The aesthetics of grace in all things

by Maike Hank December 14, 2018
The aesthetics of grace in all things

In 2005, Koshiro Minamoto created a new performing art form based on several Japanese traditions. As he wants to let the world know about it, he is traveling around the globe to perform in cities such as Moscow and Florence – and now in Berlin.

This week, I was invited to attend a Bugaku performance at the Samurai Art Museum in Berlin – an impressive private collection of Peter Janssen who made it accessible to the public about a year ago. I don’t know much about Samurai and even less about Bugaku. Both very traditional phenomena, which – I suppose – are appreciated above all by specialists.

Nevertheless, two years ago, I really enjoyed a Kabuki performance in Tokyo that lasted several hours, although friends had warned me it might be a challenge. So I was keen to learn more about Bugaku, especially since NION stands for curiosity, openness and bringing old and new together. The latter applies to Bugaku as well. It was developed in 2005 as a new genre of traditional performing art by Koshiro Minamoto and combines three Japanese traditions: Bujutsu, the actual execution of martial arts, that refer to the physical part of the fight. Furthermore, Noh, a major form of the classical Japanese musical spectacle which is still performed regularly today. The final component is Wagaku, Japanese music that uses traditional Japanese instruments and/or traditional Japanese singing.

How does someone come up with the idea of using such old traditions to invent something new that also has a very traditional character? I definitely wanted to hear Minamoto’s story.

Why Bugaku?

Minamoto has been doing martial arts since 30 years already. Besides, he went to art school and is also a musician. In 2005, his mother died – a dramatic turning point in his life, and Bugaku arose out of his grief. It’s a growing art and he is still on the way to perfection. Means of expression are elaborated movements, exquisite costumes, as well as Samurai items like armour and swords.

Its philosophy derives from using the awareness of mortality to find the true loveliness in life, to see the elegance inherent in well managed precision, to find the inner strength to defend the weak against evil, and to carry within one’s heart the aesthetics of grace in all things.

Bugaku focuses on the peaceful spirits, high consideration for others and the views of life and death of Samurai, like Bushido, seeking for ‘Beautiful Ways of Living‘ and thus world peace. A pretty big goal!

It was great that Minamoto did not only perform his art, but also explained the three different extracts he showed us. We learned, for example, about the posture, the accuracy of his movements, about greeting the mask he was wearing and how to put on his trousers which need a special wooden tool for a perfect fit.



Certainly, the most impressive part was, when Minamoto wore a red long-haired wig, carried a long weapon and showed us the artistic way of driving out evil. Although my hair is pink, I hope this also works – but I still have to improve my movements.

If you are lucky, there are still spots available for the workshop on Saturday, December 15th, 1-4pm, where you can learn the basics of Bugaku. In addition, you can definitely see the remarkable performance on Sunday, December 16th, from 3-4pm. You find more information on the Facebook Event Page or on the Bugakuza website

Samurai Art Museum, Clayallee 225D, 14195 Berlin

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