Posts by Kodo Ensemble Leader
June 1, 2014
This is Tomohiro Mitome, leader of taiko performing arts ensemble Kodo.
May on Sado Island brought us a mix of both hot, sweaty days and brisk, chilly days. I can now feel the gradual change from comfortable spring to the hot days of summer.
This month, I’m going to talk about our Asakusa performances.
Kodo held its first consecutive performances in Asakusa last year, and thanks to your support, this year we are heading back for a second year. When I think of Asakusa, the things that first come to mind are the festival “Sanja Matsuri,” which has been introduced on this blog, and a downtown area full of life all year round. Since the olden days, Asakusa has been home to rows of playhouses and movie theaters and one could say that Asakusa’s unique atmosphere comes from the Edo Period culture upheld in the area.
In Asakusa, there are many stores selling stage equipment and costumes, etc, and Kodo frequents the area for that reason. However, we also have a connection through Rokusuke Ei, who hails from Asakusa and was one of the key people involved in the founding of Kodo’s antecedent group, Sado no Kuni Ondekoza. In 1982, soon after Kodo began, we joined Rokusuke Ei on stage at Asakusa Public Hall for a performance called “‘Ei Rokusuke + Kodo’ Nagesen Kogyo” (lit. “‘Rokusuke Ei + Kodo’ Coin Toss Entertainment”). This was Mr. Ei’s venture, programme, and artistic direction, which had no set outline at all and featured the members of Kodo on stage playing taiko, dancing and singing on Mr. Ei’s command.
Time went by, then in 2013, Kodo performed at Asakusa Public Hall again for the first time in 30 years. “Kodo One Earth Tour: Legend” had toured for over a year and we received a great response to holding the domestic finale as four consecutive concerts in Asakusa.
June 2013 “Kodo One Earth Tour: Legend” Asakusa Performances
Asakusa is one of Japan’s iconic sightseeing areas that attracts tourists from around the world. It is centered around historic Senso-ji Temple, the shopping street leading up to the temple, and Kaminarimon Gate, but along with the opening of Tokyo Skytree, in recent years there has been noticeable expansion in new movements to develop the town. The area is also drawing attention as a new center for entertainment.
We hope you will join us in Asakusa to thoroughly enjoy the timeless charm of this area’s history and culture, to feel the flow of time from the past to the present, and to see “Kodo One Earth Tour 2014: Mystery” at Asakusa Public Hall. We are sure you will enjoy the different feel this area brings to our performances.
Asakusa is a place where an array of performing arts and performers are both born and cultivated. By holding a series of performances here each year, we hope that Kodo will receive guidance and encouragement from a wide range of people and their support for many years to come. We also sincerely hope that our performances in Asakusa will help in some way to maintain the prosperity of Asakusa’s culture.
We are looking forward to seeing you for Kodo in Asakusa.
May 1, 2014
This is Tomohiro Mitome, leader of taiko performing arts ensemble Kodo. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who follows the Kodo website and Kodo Blog for your constant support of Kodo.
From now on, I am going to write a message at the beginning of each month to give you, our readers, an update from the Kodo ensemble. This month, I will talk about what I felt as we welcomed the new apprentices and junior members to the group recently.
Over the last few years, I have been energetically instructing our apprentices on Sado Island. On April 6th, I attended this year’s entrance ceremony at the Kodo Apprentice Centre.
The “Member Development Course” for people who want to become members of Kodo is a two-year course, with a diverse curriculum which includes performing arts, of course, and also studying agricultural work and etiquette, etc, which aims to develop well-rounded stage performers. When I was an apprentice, the apprentice program lasted one year and we did nothing but physical training and pounding in hours of taiko practise everyday… when I think about it, I feel like a long time has passed since then.
However, between then and now, the apprentices’ will to stand on the Kodo stage and to become Kodo members has not changed. When I see the sparkle in their eyes when we first meet at the entrance ceremony, every year it makes me remember my own initial resolve, and it always feels like the start of a new year.
Apparently, many apprentices say that their lifestyle became the complete opposite of their former one when they entered the Apprentice Programme. The second-year apprentices, who have already spent a full year at the Apprentice Centre, welcomed the new first-years by saying, “Welcome to an unreal world!” and that really made an impression on me.
When I was a new to Kodo, one of the tour managers told me that a Kodo performance has both reality and unreality, and that showing the audience the unreal is what leads to making them dream and moving them. At the Apprentice Centre, where there is a mixture of reality and unreality, I hope that the apprentices will learn many things and gain a lot of experience during their two years, which will make them develop as performers. I hope that one day they can appear on the Kodo stage.
And now, having just completed this two-year-long Apprentice Centre lifestyle, the five young, new junior members are now mixed in with their seniors and they are frantically doing their best to prepare to take the Kodo stage.
Once we are on stage, it doesn’t matter whether you are a veteran or a newcomer, because as performers we are equal. While they have less technique and experience, the newcomers are armed with their youth. They have their own new sensibilities, and as musicians and performers I want them to do their best to create unforgettable performances for their audiences.