Furyu (風流)

Furyu is one of the aesthetic values that became popular after the Middle Ages in Japan. It means gorgeous, elaborate designs intended to surprise other people, and was recognized together with Basara and Suki as the opposite of Wabi and Sabi (plain and quiet tastes). Later, it also came to mean performing arts, art objects and architecture which were in tune with the spirit of Furyu.
In the "Kagakushu" of the Muromachi period, it was written that, 'Furyu means popular things in Japan.'


In the "Manyoshu", it was given the Japanese reading 'Miyabi' and held the additional meaning of 'a curious mind'; in the Heian period, it meant historical events which were quoted in Utaawase (events where poems were written and read by two competing groups) or other events, objects or clothes from literature. After the end of the Heian Period, festival floats and clothes and the elaborate designs of the theater Suhamadai (standing trays with sandbar patterns) were called "Furyu." People who held such tastes were called "Furyuza." On the other hand, the original form of the "Furyu" which was remembered by future generations as "to keep rhythm with music and songs" is recorded in events such as the 1096 Eicho Daidengaku, in which people from the aristocrats and government bureaucrats down to the common people wore Furyu-style costumes and marched while playing Dengaku (a Japanese traditional performing art), and a festival of souls at Imamiya-jinja Shrine (in Kyoto City) in 1154, where a "Pleasure of Furyu" was held ("Rojinhisho" (poetry book) Vol. 14), in which people held umbrellas decorated with Furyu-style flowers and sang songs.

After the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) in particular, powerful leaders like Machishu (rich merchants) in the urban areas and Otona (leaders of farmer's organizations) in the rural areas appeared, and 'Furyu' was included in the festivals and performing arts that they hosted. In the same period, people appeared as well as things: the 'Hayashimono' who marched with flutes and drums and wore gorgeous clothes, the 'Hyoshimono' who accompanied the Hayashimono and beat time for them, and the 'Furyuodori' who danced in a group. Furyuodori especially became extremely popular from the late Muromachi period to the early Edo period, so much so that "Furyu" came to mean "Furyuodori."

In an attempt to calm things down, the government issued orders prohibiting extreme Furyu time and time again, but they had absolutely no effect. From the late Sengoku period to the early Edo period, the government also showed favorable attitudes towards Furyu, and in 1604, on the seventh anniversary of the death of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, the commerce and industry people of Kyoto held a big Furyuodori with support from the TOYOTOMI family.

This 'Furyu' trend affected the temple performing arts of the same period, such as Sarugaku, Noh and Kyogen. In Shikisanban, one of the three elements of Nohgaku (together with Noh and Kyogen) was called 'Furyu', and meant to perform while singing, dressed in gaudy clothes; it was used as an important element of direction, and was also adopted by Kyogen direction. In 1660, Toraaki OKURA wrote a book called "Furyu no Hon (The Book of Furyu)", in which he recorded thirty Furyu plays, but many of them are not performed any more. The styles, performances and sensations of Furyu affected Kabuki and Bunraku, which were established in the Edo period, the architecture of the Azuchi-Momoyama period, and Genroku culture. Its connection with the Bon dance, Buddhist invocations and New Year's decorations today have also been pointed out.

[Original Japanese]