Page 1

Japan: the Empire of Gesture In Japan, gestures carry more weight than words.For centuries, postures and gestures have been worked, cultivated, codified. To such a degree that moving or remaining immobile, according to the rules, has become second nature. A Photo story by Sylvain Savolainen/LightMediation


2400-11: Applying makeup according to the books: one of the innumerable rules to follow that punctuate the daily life of a geisha. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed up. (The word literally means "artist" and it is often forgotten that the first followers of this discipline were male.) The hair-do, the make-up, the white neck, the brocade belt, the consummate art of bowing the head, smiling and pouring sake for the guests, it's no longer women carrying out all this; they are actresses in the role of exquisite femininity and not call girls.

Contact - Thierry Tinacci - LightMediation Photo Agency - email: thierry@lightmediation.com - mobile: +33.6.61.80.57.21


2400-01: Toki Koka, calligraphy master in the temple of Toyoji (Tokyo). Discipline and freedom of the brushstroke. In calligraphy or Sho, the art of the calligrapher reveals itself in the expression of the

2400-02: Master of calligraphy; fusion of the brush and the hand, discipline and freedom of the brushstroke. In calligraphy or Sho, the art of the calligrapher reveals itself in the expression of the

2400-03: Toki Koka, calligraphy master in the temple of Toyoji (Tokyo). Discipline and freedom of the brushstroke. In calligraphy or Sho, the art of the calligrapher reveals itself in the expression of the

2400-04: A diabolical character from the Noh theatre. In Noh, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a


2400-05: A diabolical character from the Noh theatre. In Noh, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a

2400-06: In the Noh drama, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a practically silent art, interpretation lies

2400-07: In the Noh drama, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a practically silent art, interpretation lies

2400-08: In a gallery in Tokyo, the decor from a performance of Butoh dance. A form of modern dance involving tortuous movements, Butoh was born in Japan after the Second World War and its two atomic


2400-01: Toki Koka, calligraphy master in the temple of Toyoji (Tokyo). Discipline and freedom of the brushstroke. In calligraphy or Sho, the art of the calligrapher reveals itself in the expression of the characters, the gradation of the ink, the force and precision of the brushstrokes. Before being able to display a mastery and one's own style, twenty years of practice and rigorous discipline are necessary to acquire a freeness of stroke.

Contact - Thierry Tinacci - LightMediation Photo Agency - email: thierry@lightmediation.com - mobile: +33.6.61.80.57.21


2400-09: Kazuo Ohno, at more than 100 years old (born in 1906), is nicknamed "the last emperor of dance". He is one of the founders of Butoh. A form of modern dance involving tortuous movements, Butoh

2400-10: Kazuo Ohno at home in his private studio. At more than 100 years old (born in 1906), is nicknamed "the last emperor of dance". He is one of the founders of Butoh. A form of modern dance

2400-11: Applying makeup according to the books: one of the innumerable rules to follow that punctuate the daily life of a geisha. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather

2400-12: A Geisha getting ready in front of her mirror before going out for the night. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed


2400-13: Geisha in the streets of Tokyo; practically a moving monument. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed up. (The word

2400-14: The pokkuri or raised sandals induce a mincing walk, still cultivated by the geishas

2400-15: Wind instrument, percussion, string: in the music of the geishas, the geometry of the posture adds to the musical technique.

2400-16: In the music of the geishas, the geometry of the posture adds to the musical technique.


2400-05: A diabolical character from the Noh theatre. In Noh, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a practically silent art, interpretation lies in this extreme codification of movements conveying precise meanings. Here, masks and costumes belonging to the Hosho family, a dynasty of Noh masters. Some props can also support and complement the actor's mime work. A fan can be a shield; open and held flat in front of the mouth, it becomes a glass of sake; held closed at arm's length, it is a saber, a spear, a dagger or even a saw.


2400-17: Decor, minute movement of the head, the arranged kimono, the geishas' masterful art of exhibiting the gracefulness of a neck. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the

2400-18: The geishas' dance. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed up. (The word literally means "artist" and it is often

2400-19: With the geishas, is the fan an extension of the hand or the hand an extension of the fan?

2400-20: Popular geisha performance in Kyoto.


2400-21: The Yamambas' fashion movement has as its canons and distinctive features the tint of the skin, the hair-do, the make-up, the wooden platform sandals, the very colorful clothing. The young "rebels" may

2400-22: The Yamambas' fashion movement has as its canons and distinctive features the tint of the skin, the hair-do, the make-up, the wooden platform sandals, the very colorful clothing. The young "rebels" may

2400-23: Young "rebels" in the shadow of the geishas. They may have adopted provocative gestures and a "kooky" make-up, Japanese society and its codes integrate them perfectly. Unconsciously, they are

2400-24: In the subways, during Sunday gatherings of the young "hip crowd", the "rebels". They may have adopted provocative gestures and a "kooky" make-up, Japanese society and its codes integrate


2400-37: The exchange of business cards obeys a strict protocol. The identity incarnate of the salaryman, the business card. The exchanging of this card during a first meeting obeys a strict protocol, a ritual. Presentation with one hand or two, exclamation, the ceremonial becomes more elaborate depending on the status and age of the client.


2400-25: Sumo wrestlers in training. Shikiri or the posture of intimidation and evaluation of the adversary before the fight. Before each joust, the sumo wrestlers shift from one leg to the other stamping the ground

2400-26: Sumo wrestlers carrying out the shiko, raising the legs and stamping the ground with force in order to symbolically crush the evil spirits in the ring or dohyo. They complete this exorcising ritual by

2400-27: Uwatenage, one of the classic holds in sumo wrestling.

2400-28: A gesture or classic hold in sumo.


2400-29: Sumo wrestlers carrying out the shiko, raising the legs and stamping the ground with force in order to symbolically crush the evil spirits in the ring or dohyo. They complete this exorcising ritual by

2400-30: Sumo wrestlers training in the sonkyo position, sign of strength and of respect in regards to a superior.

2400-31: The kata of the elevator attendant: from ten in the morning until eight in the evening, the department stores' elevator attendants, in uniform and white gloves, tirelessly repeat in a monotonous and

2400-32: The kata of the elevator attendant: from ten in the morning until eight in the evening, the department stores' elevator attendants, in uniform and white gloves, tirelessly repeat in a monotonous and


2400-42:Tea, a codified ceremony above all. Posture, gestures and attitude all contribute to creating a climate of respect and politeness towards others. More than just devoted to the preparation of the drink itself, "the voice of the tea" is meant to purify the spirit. Carefully codified, the gestures reflect the harmony of the relationship between the host and the guests. Meticulously practiced, the postures have to be the translation of a moment of inner peace, harmony and inner serenity, practically meditation. That's why the master contemplates his own face in the mirror symbolized by the bamboo ladle.


2400-33: The kata of the elevator attendant: from ten in the morning until eight in the evening, the department stores' elevator attendants, in uniform and white gloves, tirelessly repeat in a monotonous and

2400-34: Zen bonze in a posture of meditation.

2400-35: The union of opposing forces, micro and macrocosm, the entire universe in the joined hands.

2400-36: As the dignity of the salaryman will have it, they never cross at a red light. Respect for form? A ritual for reinforcing the bounds of the group or just simply a mark of civility? Employees going to work


2400-37: The exchange of business cards obeys a strict protocol. The identity incarnate of the salaryman, the business card. The exchanging of this card during a first meeting obeys a strict protocol, a ritual.

2400-38: "Playmobil" letting people cross at a pedestrian crossing. It doesn't matter if these motions give them the air of an automaton, the gestures that save lives deserve to be repeated with seriousness and in

2400-39: All the passengers on the train, the platform empty, the gestures are intended for whom then. It doesn't matter; nothing can excuse neglect of the departure signal.

2400-40: Firemen "Playmobils" in training. It doesn't matter if these motions give them the air of an automaton; in Japan the gestures that save lives deserve to be repeated with seriousness and in uniform.


2400-41: Tea, a codified ceremony above all. Posture, gestures and attitude all contribute to creating a climate of respect and politeness towards others. More than just devoted to the preparation of the drink

2400-42:Tea, a codified ceremony above all. Posture, gestures and attitude all contribute to creating a climate of respect and politeness towards others. More than just devoted to the preparation of the drink

2400-43: Tea, a codified ceremony above all. Posture, gestures and attitude all contribute to creating a climate of respect and politeness towards others. More than just devoted to the preparation of the drink

2400-44: Patience. Tea, a codified ceremony above all. Posture, gestures and attitude all contribute to creating a climate of respect and politeness towards others. More than just devoted to the preparation of


2400-45: Studios of the NHK, a low bow to the millions of television viewers. When they take leave of their audience, distance does not get in the way of respect and demonstrations of polite manners.

2400-46: From the Fudo, demon protector of spiritual energy....

2400-47: to the fish seller in the wholesale market of Tokyo: they are telling you no or stop there! "Impossible, you can't come through" or "out of the question, no way out": the arms crossed in front of the

2400-48: Bag on the knees, hands crossed, asleep, the typical manner of riding the subway.


2400-32: The kata of the elevator attendant: from ten in the morning until eight in the evening, the department stores' elevator attendants, in uniform and white gloves, tirelessly repeat in a monotonous and childlike tone of voice a choreography of semiotics. Through these gestures comes a message for the customers: "You are never alone. We are taking care of you." It's to tell you that you are completely in their care and that the employees will escort you to the seventh heaven of the department store with kinder versions of the gestures of a Punch and Judy.


2400-49: Friday evening ritual and postures. After a few glasses of alcohol, the posture relaxes a little.

2400-50: Young fascistic nationalists performing a demonstration of discipline in the streets of Tokyo. It is not their views and ideas, but the haircut, the strict uniform and the puffed out chest that contain the whole

2400-51: A blessing ritual and gestures protecting vehicles against accidents. Japanese cars and motorcycles must then have a soul

2400-52: A blessing ritual and gestures protecting vehicles against accidents. Japanese cars and motorcycles must then have a soul


2400-53: Kyudo or archery. Contemplation and meditation before shooting the arrow. Kyudo, or the art of archery, embodies a discipline in which geometry is the master key: the archer preparing himself, the

2400-54: Kyudo or archery. Aiming for the spirit before shooting the arrow. Kyudo, or the art of archery, embodies a discipline in which geometry is the master key: the archer preparing himself, the shooting of

2400-55: Kyudo or archery. Becoming the target before shooting the arrow. Kyudo, or the art of archery, embodies a discipline in which geometry is the master key: the archer preparing himself, the shooting of

2400-56: High school students greet each other with a wave.


2400-47: to the fish seller in the wholesale market of Tokyo: they are telling you no or stop there! "Impossible, you can't come through" or "out of the question, no way out": the arms crossed in front of the chest serve to chase away demons and evil spirits as much as the undesirable idlers in the main market of Tsukiji.


Japan: the Empire of Gesture Ephemeral, which enhances even more their indescribable beauty, the cherry blossoms explode in color like fireworks in the first days of April. In Japan, the event coincides with the beginning of the tax year. It is also the time of year when thousands of young people make their entrance onto the great stage of lifetime employment. A business firm in Tokyo has assembled its recruits in a hall temporarily transformed into a classroom. Forty-odd men and women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four make up the flock. Standing, in their right hand they hold a rolled up leaf of paper by their cheek. Leaning slightly forward, they concentrate before reciting in unison moshi moshi ("hello, hello"). In Japan, managers have known for a long time that any potential client that they neglect to welcome in the correct manner is a lost client for the business. Hence, great importance is put on inculcating in the greenhorns the art of answering the telephone with assurance, courtesy and in the establishment's style. "Even if they cannot see you, the person at the other end of the line will feel the effect if you accompany your words with a bow". And even better if they have the impression of speaking to an employee in uniform. After all, they do not wish to speak to just anyone, but rather someone who

represents the company. It goes without saying that banks also insist on cultivating their appearance. That's why newly hired cashiers will practice for days on end counting the notes in an elegant manner. Of course, there are machines to do that. But nothing can replace the beauty of a magician's moves. Take a wad of new 10,000 yen notes in the left hand. In the twinkling of an eye, turn them into a superb fan. Slide your fingers along to count them, ten by ten, five by five, then two by two. The sleight of hand should not take more than a dozen seconds. But to be sure you count it right, you have to devote many hours to practicing. Even all-nighters if you are left handed. Dear readers, your eyes must be widening and you are shaking your head in wonder thinking that those Japanese are completely nuts! But hold on. Don't jump to conclusions. Look carefully at the photos in this feature, and then put yourself in front of the mirror in your bedroom. Assume the posture that inspires you and reproduce exactly the gesture that seduces you the most. The flagrant difference between the model and your pitiful performance will tempt you to continue to read on. The love of the Japanese for the upholding of appearances is a very old affair. In the 5th century AD already, Chinese chroniclers noted the great style of Japanese dress, despite the fact that they considered their islander neighbors pirates and barbarians. But, the sumptuous uniforms and costumes, for which the Japanese still have a taste, have no effect if they are not worn well. Hence the necessity to develop and cultivate two

complementary attitudes: posture, namely holding the body immobile, and the gesture, that is to say, the body in movement. The care put into these two attitudes, that we find just as much in traditional activities as in modern life, have thus given birth to a veritable "culture of elegance", which constitutes one of the most salient particularities of Japan.

opening or closing a sliding door. And that the ma卯tre d'h么tel holds the posture of the body immobile, for example, when it is necessary to wait with dignity. At first glance, this may seem artificial. But wait, because it all becomes more complicated quite quickly.

Amongst the many experts in the art of posture, we would be tempted to award the gold medal to the geisha. Remember that the word literally means "artist" and the first followers of this discipline were male. Those who practice it today are mostly women for whom the career, or rather vocation, amounts to a tenacious will to cultivate the art of appearing pleasant to their clients. Appear, that's the keyword. The hairdo, the make-up, the white neck, the brocade belt, the consummate art of bowing the head, smiling and pouring sake for the guests: it's no longer a woman carrying out all this, but an actress in the role of exquisite femininity. No point in adding that only the aficionado who has cultivated a taste for this sort of company will be able to really appreciate her performance.

Some gestures may appear more arcane, at least to a foreign observer arriving on the island. When the metro enters the station, the platform guards make a typical gesture with their hand, in white gloves of course, a bit as though they were "sweeping" the tracks. For their part, the conductors on the train posted in the last carriage also execute a similar ritual at the moment when the train sets off. But it has nothing to do with signals they are sending each other. Their gestures are for themselves and their objective is to make the entire body participate in the surveillance exercised by the eye. To make the body participate in such a routine task as announcing the arrival and the departure of the trains not only permits them to remain more present, more alert, more attentive and concentrated on their work, but also to maintain a certain dignity in the humbleness of their profession.

Hostesses around the world have to learn to smile. But some airlines, for example, will ask them to learn how to operate the emergency exits before cultivating the gracefulness of their bowing and scraping. The Japanese distinguish themselves from other cultures perhaps by the extreme importance they put into their concept of harmony in human relations. That's where the maintenance of form comes in. Codes and appearances thus become the expression of true civility. It is out of consideration for the customer that the staff in traditional restaurants and hotels cultivate gestures as simple as

Just remember, that every attitude, posture, gesture, expression, movement or step requires a certain amount of energy. Then, after, it aims at accomplishing an objective. Given that our natures, after all, are well formed, we notice that to reach an aim, it is often not necessary to make as great an effort as you would imagine at the start. In other words, it would seem that elegance arises from efficiency, that is to say that it appears of its own accord when the objective is reached with a minimum of energy. In this rigorous training in the gesture, its is less a question of cultivating


craft, but rather of finding the natural spontaneity of, for example, an antelope leaping over a thorny bush. (Keep in mind that the leap of a young antelope is distinctly less elegant than that of an adult, which leaves one to suppose that it also had to be learned! But with all the weight that has been put into the heads of human beings the body no longer knows very well how to conduct itself, what its place is, and what it has to do.) Japan possesses neither great natural energy resources nor an abundance of raw materials. We are tempted to see in that a reason why its inhabitants have developed the art of drawing the maximum out of the little that they have. It is like saying that necessity is the mother of invention. Lacking or unable to produce more, those who can not allow themselves to waste energy or materials are obliged to develop the technique of producing more advantageously. The secret of this technique rests upon a strict discipline, which necessitates in its turn qualities of which we can cite three: flexibility, endurance and precision. And it's not just by chance that these are exactly the qualities we can find in all the martial arts. Indeed, what best illustrates the art of conquering an enemy whose force is superior than the application of a technical movement that permits one to pull through at the least cost? A caveat is required at this stage. The effectiveness of the movement, as well as the elegance that accompanies it, has its price. A kata in karate, a dance step in the Noh or the dexterity of a craftsman is not acquired in three easy steps. Nor even in

a weeklong intensive course. The beauty comes from concentration and repetition. A motion must be rehearsed a thousand times, until it fully inhabits the body of the actor, until there is a perfect identity between the two and that their duality fades. Hence the importance of respecting the precise form, the correct sequence or progression of the movements, those concepts that they generally refer to by the term kata. Count on at least six months for learning how to correctly hold the calligraphy pen. One or two years to draw a line. Five to ten years to obtain an acceptable writing. An entire lifetime, maybe even several reincarnations, before your works deserve to be shown as an example for posterity. Repeating a thousand times the same kata might seem boring, frustrating, humiliating even. You, what you want to do is express your personality. Very well, but have you considered the fact that before expressing something you must first let yourself become imbued with it? If you want to break out of the mold, you must first agree to enter into it. So that's how it is for the individual considered separately in front of his mirror. But there is more. The posture and the movements constitute what is in fact called body language. But, this language is not simply an incidental phenomenon that we observe in others and which lets us gauge their disposition towards ourselves. This language is part of a whole system of communication with the world around us. It is a veritable code of behavior. This language can be learned. It has forms. To a certain degree, the individual remains free to respect its grammar or ignore it. Insular, the Japanese have a tendency to

be suspicious of words. And they are perfectly correct in that. A gesture expresses much better the relationship you have with others. Imagine that you are seated at your desk. A visitor enters, you rise to say hello and he proffers his calling card with both his hands. You take it with two fingers. You glance at it distractedly before slipping it into your back pocket. You offer the visitor a seat before sitting down again yourself. If he or she is Japanese, your visitor will immediately comprehend that he or she cannot hope for much from a savage who parks his bum on a business card. Japanese courtesy does not limit itself to saying Monsignor to a bishop, Sir to a lawyer, Your Excellency to an ambassador. If it doesn't come from the gut, the message will not come across! And that's that.

large handful of salt in front of them before each joust. Facing their adversary, they twice slap their hands, the arms stretched out and the palms visible to show that they are not hiding any weapons. As to the bamboo ladle, which the tea master holds straight up in front of his face during a few seconds of reflection before placing it on the rim of the cast-iron kettle, it has become a mirror. In this mirror, he contemplates his own soul, which he tries to purify through the practice of this art in which each position and movement of the hand, the foot and the body have been carefully codified. But there again, it would be wrong to think that he does so only to impress or entertain people. Whether one is judoka, craftsman or Zen bonze, the first to be concerned by the gesture still remains the person that performs it.

To illustrate the type of harmonious relations that the Japanese wish to establish with others, observe the kindness and attention with which they serve each other sake or beer. I won't even try to describe the scene: you have to experience it yourself, with the intelligence of the body and of feeling, to understand it.

Finally, let me point out that the practice of certain gestures indicates membership in and identification with a specific group, a profession or a social class, just as the sharing of a professional jargon or certain expressions used within a precise group would do. The way of standing still or moving is thus given new meaning. A communication tool, it is also the expression of values that are still current in contemporary Japanese society. To conclude, the respect for gestural forms contributes in turn to maintaining intact these very values. At the end of the day it matters little if they are Buddhists believing in reincarnation and how much store they set by their reputation. The fact remains that the Japanese seem to have an acute awareness of being ephemeral individuals who nonetheless belong to a larger whole, which enjoys a certain permanence. Isn't it normal then that they would wish to leave a positive image of their brief appearance on life's stage?

In the traditional arts and disciplines, such as, for example, the theatre Noh, the movements are sometimes bearers of a precise meaning that only an initiated audience can correctly interpret. For example, a fan may signify several things: open and held flat in front of the mouth it becomes a glass of sake. Held closed at arm's length, it is a saber, a spear, a dagger or even a saw. Sumo wrestlers, who before the fight shift from one leg to the other stamping the ground with force, symbolically crush the evil spirits in the arena: an act of exorcism that they then complete by throwing a


Captions. 2400-01: Toki Koka, calligraphy master in the temple of Toyoji (Tokyo). Discipline and freedom of the brushstroke. In calligraphy or Sho, the art of the calligrapher reveals itself in the expression of the characters, the gradation of the ink, the force and precision of the brushstrokes. Before being able to display a mastery and one's own style, twenty years of practice and rigorous discipline are necessary to acquire a freeness of stroke. 2400-02: Master of calligraphy; fusion of the brush and the hand, discipline and freedom of the brushstroke. In calligraphy or Sho, the art of the calligrapher reveals itself in the expression of the characters, the gradation of the ink, the force and precision of the brushstrokes. Before being able to display a mastery and one's own style, twenty years of practice and rigorous discipline are necessary to acquire a freeness of stroke. 2400-03: Toki Koka, calligraphy master in the temple of Toyoji (Tokyo). Discipline and freedom of the brushstroke. In calligraphy or Sho, the art of the calligrapher reveals itself in the expression of the characters, the gradation of the ink, the force and precision of the brushstrokes. Before being able to display a mastery and one's own style, twenty years of practice and rigorous discipline are necessary to acquire a freeness of stroke. 2400-04: A diabolical character from the Noh theatre. In Noh, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and

finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a practically silent art, interpretation lies in this extreme codification of movements conveying precise meanings. Here, masks and costumes belonging to the Hosho family, a dynasty of Noh masters. Some props can also support and complement the actor's mime work. A fan can be a shield; open and held flat in front of the mouth, it becomes a glass of sake; held closed at arm's length, it is a saber, a spear, a dagger or even a saw. 2400-05: A diabolical character from the Noh theatre. In Noh, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a practically silent art, interpretation lies in this extreme codification of movements conveying precise meanings. Here, masks and costumes belonging to the Hosho family, a dynasty of Noh masters. Some props can also support and complement the actor's mime work. A fan can be a shield; open and held flat in front of the mouth, it becomes a glass of sake; held closed at arm's length, it is a saber, a spear, a dagger or even a saw. 2400-06: In the Noh drama, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a practically silent art, interpretation lies in this extreme codification of movements conveying precise meanings. Here, masks and costumes belonging to the Hosho family, a dynasty of Noh masters. Some props can also support and complement the actor's mime work. A fan can be a shield; open and held flat in front of the mouth, it becomes a glass of sake; held closed at arm's length, it is a saber, a spear, a dagger or even a saw. Here, the character, by a simple gesture of the

hand, suggests the act of crying. 2400-07: In the Noh drama, the gesture is of the utmost importance; only the initiated can interpret the extreme codification and finesse of the body movements. In Noh, a practically silent art, interpretation lies in this extreme codification of movements conveying precise meanings. Here, masks and costumes belonging to the Hosho family, a dynasty of Noh masters. Some props can also support and complement the actor's mime work. A fan can be a shield; open and held flat in front of the mouth, it becomes a glass of sake; held closed at arm's length, it is a saber, a spear, a dagger or even a saw. 2400-08: In a gallery in Tokyo, the decor from a performance of Butoh dance. A form of modern dance involving tortuous movements, Butoh was born in Japan after the Second World War and its two atomic bombs. 2400-09: Kazuo Ohno, at more than 100 years old (born in 1906), is nicknamed "the last emperor of dance". He is one of the founders of Butoh. A form of modern dance involving tortuous movements, Butoh was born in Japan after the Second World War and its two atomic bombs. 2400-10: Kazuo Ohno at home in his private studio. At more than 100 years old (born in 1906), is nicknamed "the last emperor of dance". He is one of the founders of Butoh. A form of modern dance involving tortuous movements, Butoh was born in Japan after the Second World War and its two atomic bombs. 2400-11: Applying makeup according the books: one of the innumerable rules follow that punctuate the daily life of geisha. The art of appearing pleasant

to to a to

their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed up. (The word literally means "artist" and it is often forgotten that the first followers of this discipline were male.) The hair-do, the make-up, the white neck, the brocade belt, the consummate art of bowing the head, smiling and pouring sake for the guests, it's no longer women carrying out all this; they are actresses in the role of exquisite femininity and not call girls. 2400-12: A Geisha getting ready in front of her mirror before going out for the night. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed up. (The word literally means "artist" and it is often forgotten that the first followers of this discipline were male.) The hair-do, the make-up, the white neck, the brocade belt, the consummate art of bowing the head, smiling and pouring sake for the guests, it's no longer women carrying out all this; they are actresses in the role of exquisite femininity and not call girls. 2400-13: Geisha in the streets of Tokyo; practically a moving monument. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed up. (The word literally means "artist" and it is often forgotten that the first followers of this discipline were male.) The hair-do, the make-up, the white neck, the brocade belt, the consummate art of bowing the head, smiling and pouring sake for the guests, it's no longer women carrying out all this; they are actresses in the role of exquisite femininity and not call girls. 2400-14: The pokkuri or raised sandals induce a mincing walk, still cultivated by


2400-19: With the geishas, is the fan an extension of the hand or the hand an extension of the fan? the geishas 2400-15: Wind instrument, percussion, string: in the music of the geishas, the geometry of the posture adds to the musical technique. 2400-16: In the music of the geishas, the geometry of the posture adds to the musical technique. 2400-17: Decor, minute movement of the head, the arranged kimono, the geishas' masterful art of exhibiting the gracefulness of a neck. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed up. (The word literally means "artist" and it is often forgotten that the first followers of this discipline were male.) The hair-do, the make-up, the white neck, the brocade belt, the consummate art of bowing the head, smiling and pouring sake for the guests, it's no longer women carrying out all this; they are actresses in the role of exquisite femininity and not call girls. 2400-18: The geishas' dance. The art of appearing pleasant to their clients: that is how the discipline, or rather the vocation of the geishas can be summed up. (The word literally means "artist" and it is often forgotten that the first followers of this discipline were male.) The hair-do, the make-up, the white neck, the brocade belt, the consummate art of bowing the head, smiling and pouring sake for the guests, it's no longer women carrying out all this; they are actresses in the role of exquisite femininity and not call girls.

2400-20: Popular geisha performance in Kyoto. 2400-21: The Yamambas' fashion movement has as its canons and distinctive features the tint of the skin, the hair-do, the make-up, the wooden platform sandals, the very colorful clothing. The young "rebels" may have adopted provocative gestures and a "kooky" make-up, Japanese society and its codes integrate them perfectly. Unconsciously, they are following in the shadow and aesthetics of the geishas. 2400-22: The Yamambas' fashion movement has as its canons and distinctive features the tint of the skin, the hair-do, the make-up, the wooden platform sandals, the very colorful clothing. The young "rebels" may have adopted provocative gestures and a "kooky" make-up, Japanese society and its codes integrate them perfectly. Unconsciously, they are following in the shadow and aesthetics of the geishas. 2400-23: Young "rebels" in the shadow of the geishas. They may have adopted provocative gestures and a "kooky" make-up, Japanese society and its codes integrate them perfectly. Unconsciously, they are following in the shadow and aesthetics of the geishas. 2400-24: In the subways, during Sunday gatherings of the young "hip crowd", the "rebels". They may have adopted provocative gestures and a "kooky" make-up, Japanese society and its codes integrate them perfectly. Unconsciously, they are following in the shadow and

aesthetics of the geishas.

respect in regards to a superior.

2400-25: Sumo wrestlers in training. Shikiri or the posture of intimidation and evaluation of the adversary before the fight. Before each joust, the sumo wrestlers shift from one leg to the other stamping the ground with force: they are symbolically crushing the evil spirits in the arena. They complete this exorcising ritual by throwing a large handful of salt in front of them. Then, facing their adversary, they twice slap their hands, the arms stretched out and the palms visible to show that they are not hiding any weapons.

2400-31: The kata of the elevator attendant: from ten in the morning until eight in the evening, the department stores' elevator attendants, in uniform and white gloves, tirelessly repeat in a monotonous and childlike tone of voice a choreography of semiotics. Through these gestures comes a message for the customers: 'You are never alone. We are taking care of you." It's to tell you that you are completely in their care and that the employees will escort you to the seventh heaven of the department store with kinder versions of the gestures of a Punch and Judy.

2400-26: Sumo wrestlers carrying out the shiko, raising the legs and stamping the ground with force in order to symbolically crush the evil spirits in the ring or dohyo. They complete this exorcising ritual by throwing a large handful of salt in front of them. Then, facing their adversary, they twice slap their hands, the arms stretched out and the palms visible to show that they are not hiding any weapons. 2400-27: Uwatenage, one of the classic holds in sumo wrestling. 2400-28: A gesture or classic hold in sumo. 2400-29: Sumo wrestlers carrying out the shiko, raising the legs and stamping the ground with force in order to symbolically crush the evil spirits in the ring or dohyo. They complete this exorcising ritual by throwing a large handful of salt in front of them. Then, facing their adversary, they twice slap their hands, the arms stretched out and the palms visible to show that they are not hiding any weapons. 2400-30: Sumo wrestlers training in the sonkyo position, sign of strength and of

2400-32: The kata of the elevator attendant: from ten in the morning until eight in the evening, the department stores' elevator attendants, in uniform and white gloves, tirelessly repeat in a monotonous and childlike tone of voice a choreography of semiotics. Through these gestures comes a message for the customers: "You are never alone. We are taking care of you." It's to tell you that you are completely in their care and that the employees will escort you to the seventh heaven of the department store with kinder versions of the gestures of a Punch and Judy. 2400-33: The kata of the elevator attendant: from ten in the morning until eight in the evening, the department stores' elevator attendants, in uniform and white gloves, tirelessly repeat in a monotonous and childlike tone of voice a choreography of semiotics. Through these gestures comes a message for the customers: "You are never alone. We are taking care of you." It's to tell you that you are completely in their care and that the employees will escort you to the seventh


heaven of the department store with kinder versions of the gestures of a Punch and Judy. 2400-34: Zen bonze in a posture of meditation. 2400-35: The union of opposing forces, micro and macrocosm, the entire universe in the joined hands. 2400-36: As the dignity of the salaryman will have it, they never cross at a red light. Respect for form? A ritual for reinforcing the bounds of the group or just simply a mark of civility? Employees going to work patiently wait for the lights to change before crossing, even when there isn't the slightest vehicle in sight. 2400-37: The exchange of business cards obeys a strict protocol. The identity incarnate of the salaryman, the business card. The exchanging of this card during a first meeting obeys a strict protocol, a ritual. Presentation with one hand or two, exclamation, the ceremonial becomes more elaborate depending on the status and age of the client. 2400-38: "Playmobil" letting people cross at a pedestrian crossing. It doesn't matter if these motions give them the air of an automaton, the gestures that save lives deserve to be repeated with seriousness and in uniform. 2400-39: All the passengers on the train, the platform empty, the gestures are intended for whom then. It doesn't matter; nothing can excuse neglect of the departure signal.

2400-40: Firemen "Playmobils" in training. It doesn't matter if these motions give them the air of an automaton; in Japan the gestures that save lives deserve to be repeated with seriousness and in uniform. 2400-41-42: Tea, a codified ceremony above all. Posture, gestures and attitude all contribute to creating a climate of respect and politeness towards others. More than just devoted to the preparation of the drink itself, "the voice of the tea" is meant to purify the spirit. Carefully codified, the gestures reflect the harmony of the relationship between the host and the guests. Meticulously practiced, the postures have to be the translation of a moment of inner peace, harmony and serenity, practically meditation. That's why the master contemplates his own face in the mirror symbolized by the bamboo ladle. 2400-43: Tea, a codified ceremony above all. Posture, gestures and attitude all contribute to creating a climate of respect and politeness towards others. More than just devoted to the preparation of the drink itself, "the voice of the tea" is meant to purify the spirit. Carefully codified, the gestures reflect the harmony of the relationship between the host and the guests. Meticulously practiced, the postures have to be the translation of a moment of inner peace, harmony and inner serenity, practically meditation. 2400-44: Patience. Tea, a codified ceremony above all. Posture, gestures and attitude all contribute to creating a climate of respect and politeness towards others. More than just devoted to the preparation of the drink itself, "the voice of the tea" is meant to purify the spirit. Carefully codified, the gestures reflect the

harmony of the relationship between the host and the guests. Meticulously practiced, the postures have to be the translation of a moment of inner peace, harmony and inner serenity, practically meditation. 2400-45: Studios of the NHK, a low bow to the millions of television viewers. When they take leave of their audience, distance does not get in the way of respect and demonstrations of polite manners. 2400-46: From the Fudo, demon protector of spiritual energy.... 2400-47: to the fish seller in the wholesale market of Tokyo: they are telling you no or stop there! "Impossible, you can't come through" or "out of the question, no way out": the arms crossed in front of the chest serve to chase away demons and evil spirits as much as the undesirable idlers in the main market of Tsukiji. 2400-48: Bag on the knees, hands crossed, asleep, the typical manner of riding the subway. 2400-49: Friday evening ritual and postures. After a few glasses of alcohol, the posture relaxes a little. 2400-50: Young fascistic nationalists performing a demonstration of discipline in the streets of Tokyo. It is not their views and ideas, but the haircut, the strict uniform and the puffed out chest that contain the whole message of these far right militants. 2400-51: A blessing ritual and gestures protecting vehicles against accidents. Japanese cars and motorcycles must then have a soul

2400-52: A blessing ritual and gestures protecting vehicles against accidents. Japanese cars and motorcycles must then have a soul 2400-53: Kyudo or archery. Contemplation and meditation before shooting the arrow. Kyudo, or the art of archery, embodies a discipline in which geometry is the master key: the archer preparing himself, the shooting of the arrow, the target. A spiritual as much as athletic exercise that aims at reaching the center of the target as much as one's deep inner self. 2400-54: Kyudo or archery. Aiming for the spirit before shooting the arrow. Kyudo, or the art of archery, embodies a discipline in which geometry is the master key: the archer preparing himself, the shooting of the arrow, the target. A spiritual as much as athletic exercise that aims at reaching the center of the target as much as one's deep inner self. 2400-55: Kyudo or archery. Becoming the target before shooting the arrow. Kyudo, or the art of archery, embodies a discipline in which geometry is the master key: the archer preparing himself, the shooting of the arrow, the target. A spiritual as much as athletic exercise that aims at reaching the center of the target as much as one's deep inner self. 2400-56: High school students greet each other with a wave.

Japan: the Empire of Gesture  

In Japan, gestures carry more weight than words.For centuries, postures and gestures have been worked,cultivated,codified. To such a degree...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you