Sensational Knowledge
Embodying Culture through Japanese Dance
Tomie Hahn

Wesleyan University Press, 2007

Here's an excerpt...

I remember my first dance lesson with Iemoto (headmaster) Tachibana Yoshie in Tokyo. She took my elbow and led me across the studio, pointing at the impeccably clean wood floor. Nothing seemed unusual. “See these marks . . .,” she said, kneeling down on the floor and still pointing here and there. As I bent down to sit by her side, minute water marks and nicks on the floor’s surface came into focus. “Those stains are from all of our sweat and tears here together,” she continued, sweeping her arm across the room toward the half-dozen onlooking students. “All these marks are from our hard work together everyday––dancing.” I looked up from the floor to the students and down to the floor again. My eyes, now wide open, saw how speckled the floor was. In conversations "Hatchobori" often becomes a metaphor for our dance lives, relationships, obligations, and the Tachibana dance tradition.
The above story illustrates how this "house" ("ie") embodies our dance, and how each of us contributes to the physical form of the house. The surface nicks and stains are insignificant in themselves, but they are a tangible result of physical exertion during the process of learning. They are manifestations of the hours we practice there together, generations of marks layered upon each other. Dancing bodies created these marks which are symbolic contributions to the larger representation of the school body and an instantiation of our strong bonds.

Sensational Knowledge: Embodying Culture through Japanese Dance is an ethnography offering a peek into some of the everyday life at the Tachibana school of nihon buyo in order to convey the sensitivities of the culturally constructed process of teaching. Since childhood, nihon buyo has been a part of my life. This led me to question how we learn cultural sensitivities of the body in such a way that they seem second nature, reflecting our sense of self, as well as how we come to understand the world around us. The site of my field work was primarily at Hatchobori, the main Tachibana dance studio in Tokyo where the Tachibana headmasters reside and teach. The themes in my writing rose from my experiences similar to the one related above. Each experience encapsulates the essence of our dance household life at Hatchobori and in the process, reveals the tradition of dance transmission through generations of dancers. The physicality of transmission is stimulating. The art, simply, is learned and passed down through moving bodies. However, this reality unfolds into a deeply complex web of interconnected impressions enacting cultural meanings.
Research funded in part by the Asian Cultural Council, a Tufts Faculty Research Award, and the American Association for University Women.