TDR: The Drama Review 44.1 (2000) 71-79
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Hijikata Tatsumi: The Words of Butoh
I've gone and caught a terrible cold, and I bet there are people in the audience too who have colds. It's the first cold I've had in 20 years. With this cold I don't sweat much, either night or day, but my nose runs and when I blow it, my ears are affected. When people around me with colds blow their noses too, they make a snuffling sound. It's like there's a communal society in the neighborhood (laughs). Let the same sickness strike and people flock together, it seems. I've thought for a long time that maybe we should give up our delusions about good health and just bring a cold into each neighborhood. People might then get along with each other. But, it's true that a cold can be the start of all kinds of illnesses so you can't be careless.
From talking about colds, I'd like to talk a bit about cold Akita, where I grew up and where a blustery wild wind blows. In Akita, or I should say in all of the Tohoku district, there's something called a "wind daruma." 1 I'd better explain this a bit. Sometimes when it gusts up north, the snow swirls around and the wind is just incredible. Then a T ohoku person can get wrapped in the wind that blows from the footpath between the rice paddies to my front door and, garbed in the wind, become a wind daruma standing at the entrance. [End Page 71] The wind daruma goes into the parlor, and that already is butoh. I'd like to talk a bit about this idea of a wind daruma.
At first I thought I'd talk about a "gathering of emaciated bodies." I don't know why but people in Tokyo seem to have become madly busy and are always talking about taking care of their health and getting deluded about health. Some people even run mindlessly along the streets. I'd like to measure human beings, and the dimensions of their overly soft lives, with a standard meter-measure of emaciation. There is something odd about health delusions, and that's why I've settled on this lecture topic. I myself have been gathered up by a cold (laughs). Because of my cold I guess I can't help talking about these things.
I was worried that there might be something I was forgetting to say about emaciated bodies so I asked Fujii Sadakazu, an acquaintance who lives in Kamakura, if there were any useful chronicles of emaciation. He told me about a book called the Nihon reii ki (Japanese Miracle Chronicle) 2 and said I should go buy a copy at the bookstore and read it. But I told him that even if I read it I wouldn't understand it and asked him to write down what he knew about the book and send it to me. I have his note right here and would like to read it to you.
Long, long ago there was a priest named Ky ogai, who wrote the Nihon reii ki. This priest had a dream about himself, on the night of March 17th in the year 788. In this dream he had died and piled up firewood to burn his own corpse. His soul stood near his body watching it burn, but the body just did not burn the way he wanted it to. So Kyogai broke off some branches and skewered his burning body with them, then turned it over and over to burn it up. Then he told other souls who were also burning their bodies to do as he had done. And his legs, knees, joints, arms, head, and all of his body burned up and fell to pieces. Kyogai's soul spoke out loud, then raised its voice and cried out. But none of the people nearby seemed able to hear...