Japanese people are known for loving flamenco deeply, that much that Japan is called the second mother of flamenco. 15.000 kilometres does not look not to be enough distance for this society, which has developed a deep love for this music style. La Casa del Arte Flamenco has researched this fascinating reality and resumed some interesting facts.
In the well-known flamenco event, Bienal de Sevilla, the audience is spoken in Spanish, English and also Japanese. Since 1984, there is a Flamenco magazine in Japan, which is specialized on this music style, the magazine Paseo. In Japan there are about 80.000 students and more than 650 academies where studying flamenco is possible.
Some time ago, this curious attraction was strange, but every year, more Japanese students travel to Spain just to learn more about flamenco, due to its popularity in Japan. Take a look and discover more about the Japanese interest in flamenco.
The beginning of flamenco in Japan
It was on the 20s when flamenco arrived to Japanese coasts. In 1929, two Spanish movies were released in Japan, El Amor Brujo and Andalusia, and artists such as Antonia Mercé used these events to promote flamenco in Japan. In 1929 the first contact between Flamenco and Japan took place, but it was after World War II when the expansion got real. Around the 50s Japan was recovering from the consequences of the war and its economy experienced an important growth. With money flowing on their banks, Japanese people were open to suffer a more open culture. That meant that flamenco artists such as Antonio Gades, Luisillo, Merche Esmeralda or Paco de Lucía flew 15.000 kilometres just to offer their shows in this Asian country.
Besides the economic development and the cultural opening, there was another fact that made flamenco even more famous in Japan. In 1963, a film called Los Tarantos, which is an adaptation from the famous Williams Shakespeare’s novel Romeo & Juliet to the gipsy culture, was widely accepted in the Japanese cinemas, and made flamenco even more popular.
Japanese culture and flamenco
Once introduced the reasons why historically flamenco arrived to Japan and had such a great acceptation, we need to know what cultural causes make flamenco so attractive to Japanese people.
Japanese culture is worldwide known by its coldness and lack of feelings expression. Japanese people are educated to have a group mentality, to avoid showing show off or looking different from the group, and over everything, never showing weakness. Although, all these values were taught to men mainly.
While men were educated to be under social pressure and to fight for success, women were taught to keep always locked up to do the housework and rise their children. That made easier for them to dedicate time to themselves, and take a deep look into their feelings.
Through flamenco, Japanese people have found a way to finally get freedom, to express their feelings, especially women. They represent 80% of the audience.
Flamenco has become so popular in Japan that there are two different Federations dedicated exclusively to flamenco studies. One of them is accessible to all citizens, and the other one is only oriented to University students.
In addition, the Instituto Cervantes, an institution dedicated to spread the Spanish and other native Spanish speaking countries’ culture, has its more significant building in Japan. This head office opened in 2007 as an answer to this culture interest in flamenco.
Similarities between Japanese music and flamenco
Flamenco means a way to express their feelings to Japanese people, but musically it has a lot in common with Nippon music. Flamenco and traditional Japanese music share the same tempo, and that is why Flamenco sounds so familiar to Japanese people. Besides, both musical styles share the hoarse voice.
As well, we need to pay attention to flamenco dance. Flamenco dance is a highly expressive style, where different elements are involved: body movements, facial expressions and hand movements. Those three elements make the flamenco a challenge for Japanese dancers. Self-development is an important element in Japanese culture, and for this reason flamenco was so well received.
Flamenco on Japan nowadays
As good pupils, Japanese students started copying the original style but currently there is a big community of flamenco in Japan, with its very own style. Between these pupils, some professionals such as Yoko Komatsubara, Yoko Tamura or Shoji Kojima, who have made a perfect mixture of flamenco with Japan.
In conclusion, after this analysis, it becomes easier for everyone to understand why Japan shows that enormous interest for flamenco. And for this reason, there is a community in Japan who really love flamenco, its dance, its music and its percussion.