Tatsumi Hijikata

Tatsumi Hijikata - Archive, 深瀬昌久: スイカを喰う土方巽(大), Photograph by Masahisa Fukase, Tatsumi Hijikata Eating a Watermelon (large), 1970

Tatsumi Hijikata was the founder of Ankoku Butoh (literally meaning, dance of darkness), widely known and practiced today, some 60 years later, as Butoh.


Hijikata arrived to Tokyo from the Northern rural Tohoku region in 1952 and worked blue-collar jobs to support his dance pursuits. As his rural accent set him apart from Tokyo's urbanites, Hijikata filled his time reading French writers, such as Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille.


Aesthetically, he looked towards artists such as Egon Schiele, Hans Bellmer and Willem De Kooning. Hijikata’s provocative performances stemmed from this exploration of eros, debauchery, disease and death, evoking the rarely seen dark half of the human psyche. With awareness of German Expressionist dance and technical capabilities in Modern dance genres including jazz, flamenco, classical ballet and pantomime, Hijikata felt the imperative to develop a new dance form, and with the underlying notion of the anti-establishment, Hijikata's Butoh stands as a form of anti-dance. The exhibition's organizer, Takashi Morishita has written "Hijikata's Butoh… is body art whose expression is a "convulsion of existence"'.


As an artist working in performance with relationship to Happenings, a popular in his times, Tatsumi Hijikata became a central figure in Japan's avant-garde and achieved lasting global influence.