Mitsuru Ishizuka: An Interview by Johnny Wales
His father is a founding member of the pioneering Sukeroku Daiko, his older brother and younger sister are professional taikoists and his younger brother is an apprentice taiko maker. Mitsuru made his first appearance on stage at age five, and yet at the beginning of his second year as a Kodo apprentice, he decided to forget everything he had ever learned about taiko…and begin again from zero.
Mitsuru was born into a world of taiko in Tokyo on August 6th, 1979. At the age of 4 his parents moved the family to a mountainside in Saitama believing it would be a better environment in which to raise their children. His father is a professional Nagauta and Kabuki orchestra percussionist, as is Mitsuru’s older brother. Their mother – who was a traditional Japanese Buyo dancer – passed away when Mitsuru was in middle school. His step-mother is also a taikoist, while his younger brother is apprenticing with a taiko maker in Tokyo and his younger sister is a taiko instructor in Yokohama.
His first memories are of the sound of his father’s tsutsumi drum emanating from his room. Mitsuru first played taiko on stage at age 5. In elementary school he joined a local taiko group which his father taught, though it seemed that it was more for his father’s pleasure than his own. This changed in middle school when he also joined a local folk music group where he performed things like Miyake and Yatai-bayashi and Onikenbai. Playing drums unconnected to his family gave him a feeling of independence and so he really began to enjoy it. Right through high school he played taiko nearly every day – not only in the school taiko club – but also after returning home with his brother and friends. Taiko seven days a week. He had broad musical tastes and even found time to play live performances on acoustic guitar at school.
It seemed a natural choice that he would follow his father and brother into a career in taiko, but something bothered him about walking such a pre-ordained path. In his 2nd or 3rd year of high school – like so many other future members – he saw his first Kodo performance at Theatre Apple in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
This is Tomohiro Mitome, leader of taiko performing arts ensemble Kodo. May is here and it is a very comfortable, refreshing season. Flowers are bursting into full bloom and I feel so energized by spring.
As usual, April for Kodo was a time for us to hold rehearsals for the next new “Kodo One Earth Tour” production, which will premiere on Sado this November. We also rehearsed for “Kodo One Earth Tour: Eternity” and the School Workshop Performances, which resume their tours in Japan in June, as well as the “Kodo Special Performances on Sado Island,” and other projects. Much like the cycle of the nature, this is a season at Kodo when new buds emerge and grow.
This May, we will hold encore performances of “Amaterasu” at Shochiku-za Theatre in Osaka. “Amaterasu” premiered in 2006, and we also held popular encore seasons in 2007 and 2013.
This production is a rare opportunity for Kodo to collaborate on stage with our artistic director, Tamasaburo Bando. This year, we welcome back guest artist Harei Aine and look forward to sharing a new version of this performance with our audiences. In this production, we convey the story of a famous Japanese myth using the myriad sounds of Japanese musical instruments, ranging from raging gods, using the powerful roar of the taiko, to one scene where “eight million gods” gather for a party.
The party reaches its climax with a dance by a goddess called Ameno-uzume (performed by Harei Aine), which leads to the appearance of the dazzling sun goddess, Amaterasu, who emerges from the heavenly rock cave. That moment creates such a powerful wave of energy that even as performers on the same stage, we cannot help feeling moved by it as we play our taiko. It is a truly precious moment. I hope you won’t miss the opportunity to see this performance live!
May 2015 “Amaterasu”
On May 3, the curtain rose for this year’s season of “Amaterasu” at Osaka’s Shochiku-za Theatre. I also took part in the 2013 “Amaterasu” performances and it is my favorite programme! So I am so happy to have the chance to perform in it again. The famous scene in the story where the sun goddess Amaterasu emerges from the cave is so moving each time, even for us right there on the stage. But I must admit that I was so moved by this scene on Sunday, May 3rd, for the first time in two years that I found myself fighting back my tears.
One month may sound long but it’s actually quite short. I’m making the most of every day and I will do my very best right until the curtain falls on the final performance. I am looking forward to seeing you all in the audience!
Photos: Takashi Okamoto
Courtesy of Shochiku-za Theatre
May 2015 “Amaterasu” (Osaka City)
“Kodo Special Performances on Sado Island 2015: Spring” Finale Tomorrow!
Thank you very much to everyone who has come along already to see the “Kodo Special Performances on Sado Island 2015: Spring.” There are just two performances to go: TOMORROW! We hope to see you there!
Apr. 27, 2015
Rehearsals for Brand New Production “Chaos”
Our rehearsals began with a talk from artistic director Tamasaburo Bando about the new production’s title, “Chaos.”
While the title is “Chaos,” Tamasaburo said he wants the audience to feel “harmony” when they come to this performance. If he called it “Harmony,” noone would know where that harmony would occur. Harmony has somewhere to emerge from somewhere, so you need chaotic parts. As he explained the concept to us, he jokingly admitted that this might be a humble Japanese form of expression.
This production features Japanese drums (wadaiko), naturally, but it also incorporates Western drumkits.
Apr. 28, 2015
We set off from Kodo Village today to head to Osaka for the “Amaterasu” performances, which begin on May 3 at Osaka Shochiku-za Theatre.
We will be giving performances there for almost a month, so please come along. We’ll be waiting for you!
May 2015 “Amaterasu” (Osaka)
“[18 Days to Go!] Online Fundraising for ‘Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo.’ Project” by Hirofumi Uenoyama
[18 Days to Go!]
Online Fundraising for “Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo.” Project
The goal of this new project is to donate the Kodo 30th Anniversary Publication “Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo. – 30 Years of Kodo –” to libraries all over Japan. We are asking for support by way of the READYFOR crowdfunding website. The campaign started on March 16 and will run for 60 days, until May 14. This crowdfunding website is available in Japanese only. Thank you in advance for your kind support, either by way of a donation or by sharing this project on social media.
READYFOR “Share the Spirit of Kodo with Libraries All Over Japan!” Fundraising Website (in Japanese):https://readyfor.jp/projects/inochi_moyashite_tatakeyo
Here are some photos from the book featuring Yoshikazu Fujimoto, one of Kodo’s founding members.
In 2010, Yoshikazu became the first active Kodo performer to reach the milestone age of 60. He is still going strong, drumming with the heart of a child.
■Online Fundraising Update for ‘Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo.’ Project (as of Apr. 26)
257,000 yen (Goal: 500,000 yen) = 51% funded
There are 18 days to go until the project closes. Thank you in advance for your support!
“Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo.” Project
“Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo.” Project (Japanese)
Apr. 26, 2015
Our popular annual concert series, “Kodo Special Performances on Sado Island,” started with a bang (don!) yesterday on April 25. We also welcomed a large audience today, from all around Japan as well as from overseas.
The remaining performances will take place from May 2 through 5. This is during Japan’s public holiday cluster known as “Golden Week.” If you’re on holiday or visiting Japan, it’s a great time to come to Sado Island. You can even get to Ogi with ease thanks to the new fast ferry service “Akane,” departing from Naoetsu Port.
The Special Performances, centered around Kodo’s Distinguished Members, take place at Shukunegi Community Hall, a retro playhouse in the heart of the traditional village of Shukunegi. This picturesque settlement is classified as one of Japan’s “important traditional building preservation areas.” We hope you’ll come to enjoy spring on Sado with Kodo and taiko this week!
Here’s a message (in Japanese) from cast members Yoshikazu Fujimoto and Chieko Kojima, telling everyone about the programme.
▶Watch on Youtube https://youtu.be/NX8F05OyoTQ
Apr. 21, 2015
Launching Ceremony for New Fast Car Ferry ‘Akane’
The new fast car ferry, “Akane,” has just been launched between Naoetsu and Ogi on Sado Island. Kodo’s Motofumi Yamaguchi, Tomohiro Mitome, Mariko Omi, and Rai Tateishi performed at its launching ceremony. I went along to help out behind the scenes.
A large crowd gathered to see Kodo perform in the ferry terminal building, and outside there was a range of stalls and demon drumming performances. Misato and Misaki, the Community Development Course trainees, were helping the Ogi locals serve up delicious soup.
The “Akane” is a fast car ferry service that has shaved one hour from the usual travel time between Naoetsu and Ogi. It also has increased the number of services on this route, so it has made access to Sado both faster and easier. I hope you’ll use this service to come to Sado Island!
My Kodo Workshop Series at Taiko no Sato Kyowakan: Elementary & Intermediate Courses
In October 2014, I started teaching an eight-lesson workshop series at Taiko-no Sato Kyowakan in Tokyo and now there’s only one lesson to go! The two courses are working hard on different pieces: the Elementary Course is practicing Toki no Koe and the Intermediate Course is playing Atatte Kudakero. Each lesson lasts just 90 minutes, but I hear that the participants are renting studio space to practice on their own and taking other classes, too. I am constantly astounded by how passionate they are about playing taiko!
On May 31 at Kyowakan’s annual recital, “Kyowasai,” the participants will perform to demonstrate what they have learned during the course. But the emphasis is not on “showing” people: the focus is on the participants enjoying playing taiko. They are all practicing hard together in hopes that the audience will feel like they are drumming along with them as they hear the pieces played live.
Kodo Workshop Series at Taiko no Sato Kyowakan: Elementary & Intermediate Courses