However, it was not actually danced in Hawaii). Also, after the WW 2, there was temporarily a “strengthening of discipline” of the Bon Dance in Hawaii, and there might have been an aim of introducing Buddhist type Odori-kyoku in rivalry with Folk song dance type Odori-kyoku.
Dr. Van Zile points out that “Shinran Ondo” was choreographed by the initiative of the temples in Hawaii in the mid 1970s, but as we could see from the date, it can be considered that it is a response to the movement of the creation of Shinran Ondo in homeland Japan which precedes this.
The approach of Hongwanji to the Bon Dance Culture
Another thing that we surprised is that “Bon Festival Dance in the cool of the summer evening” was held every year in August in Nishi Hongwanji, and Shinran Ondo and other Odori-kyoku is danced with many participants every year (Further, in Nishi Hongwanji, a new work of choreography of “Shinran Ondo” is being announced in 2007 toward the 750th memorial service of Saint Shinran in 2011 (the year 23 of Heisei).
Jodo Shinshu has a strong image such as “the denial of the folk belief such as Bon events and Odori Nembutu (the so-called “The believers know nothing about the world”)” and we never thought that we have come to a time when Bon Dance is danced in the home ground of the head temple and hosted by the head temple itself (This might also be one of the results we had in the coverage of Hawaii).
(4) Hawaii Original type Odori-kyoku
Modern type Odori-kyoku that are much Hawaiian are “Hawaii Original type Odori-kyoku” (Of course, what is much Hawaiian will be an issue).
Not only homeland Japan, but Hawaii is involved in the song title, lyrics, and music that deal with Hawaii, things that accompany choreography, and the process of its formation. The point is that there is a “regionality” of Hawaii. In other words, they are the “songs which feature local attractions” of Hawaii.
|Hawaii Original type Odori-kyoku|
The famous one is “Hawaii Ondo” (lyrics by Yaso Saijo and composed by Masao Koga in 1950) which was composed to commemorate Masao Koga’s playing tour to Hawaii. The movement of hula is adopted into it and the word such as “Kamehameha” is entered into the lyrics. It is still popular in Hawaii today and it is a song that elderly people of Hawaii are proud of.
After the year when Hawaii Ondo was composed, “Aloha Ondo” (lyrics by Shinokawa Honda, composed by Shoji Fukushima, and songs by Katsutaro Kouta) was composed to commemorate the visit of Katsutaro Kouta to Hawaii. Both songs were at first sold by a Hawaiian record company. Besides these, there is a song called “Holehole Ondo” (composed by Raymond Hattori in 1957) composed according to the lyrics of a Hawaiian folk song “Holehole bushi” famous for singing about the hardness of the labor in sugarcane plantation.
The details are unknown, but if we look from their names, there are Odori-kyoku such as “Bokyo Holehole Bushi” (would it be one of the series of Holehole Ondo? The details are unknown), “Kariyushi imin ongaku sai”, and there is a possibility that there are a great number of Hawaii original type Odori-kyoku.
As the name for the “basic unit of the aspect of the art”, there are strong candidates such as “Odori” and “Ondo”. However, if we simply call it “Odori”, we might confuse it as “choreography=odori” when we study about the aspect of the art. On the other hand, there is a choice to adopt the name “Ondo” because it was used in Hawaii and North America before the WW 2. However, the word “Ondo” has various meanings depending on the time and place, and there are meanings concerning the aspect of the art such as the singer and the style of the song, so it is not appropriate as the name of the basic unit. There is a term “repertory”, but it lacks something. Therefore, we introduced the new word “Odori-kyoku” for the time being. We would like to replace it with a proper word when we find it.
By the way, in the Bon Dance in Hawaii, people named generically the “Odori-kyoku” played by the records imported from Japan as “Ondo” before the WW 2. This is the same in North America. Also, in Hawaii, people called Odori-kyoku excluding Traditional type Odori-kyoku as “Min-yo Dance” and “Min-yo Ondo (popular music)” after the WW 2.
There is a variety of ways in which they use the word “Bon Dance”. Depending on the scene, it means “the basic unit of the aspect of the art” (ex. “Tokyo Ondo”) and as the “basic unit of the place where they hold the dance” (ex. “Tsukudajima Ondo”), further, it sometimes means the whole category of the cultural phenomenon of Bon Dance. In this section, we basically use the word Bon Dance in the meaning of “the basic unit of the place where they hold the dance” and avoid to use in the meaning of “the basic unit of the aspect of the art” so as to avoid the confusion. Further, in this section, we would like to use the name “Bon Dance” which became established in Hawaii after the WW 2, compatible with the name “Bon Dance (Bon Odori)”, as long as there are no obstacles.
As for “Yagi Bushi”, there are 2 patterns of performance, live music and the sound source of record, and the origin is not clear. According to the studies of Dr. Yukari Nakahara, it is confirmed that “Yagi Bushi” was imported to Hawaii as Folk song dance in the 1930s. However, according to Dr. Van Zile from the University of Hawaii, in Oahu Island there are 2 cases in which the “Yagi Bushi” is played, one is the performance of live music, and the other is sound source of record. The origin of the former one is not clear, but it is pointed out that it is a dance from Fukushima Prefecture. It is not clear whether something that was imported as “Folk song dance type Odori-kyoku” (sound source of record) became a live performance, or there was an import of a Traditional type Odori-kyoku before the introduction of a recorded sound source. It is an existence as an example of borderline of the 2 types.
*4 Please refer to background material 1.
*5 Please refer to background material 5.
*6 Please refer to background material 4.
*7 Please refer to background material 1.
1. “ハワイ日系 人社会点描・1970年（4）written by Ueda Kisaburo included in 太平洋学会 誌第91号 2002
2. “ハワイ日系 人のボン・ダンスの変遷” written by Yukari Nakahara (included in “民俗音楽の 課題と方法” written and edited by Nobuo Mizuno and published by 世界思想社, 2002)
3.Van Zile,Judy. The Japanese Bon Dance in Hawaii.Honolulu:Press Pacifica 1982
4.B.Smith,Barbara. THE BON-ODORI IN HAWAII AND JAPAN.International folk music journal
5. “南カリフォ ルニアの盆踊り” written by Minako Waseda included in 音楽学 第52巻（1）日本音楽 学会 2006
- 1.The distribution of Bon Dance in the overseas.
- 2.Bon Dance of Hawaii – The distribution and characteristics
- 3.The parent body and the participants of Bon Dance
- 4.The schedule of Bon Dance
- 5.The location of Bon Dance
- 7.The composition and fashion of Bon Dance
- 8.The composition of “Odori-kyoku”-Hondo type and Okinawan type
- 9. Bon Dancing in Hawaii : The lyrics and refrains
- 10. Bon Dancing in Hawaii : History
- 11.Talking about Bon Dance in Hawaii : Professor Judy Van Zile from The University of Hawaii