Kenbu (ginken shibu) is a classical Japanese performing art that features dancers moving with a sword or fan to the rhythms of shigin chanters reciting Japanese and Chinese poetry. It is said to have originated among young samurai in the late nineteenth century who were concerned about the future of their country in the face of the growing influence of the West. Kenbu spread across Japan over the next decades and still thrives today as a bearer of the long-ago spirit and culture of the samurai.
This beginner’s guide outlines the characteristics of kenbu and offers tips on practice and appreciation.
Magari Auga was born in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, as the granddaughter of Magari Seishi, the founder of the Seiga-ryu kenbu school. Introduced to kenbu at a young age by her grandmother and father, Auga graduated in economics from Shiga University and worked at Nidec Corporation before joining the Seiga-ryu school full-time in 2010. In 2014 she established Samurai Kenbu Co., Ltd. (now Gimbu Co., Ltd.), which runs two theaters (in Kyoto and Tokyo) where she works to train personnel and promote kenbu beyond her own school. She completed the Japanese Classical and Traditional Arts correspondence program at the Kyoto University of Art and Design in 2017. She currently lives in Kyoto.