鼓童ブログ Kodo Blog

Tag ‘Kodo Ensemble Leader’

“A Living, Breathing Legacy” by Yuichiro Funabashi

A Living, Breathing Legacy


Hello, everyone! How are you?
We finished our two-month-long tours last month and we are currently rehearsing at kodo Village, preparing for our back-to-back August performances at Suntory Hall in Tokyo and at Earth Celebration on Sado Island.

Recently, Mr. Isao Tomita and Mr. Rokusuke Ei passed away, which meant two great losses for the Kodo Group. Personally, I barely had the chance to interact with either of them directly, but I know that the generosity and spirit that they gave to the Kodo Group is immeasurable and I believe that their “gifts” will continue to live and breathe within our group.


Group photo with Mr. Tomita during rehearsals at Kodo Village in 2008

Several years ago, when I was performing at a small theater with Kodo, the curtain rose and there sat Mr. Isao Tomita, smiling in the front row. After the performance, he came and talked to us candidly, happily sharing memories from the time he spent at Kodo Village during the recording of the album he made with Kodo. I also recall that he went on to tell us about his experience of the 1945 Mikawa Earthquake and how there was almost no aid due to the restrictions of the war at the time, nor was there hardly any media coverage of the disaster. At the end of 2015, we told Mr. Tomita that we would perform “Song of the Universe” at our 2016 concert at Suntory Hall, which he composed years ago during his stay at Kodo Village. He was so pleased to hear that and he even gave us some new revisions to make to the piece. Through the sounds he created, I can feel his heart and wonderful musicality.

永六輔さん(2003年鼓童村にて)Photo: Buntaro Tanaka

Mr. Rokusuke Ei at Kodo Village in 2003

When I was a Kodo apprentice, Kodo held concerts called “Kodo de Asobo” and Mr. Rokusuke Ei was the MC for those performances. I remember that he got the apprentices up on stage with the Kodo members and special guests, and got the whole audience involved in the fun as he ran around the stage between everyone. He often came to Sado Island to attend our performances, too. When we tour, we often go to places that I think I would never have visited if it weren’t for Kodo, and it is invariably in those places where I learn many new things. Our tours are put into practice the advice of folklorist Tsuneichi Miyamoto, who told the founders of our group to go to the regional areas of the country, as far as radio signal reaches, and to report back to Tokyo through the radio waves what we found there. When I think about those words and our connection to Mr. Ei, a radio and television broadcaster, it makes me reflect on our tour and our hopes as we travel and perform all over Japan and the world.

Something that I feel that both Mr. Tomita and Mr. Ei have in common is their strong belief in what they see and experience firsthand, their keen perception of society, and the way they look at people with deep affection.

Lastly, I would like to share a letter with you that Mr. Ei wrote to Kodo.



“The taiko that you play are beautifully crafted objects, so people can appreciate them sufficiently merely by looking at them. They are works of art.

So, I want you to be like that. Show your presence just by being there, without doing anything.

If you face the drums with that presence, you will realize that you cannot play taiko half-heartedly. Only by facing the taiko with the purity of child will you be able to play those drums properly.

When you have that presence, that purity, you will be ‘children of the drum.’

You will be Kodo.”

Rokusuke Ei

I sincerely hope that Mr. Tomita and Mr. Ei rest in peace.


“Glistening Rice Paddies in May” by Yuichiro Funabashi

May 10, 2016

Firstly, I would like to offer my condolences to the people of Kumamoto who have been suffering the effects of the damaging earthquakes last month and continual tremors ever since. I sincerely hope that the earth will settle right away and that their situation will improve very soon. Stories of the damage from friends and family in the Kyushu region have made us think hard about what we can do to cheer them on. By touring there as planned in the months ahead and sharing the sound of our taiko, we hope to encourage them as the recover from this natural disaster.

Photo: Erika Ueda

On Sado, it’s the season for planting rice. The paddies harden during the cold winter and when spring arrives, the earth is warmed and nourished by the sun. Then, when the time comes, the paddies are flooded with water to plant the rice. The glistening rice paddies make for such beautiful scenery. As I mentioned in my last post, this month we are rehearsing for productions for next month, later this year, and even next year. Honestly, we don’t have a lot of time during this rehearsal period to gaze at the scenery, but we all enjoy the glimpses of the beautiful rice paddies that we catch on our way to work each day.

Photo: Erika Ueda

Rehearsals with Noh master Mr. Reijiro Tsumura


One of the new productions that we are creating is called “Yugen”*, which will premiere in spring next year. The concept for this work is based on classical Japanese arts such as Noh theater. The creation process is moving along very, very slowly and with intensity, like a Noh actor moves on stage. So at the end of a rehearsal session, there is a unanimous sigh from the cast as we switch off our intense focus. We can already feel a sense of fulfilment from creating a truly unique new work. Each day we are learning and discovering new things from the classics of Japanese culture.

*English title TBA

Photo: Erika Ueda

Also, the cast for “Spirited Summer” are rehearsing with dedication for their July performances in Asakusa. The programme features pieces that were part of Kodo’s repertoire when our ensemble was founded. The young Kodo members are learning the pieces by focusing on the heart of the fundamentals, which requires many hours of practice from early in the morning until late at night.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto

This spring, we have also welcomed many guests to Kodo Village for rehearsals in preparation for our 35th Anniversary Commemorative Concerts in Tokyo this August.


This spring was our fifth year to hold Kodo performances in Shukunegi, here on Sado Island. The concerts during Golden Week were held at the newly renovated Shukunegi Community Hall. We presented a programme directed by Tomohiro Mitome and we thank all the people who came along to see the performances.

Photo: Erika Ueda

Kodo continues to work on a wide range of activities. Like the beautiful, glistening rice paddies, our ensemble has a firm base, but in order to grow each year we need to continually absorb many different elements.

Everyday, we are tackling new challenges head on and we hope to share signs of growth with you all at our upcoming performances.


Yuichiro Funabashi
Ensemble Leader
Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble KODO


“The Joyful Buds of Spring” by Yuichiro Funabashi

Apr. 4, 2016

The Joyful Buds of Spring

It has just been announced that Kodo Artistic Director Tamasaburo Bando has been awarded not only the Japan Art Academy Prize but also the Imperial Prize. We would like to express our sincere congratulations to Mr. Bando. All of Kodo is truly grateful for the extremely valuable time we continue to spend under his direction.

Photo: Taro Nishita

April on Sado Island is a season for festivals. Each village is practicing demon drumming (onidaiko) to prepare for their local festival, so we can hear the sound of taiko deep into the night all over the island. After a long winter, spring on Sado is colorful and beautiful. I hope you will come and see the great scenery and joyful buds and blooms for yourself during the upcoming “Kodo Sado Island Performances in Shukunegi” this Golden Week.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto

Kodo is spending this month and next focusing on rehearsals and creating new material for various programmes that we will present over the year ahead. We are working with our artistic director and a range of visiting guests on our 35th anniversary concerts as well as our next One Earth Tour productions, “Spiral” and “Yugen.” We look forward to sharing many new works with you, so I hope you will look forward to seeing them, too!

Photo: Yui KawamotoPhoto: Takuro SusakiPhoto: Cidade das Artes

Last month I went to Brazil with Kodo on our first tour there in eight years. Having just hosted the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and with the upcoming Olympics, I was expecting Brazil to be brimming with energy, but the economic situation in Brazil is not favorable and their political world seems to be in turmoil with problems relating to the president and so on. Despite the challenging economic and political climate, we were greeted with boundless energy from our audiences and we were given many opportunities for exchange with samba teams and Japanese Brazilian communities, which were such precious, rare, invigorating experiences.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

Brazilians are cheerful and big-hearted and I will never forget spending time with them, feeling the passionate heat at traditional samba meets, and the moments when the Kodo performers became one with our audiences. Also, I clearly remember the inquisitive nature of people in Brazil, demonstrated through all the questions about Kodo and the roots and significance of taiko during our many interviews and discussions. Brazilians live in a nation with a long history of immigration and I felt their strong interest in other cultures. This experience gave me a new opportunity to reflect on my own roots as well as my future path.


Photo: Yui Kawamoto

Brazil is 12 hours behind Japan and while we were there it was 20 to 30 degrees hotter. Giving performances on the other side of the world, I felt a unique heat that radiated from the passionate, energetic people we met there. As we left Brazil, we vowed to return there again.


Yuichiro Funabashi
Ensemble Leader
Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble KODO


March Message from Kodo Ensemble Leader Yuichiro Funabashi


2016-02-12 12.56.26image21-fkodo_160218258-96

Hello, everyone. This is Yuichiro Funabashi. I hope this message finds you all well.

Since late January, a young cast of 17 Kodo performers has been touring throughout Europe with “Kodo One Earth Tour 2016: Mystery.” The production gains shape and depth with each tour and there has been a great response in Europe to this performance.

Photo: Courtesy of Yufuin Genryu Daiko

Commemorative photo of Kodo with Yufuin Genryu Daiko on Jan. 29 at iichiko Grand Theater, iichiko Culture Center, Oita City.

I was here in Japan at the end of January and I took part in a collaboration in Kyushu with Yufuin Genryu Daiko called “Kodo × Genryu Daiko in Japan Taiko Premium Concert 2016 ‘Utsu.'” The members of Yufuin Genryu Daiko all have different jobs as their main occupation and they do their taiko training diligently around their work schedules. I learned so much from the sound they created and their passion. From the rehearsals right through to the after party, we had such an enjoyable, enriching time together. It was a wonderful concert which seamlessly featured professional and amateur taiko players together. Also, all four Kodo Distinguished members appeared in this performance, so it was a valuable experience for me to reaffirm their powerful presence and the importance of continuing to perform and hone your skills.

Then I went on a research trip to Hanoi in Vietnam for about a week in the middle of February. The population of rapidly-developing Vietnam is about to exceed 100 million people and I heard that the country’s current state resembles Japan’s rapid economic growth in the past. But with an average age of twenty-something, the most striking thing I noticed while I was in Vietnam was the people’s enthusiasm and youth.


On this trip we were searching for new ideas for our summer festival,”Earth Celebration” (EC), and we had so many wonderful encounters during our time in Vietnam. Their situation is complex due to the politics, economy, and history, and I’m sure many people have difficulties that we couldn’t see just by looking. But their pride and love for their performing arts was obvious. I was so deeply impressed by the musicians we met and the resolute way they live their lives. Before this trip I had never had the opportunity to encounter Vietnamese music and while it was a short stay, I was captivated by the diverse music and sounds of Vietnam, as well as the warm people we met there.

This summer, we hope to share some of this music with you at EC. We have almost decided on the guest artists to invite to Japan and the program that we will share with everyone at the festival. Kodo will share updates with you as they become available. I sincerely hope you will all join us so we can create a new-look EC together. Last year we welcomed Suar Agung from Indonesia to EC, and this year we look forward to hosting guests from another country in Asia. I am sure it will be a fruitful experience for all of us.


▲Unpacking & setting up at a theater in Brazil


This month, I went to Brazil with the “DADAN 2016” tour. I constantly feel grateful for the wonderful encounters I have in Japan and around the world through my activities with Kodo.
This month marked five years since the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake. While it may not be much, I do believe that as performers, as taiko players, we should all think carefully about what we can do to help, and put our hearts into it, as we continue our performances throughout Japan and worldwide.


Greetings from New Kodo Ensemble Leader Yuichiro Funabashi

It is now 2016, a milestone year for Kodo in which we celebrate our group’s 35th anniversary.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto


This past year flew by, and when I look back I remember an array of powerful performances: “Mystery,” “Michi,” “Eternity,” “Amaterasu,” “DADAN,” and “Chaos.” I also think of the “School Workshop Performances” and “Special Performances on Sado Island,” as well as various collaborative efforts such as “Earth Celebration,” “Mono-Prism,” the ballet “Kaguyahime,” and our performances on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Photo: Takashi OkamotoPhoto: Takashi Okamoto

In “Chaos,” the fourth production by Artistic Director Tamasaburo Bando, we were challenged to explore new forms of expression such as incorporating three drum kits into our performance. By learning and experimenting, we felt the inevitable need to understand ourselves on a deeper level. Through this production, we were able to gain a true sense of just how far Kodo’s stage expression has evolved.

During our rehearsals for “Chaos,” Tamasaburo told us: “I always give my all in every moment. I concentrate on right now, and I still do. By always giving my all ‘right now,’ time has flown, and here I am today.” Hearing a man like him say this — a man who has spent over half a century in the performing arts — made me realize once again that Kodo must practice complete devotion to each and every moment. The sound of our taiko must resonate even further as we face the future — fifty years from now, one hundred years from now, or beyond.

This year we have a wide range of performances planned, including both new works and encore tours. We will seek new challenges through endeavors such as the Kodo Sado Island Performances in Shukunegi, three unique nights at Suntory Hall, “Spirited Summer” at Asakusa Public Hall, the “Kodo One Earth Tour: Spiral” performances, and a new look for Sado’s outdoor festival “Earth Celebration.”

As we reflect on Kodo’s mission statement and history, I hope that by experiencing our performances and feeling our sound, you will join us in the “now.” I look forward to that moment, and kindly ask for your continued support and encouragement.

Yuichiro Funabashi
Ensemble Leader
Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble “Kodo”


Monthly Archives