School has been in session for about two months now. Yamatai has recruited new members, performed at Ennichi, participated in workshops from Mark H Rooney (keep an eye out for a blog post on this as well!) — lots of things have happened— oh yeah, I even had two major accidents. But, I am here to fulfill an old promise: a blog about my Summer Taiko adventure in Japan! It is almost a bit painful to reminisce about the sound of cicada now, but I would still like to share with you the most amazing Taiko adventure ever!
It began with a family trip to Izu Peninsula. In order to have my family accommodate my odd Taiko obsession, I picked a popular vacation spot with famous hot springs… and also a local Taiko Competition! :) Walking along the streets of Japan, you can really see and feel how Taiko has been engraved in the culture. Here is some of the Taiko that I encountered:
Top left: A Taiko riddle! “Taiko without the middle, guess a type of seafood?” Remember…this riddle is in Japanese. Top right: A Taiko portable car for a festival! Bottom left: A little kid pounding on ancient Taiko from a war in a museum. Bottom right: My favorite performance at the 35th annual Ito City Taiko Competition during the Anjin Festival! Saxophone and Taiko were a great combination!
After the little getaway at Izu, I travelled back to Tokyo and had a Yamatai Reunion with some alumni: Haruki, Naomi, Hassei, Tang, Miki, Leo, and Ananya! It was a nostalgic night, and we chatted our way to dawn. The next morning Ananya and I made our way to the Nagano prefecture for Tokara Taiko Bootcamp, and my adventure continued!
We basically ate Taiko for breakfast and dreamt about Taiko in our sleep. We practiced eight hours of Taiko a day, watched Taiko performances at the local festivals, and shared Taiko experiences with fellow participants for a week. It was FANTASTIC! Training under Art Lee was an absolutely incredible experience. Despite my impression of him playing miyake, he was the most soft-spoken sensei I had ever met.
My favorite part of practice was “uchikomi,” which literally means to pound into the drum. It is essentially playing a very basic rhythm over and over again without stopping. It is the concept of hitting the drum at its purest form, trying to produce the best possible sound no matter how tired your body is. After thirty minutes, your body begins to find the most efficient way of hitting and eventually develops an ultimate “way to transfer the impact of the strike through the arms to the body’s core and down to the feet.”
Top left: In the beginning of every practice, we tied shime as warm-up! Top right: At the end of every practice, we were able to create “sweat angels” on the wooden floor. Bottom left: The participants performed Rainbow Festival, an original song composed by Art Lee! Bottom right: We visited Asano Taiko, one of the oldest Taiko manufacturers in Japan. We played on this huge O-daiko.
The Taiko journey continued as we took the ferry to Sado Island for Earth Celebration, the annual music festival organized and produced by Kodo! I find it very difficult to express my experience in words. I have been contemplating how to describe it for a while and decided to present the top three highlights of Earth Celebration in a list:
1.) Being a Hobo: Napping on benches in a park at midnight, camping in Sobama beach with no flashlights, squeezing into a small tent, getting stung by jellyfish, taking showers without hot water, lining up for concert tickets at 5am in the morning, sleeping on the deck of the ferry- all of these were part of the experience :)
2.) Overloaded with Testosterone: Shirtless Taiko players with glitter sprinkled all over their bodies stood on stage at the concerts. The moment they hit the O-daiko, the lightning in the background split the purple sky in half. It was an integration of nature and Taiko, of music and earth, of awesomeness and awesomeness!
3.) Sharing the experience: Of course, I wouldn’t have had the same amount of fun if I were not with Ananya, Leo, Sam from Gendo, and Alex from Maizake Taiko! We even air-played Yatai-Bayashi at the EC info center after the concerts and people thought we were weird…
Top Left: Chappa Workshop with Imagai-sensei from Kodo! He was super energetic and spontaneous! Top Right: A picture of the Shiroyama Concerts from Kodo’s Website. Bottom Left: A group picture in front of the stage after the concert! Bottom Right: Leo, Ananya and I were air-playing Yatai-Bayashi….
My taiko adventure in Japan has come to an end, but I carry the same passion and am continuing the journey with Yamatai!