Geijitsu Sodan: Okinawa Times Ryukyu Buyo Documentary Book

Okinawa Times Geijitsu Sodan In August 15-23rd of 1962, various leading sensei of that time were called together to meet at the Okinawa Times Hall to discuss and formulate a research group to standardize and discuss basics of the dance and music. Prior to this, they were meeting to discuss differences and similarities in the styles and how they would move on to make it easier to continue the geino matsuri or testing…now known as konkuru. In 1958, Ryoken Toyohira commented on the importance of such a meeting:

During the Ukwanshin period, all dances and standards were the same as they were only performed within the court. Later, as the dance was performed outside after the overthrow, teachers began to make dances which showed their style. In 1958,( less than 100 years after the overthrow, and abolishment of the Ryukyu court), teachers of the various styles were already arguing who’s dances and style was the original. It is this time that the sensei were gathered to discuss and input their knowledge to set the standards for the dances. (Geijitsu Sodan, June 1, 1958, pg. 422)

Was this the beginning to opening a can of worms? Was standardization really needed? How has this affected the current scene?

As Toyohira writes, there is no solid evidence of whose dances are the original, but through this meeting, many similarities, have come up to where you can see that the similarities lead to the idea of its originality. The difference in timing, etc. are small and for the most part, the women’s classical dances seem to be all the same in all schools. It is only in the male dances that there seems to be the most evolution. In the area of costuming, the one point that I am surprised to see is that obi being tucked in instead of tied at the front, and the nonexistence of the purple waist sash for dances such as “Nubui,” “Kudai,” and “Menuhama.” This was decided by this group of sensei. I look back at the old sketches and pictures from the time of Commodore Perry, and also pre-war photos, which show obi tied in the front, and purple waist sashes being used. There is no explanation of the change, but it is just noted that there is no purple waist sash used for the three male dances. As we continue to research the outcome of this book, I think we should also parallel the information to the documented pictures and other information prior to 1954, to just keep in mind that there were other styles being practiced. I think that it is good to preserve the standards of the geijitsu sodan, but also remind ourselves not to go as far as the current sensei have in the various changes they have put to the dances and music which even seem to put the original more at a distance than coming closer to it.