What is Bugaku?

Bugaku (舞楽), literally means “the dance music,” is a classical performing art with over 1,400 years history. It consists of “U-mai” (右舞), “Sa-mai” (左舞), and ancient dances originated in Japan. “U-mai“, literally means “the right dance”, is derived from China, while “Sa-mai“, “the left dance”, was introduced through the Korean Peninsula.

Bugaku is played to the accompaniment of traditional instruments such as the “Sho” (笙), “Hichiriki” (篳篥), “Ryuteki” (龍笛), and “Komabue” (狛笛). Bugaku is also widely known as Gagaku, which literally means “gracious music”. When we use the term Bugaku, we intend to say dances accompanied by music. Meanwhile, Gagaku usually includes both music with dances and music without dances.

Today, there is a music department within the Imperial Household Agency, where musicians perform for visiting dignitaries and at garden parties. Since World War II, Bugaku has also been regularly performed twice a year and made open to the general public. It is also performed at major events held in shrines and temples among the general public.