Min Tanaka was born on the day of the Great Tokyo Air Raid, on March 10, 1945. He grew up in the near-by semi-rural town of Hachioji at the western edge of greater Tokyo. He was said to be “a quiet child” who liked playing alone, and eventually he became absorbed in a number of traditional Japanese performing art forms such as Bon-odori (Bon festival dance), Kagura (sacred Shinto music and dance), Naniwa-bushi (narrative ballads recited to shamisen accompaniment), Kawara-shibai (popular theater in the Kyoto area) and Mikawa-manzai comic plays. In his teens, he loved reading Japanese literature, and also became absorbed in Surrealism. Later, his admiration for the performance of the Japanese Olympic basketball team led him to enter the Tokyo University of Education (currently University of Tsukuba), but finally giving up on basketball, we began studying classical ballet and modern dance.
From 1966 Tanaka began performing solo dance pieces. He began doing numerous performances (action) in a variety of places, and in 1974 he chose to use “the naked human body as costume.” During this period, he met Kazue Kobata and Seigo Matsuoka, who would become fellow associates. In 1978, he borrowed the term “body weather” that emerged from his dealings with Matsuoka and founded the Body Weather Laboratory in Hachioji. That same year, Tanaka was invited to participate in the production Time and Space of Japan - Ma planned and produced by composer Toru Takemitsu and architect Arata Isozaki in Paris, where he performed his dances for three weeks. This led to many new opportunities for exchanges that made “Tanaka the nude dancer” widely known among intellectuals and performing arts fans in Europe and North America, while also leading to performance activities in many other countries.
In 1981, he formed the dance company “Maijuku” (dissolved in 1997). In 1982, he founded “plan-B” in the Nakano district of Tokyo, where not only his own performances were held but also a wide variety of other events, ranging artistic storytelling, symposiums, talks, live music concerts, exhibitions, film screenings to theater and dance performances. Before its opening, Tanaka wrote a homage to Tatsumi Hijikata titled Chi wo Hau Zenei (literally: An avant-garde crawling on the ground) for the magazine Yu. As a further development from this, Tanaka asked Hijikata to choreograph the piece Ren-ai Butoh-ha (Love-Dance School – the original title) which he subsequently performed.
In 1985, Tanaka moved to the village of Hakushu in Yamanashi Prefecture. There, he established the Body Weather Farm (Shintai Kisho Nojo) where he engaged in dance and farming. From 1988, Tanaka organized an outdoor arts festival in Hakushu, which provided artists from Japan and abroad a venue to present their works or work in creative collaborations (In 1997, in the same location he established The Dance Resources on Earth (Buyo Shigen Kenkyu-jo) with the aim of gathering research material concerning Japanese folk arts, traditional performing arts and folk [performing] arts from around the world.
In 2002, Tanaka appeared in the movie Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) directed by Yoji Yamada. After that, he drew attention as an actor in movies and TV dramas, although dance remained his “main occupation.” In 2004, after traveling around the islands of Indonesia and doing dance performances for 45 days, Tanaka began performing improvisational dance in various everyday places under the Locus Focus project (Ba-odori: a site-specific and improvisational dance performance).
For years after that, Tanaka formed relationships and worked with many artists and philosophers, including musicians Cecil Taylor, Derek Bailey, Milford Graves, Lajko Felix, Tajiana Grindenko, Vladimir Martynov, Seiji Ozawa, Yosuke Yamashita, Yuji Takahashi, Keiji Haino, Yoshihide Otomo, Ryuichi Sakamoto and philosopher and author Michel Foucault, Felix Guattari, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Kenji Nakagami, Toru Terada and artists Richard Serra, Karel Appel, Jean Kalman, Noriyuki Haraguchi, Fujiko Nakaya and others.
From January 2020, Tanaka started a series of solo performances aimed at “Creating place dance full of pre-verbal sensibilities” at Theater E9 Kyoto. In December of the same year Tanaka joined with Seigo Matsuoka to present a theater performance titled Yo! Don Quixote at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater. Then, in January 2022, a documentary film on Min Tanaka titled The Unnameable Dance, was released. This documentary was made possible through a continued relationship with the film director Isshin Inudo, which ensued from Tanaka’s appearance in the film La Maison de Himiko (House of Himiko), and it was the result of material gathered over a period from August 2017 to November 2019.