“The Start of a New Year” by Tomohiro Mitome
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.