The white trousers of Butoh dancer Ko Murobushi

Soshi Suzuki

The Butoh dancer Ko Murobushi passed away suddenly. The death of one who had danced death, performed death, and beat death. It was as he was heading to Germany from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he had a solo performance.

The Mexico airport. The daily bustle.

The nikutai( carnal Body) of a Butoh dancer slowly crumpling. A large silhouette forming an arch.

The outline of the silhouette stands out from the gray background, sharp. But the time that ran only those lines was gentle, and all movement suddenly grew slow, the sound disappeared, and the beating of the heart stopped. All things slowly became static, and in a single moment, came to a certain stop. There Ko Murobushi was. And among the discord, everything began to move once more.

The nikutai. The body that was there, that should have been there. The.nikutai is only of the nikutai itself. Is that so? That nikutai and the pale face that accompanied it. “Ko Murobushi’s face at death was so beautiful.” So she said. “He suddenly disappeared.”

Once, the dancing in the dance of darkness did not make me think of flowers. For Kazuo Ohno, I may be able to offer a likening to flowers, the language of flowers, or even a single flower to his behavior. Because a bird has come to perch on an ancient tree atop a hill. However, when I heard the news of Ko Murobushi’s death, the unlikely image of a dahlia came to mind. A dahlia in the shade of dull lilac. I do not know if I had really seen such a dahlia before.

Even if the metallic body transformed into a dahlia on the floor of the airport, one cannot say that the flower is at fault. In Ko Murobushi’s nikutai of the Butoh that had once been, like a mantra, dignity and grace flowed in it from every perspective. Blood and milk flowed.

Had the flower withered? Even if the flower had withered and rotted, even if everything left from that had disappeared; even if the rose from yesterday is but its name, and even if the nikutai has passed away, the nikutai of a Butoh dancer cannot perish.

Butoh has most likely engraved the nikutai into the nikutai within the empty space, see, over there. The nikutai had once clad itself in the aura of the nikutai, but it is because the aura of this mortal life has, since long ago, boldly let loose the fragrance of death. Have we not felt it before to be nostalgic?

There is no one who can deny the fact of seeing the nikutai that has passed away. As Ko Murobushi’s mentor, Tatsumi Hijikata, once said, this is because the nikutai of a Butoh dancer is a dead body of mad desperation in the first place. It stood on top of a hill, at the edge of the eaves, in the basement, on the roadside, at the waterfront, in the sunlight. In the ruins of this nikutai. In this well. Within this annihilation. Within this daring, different shape. Whether someone else knows or not.

When I tried to recreate from behind my eyelids the image of the niktutai of Ko Murobushi, beautiful from any perspective, I remember Issui Yoshida’s poem “后園.” If what appeared from behind my eyelids were words, I must say that it would be most fortunate. At a glance, even if this poem appeared to be uncharacteristic of him, it would simply be the delusion of the insignificant nikutai.

The cheerful arpeggio made by the water in a fragile flower basin.

(The lizard of the sundial)


Spinning brilliance, the scratches of marigolds and sunflowers

When the saffron wastes that gold


The pages opening in the soft breeze, the fingers holding them down, colored in green…

Your body, your brow falls pale in illness.

(From “The Holy Mother of the Sea”)

The motionless lizard, atop the sundial bathed in sunlight, had been eating the edge of the darkness. Coming out from the darkness, faintly illuminate, it twisted its back, the back bathed with oil and gleaming in a tan or otherwise bronze shade. The elegant lizard never moves, not even in the slightest.

Just now, when I was reading Kuniichi Uno’s essay “Hijikata Tatsumi no Seisei (The Becoming of Tatsumi Hijikata)” on Tatsumi Hijikata, I thought about the crack born from the nikutai. According to Kuniichi Uno, Hijikata’s spirit was largely devoted to this perversion, to the point that it enjoyed that crack. In this sense, I believe that nikutai gives birth to the crack of the physical body everywhere. In accordance, this spirit may also be the nikutai. The nikutai that had withdrawn from the spirit taught me this over and over.

Furthermore, this perversion is within the nikutai’s wandering itself. This nikutai that had strayed away embeds itself into the large nikutai, “My Body,” denying its own old nikutai and putting all the nikutai under command once more. Because dance is a clear idleness, when it comes in contact with a violent darkness, no one can stop it from melting into this darkness; at the same time, it has always continued to hang just short of it.

I only came to know Murobushi on a personal basis fairly recently, but I believe I had seen him from quite a long while back. In 1972, he worked together with Akaji Maro to form Dairakudakan. Even if I say I had seen him, most likely it was in Dairakudakan; but among that chaos, I did not know who or which was Ko Murobushi.

At the time, I was still a juvenile delinquent. At the jazz café that served as a meeting place in Kobe, the members of Dairakudakan came to solicitate: “You guys, how about doing Butoh?”

Still largely impertinent, I had believed myself to know generally what the dance of darkness was, and it goes without saying that I had rejected the invitation. I knew nothing of what my nikutai was and what was what, much less how to deal with it. It was true that I had been searching for a nikutai different from my own nikutai, but at the time, I couldn’t have cared less about myself and was always absent-minded.

In actuality, who talked to me, I believe, was either Bishop Yamada or Ushio Amagatsu, but I do not remember clearly. When I told that to Murobushi, I thought he would be surprised even if just a little, but he did not a show an expression of surprise in the least. He simply smiled at me kindly. How my nikutai that had gone astray had once been, how it had beat me, how it had picked at my skin—I believe it was because he thoroughly knew of these things.

Hurriedly, I rewatched a video of Ko Murobushi’s Butoh performance. There is a video of him dancing impromptu with the late wife of Tatsumi Hijikata, Akiko Motofuji, in 2003 at the Asbestos Studio. It seems that it had been his first time dancing with Akiko Motofuji. It would be that the Butoh dancer that was the late wife of Hijikata would also pass away in the same year. A dance of hats and a spider’s web. Behind the Butoh dancers hung three swaying brass sheets. One of the sheets was for Tatsumi Hijikata. In the second half of the Butoh, Murobushi’s dance became intense for a time, and he let out his voice, hit the brass sheets, kicked, at times elegant, sometimes as if he had forgotten the dance of the darkness and stretched his back…

Watching this, I could not suppress the feeling of being deeply touched. Near the end, Ko Murobushi’s eyes changed and sparkled with tears. With the video in front of me, I danced with my hands and upper body while still sitting in my chair, as if to reflect myself in a bright and cruel mirror. All by myself, with Ko Murobushi. The Murobushi beyond must have smirked at me. “So you’re dancing together with me now.” Even with that severely ill body…

I had just met him in Kyoto in December last year. I entered an underground restaurant, on a narrow street where white flowers blossomed on the flowering dogwood trees at the end of April. I drank beer and wine, and ate. There were five of us. Murobushi along with Manager W, Takashi Nibuya, H, and myself. I took long looks at his face and eyes repeatedly. Murobushi’s eyes are kind. I felt that we could do something together again.

“Well then, see you,” we said to each other, and parted ways on the street. When I looked back, I could see W and Murobushi’s back growing distant. I could see his white pants from under his coat. There is a world and his pants, and in that world, I could see white pants. A Butoh dancer’s pants. It was passing through the world and through the congestion.

The bird falls, Manto keeps silent, and Tiresias knew not a thing.
Ignorance, silence, and the motionless blue sky; there the answer for the riddle is, and a fairly recent answer.

Samuel Beckett, “World and Pants”


July 4, 2015
“toward <outside>! toward <transit>!”