“Kodo Sado Island Performances in Shukunegi 2022” by Jun Jidai

Kodo’s annual performances in Shukunegi first began in 2012, back when I was still a Kodo apprentice. The apprentices all joined the Kodo members, staff, and Shukunegi locals to get ready for the performances and it felt like creating something together from square one: spring cleaning the hall, hanging the back drops, cutting down bamboo and using it to put up the concert flags.

Photo: Takashi OkamotoPhoto: Takashi OkamotoKodo now has a decade’s worth of experiences at this place, and I feel so happy that we’re back here again this year.

There is so much going on right now all over the world, and here in Japan. It feels like we’re living our usual daily lives with chaos either close by, or all around us.

It makes me think…what can we do as taiko players?
What should artists share in times like these?

Tomorrow is uncertain, but I’ve made it to tomorrow each day thus far. So I want to keep creating and expressing myself as an artist, giving my all each day.

Photo: Erika

I want to express what it means to be born in this era, and what I’m doing with Kodo now.

I want to turn that into power that helps get us all through to “tomorrow” again.

I want to take all the moments when I laugh and feel excited and deeply moved, and pack them all into this performance with along with my gratitude.

I sincerely hope that our performances bring the joy of spring and the sounds of Shukunegi to many people.

Kodo Sado Island Performances in Shukunegi (2022)

Apr 29 (Fri)–May 7 (Sat), 2022 Shukunegi Community Hall, Ogi Peninsula, Sado Island, Niigata

Dates & Times

  • Apr 29 (Fri) 14:30 [O-daiko: Yoshikazu Fujimoto]
  • Apr 30 (Sat) 11:00 [O-daiko: Tomohiro Mitome]
  • Apr 30 (Sat) 14:30 [O-daiko: Yoshikazu Fujimoto]
  • May 1 (Sun) 11:00 [O-daiko: Tomohiro Mitome]
  • May 2 (Mon) DARK
  • May 3 (Tue) 14:30 [O-daiko: Yoshikazu Fujimoto]
  • May 4 (Wed) 11:00 [O-daiko: Tomohiro Mitome]
  • May 4 (Wed) 14:30 [O-daiko: Yoshikazu Fujimoto]
  • May 5 (Thu) 11:00 [O-daiko: Tomohiro Mitome]
  • May 6 (Fri) DARK
  • May 7 (Sat) 11:00 [O-daiko: Yoshikazu Fujimoto]
  • May 7 (Sat) 14:30 [O-daiko: Tomohiro Mitome]

Kodo Sado Island Performances in Shukunegi (2022)

“The Release of Our New Album ‘Kizashi'” by Yuta Sumiyoshi

It’s been one year today since Takashi Akamine passed away.

Most of the times I met up with Takashi were when I was on tour overseas with Kodo. With the pandemic and other things going on, I haven’t been able to go overseas for quite a while. So even now, I feel like he’s going to be there waiting for me at the airport when I travel next.

We were right in the middle of recording last year when we heard about Takashi’s illness. The album we were making then is the one we are releasing today: Kizashi.

This time last year, we had way less performances. We were holed up at Kodo Village, feeling worried and wondering what we could do while we couldn’t tour. So we filled our days with trial and error—composing, playing new pieces, and recording them.
Takashi was the first one to sense the possibilities in recording our own sound and sharing it with the world.

In 2020, Kodo had started talks with Pitch & Sync, a London-based creative agency, about new music collaborations. Takashi was Kodo’s point of contact with Pitch & Sync from the very first meeting, and we were also working on that project at this time last year.

Every time we came up with a new track, I’d get a message from Takashi. His words radiated with passion and kindness, and I could hear his signature way of storytelling as I read. He would always end with: “I’m looking forward to what’s next, too.”

Our new album, Kizashi, is the first Kodo album ever to be recorded entirely by Kodo performers. We had some issues with our planning, and there was a lot of trouble along the way. We had to work hard together to get this project over the hurdles and past the finish line.

I want to keep exploring the many possibilities that Takashi sensed for Kodo. Kizashi means an omen or sign, and this album is a sign of what’s next. So we decided to release it today, on the anniversary of Takashi’s death.

We dedicate this album to Takashi Akamine.
As we release it from Sado Island to the world, we hope and pray this music reaches him, too.

Yuta Sumiyoshi

Translator’s Note: In the original Japanese version, Yuta calls Takashi Akamine “Akamine-san” (Mr. Akamine) throughout. Because it sounds too formal in English, the translator has changed it to “Takashi,” knowing that is what Takashi preferred in English.

Listen to Kizashi

“In Memory of Takashi Akamine” by Yasuko Homma

[Obituary] Kodo Staff Member Takashi Akamine

“Sharing Taiko. Bonding Through Taiko.” by Taiyo Onoda

Almost a year has passed since the launch of Kodo Taiko School. This new initiative is an online school where Kodo performers share the skills and knowledge the ensemble has developed over the years. We conducted a trial course with Cohort 0 in 2021, and currently we are heading into the final lessons of the Cohort 1 course.

I initially felt out of place when I found myself in a teaching position at this early stage of my performing career. Already, I can honestly say that facilitating these courses has become one of the richest learning experiences of my lifetime.

When the trial course began, it took a lot of time and effort for the Kodo Taiko School instructors, who are all Kodo performers, to come up with clear ways to explain what we experienced and gained through our training at Kodo Apprentice Centre. It’s challenging to put into words what we learned back then, and what we think and feel as performers now. Kodo doesn’t have a uniform kata (style of taiko playing, or set form), which made this challenge even more complex. At Kodo, we all strive to create the best sound possible. We acknowledge that everyone’s body is different, so we always keep in mind that how we play differs from person to person.

The instructor team approached this particular challenge by surveying a number of Kodo performers, and noting the similarities between us. In particular, we sought guidance from Eiichi Saito, the pioneer of Kodo-style workshops, and from Tomohiro Mitome, who frequently teaches taiko players within Kodo and from other teams. We also talked to various guest instructors who teach at Kodo Apprentice Centre and asked for their advice.

Our conclusion was that the Kodo method could be defined as the act of playing taiko in the most natural state possible. As Kodo members, it’s an individual quest to find our most natural state and to create the best sound possible. We strive to do that through our daily training. 

Kodo Taiko School is a place where students can join us on that journey. Every lesson is led by a Kodo performer who explains things in their own unique way. Because we teach a course as a team, you get insight into a range of individual perspectives and approaches, all with the same end goal—achieving a natural state to create optimal sound. I think that’s one of the things that enriches our courses.

Teaching, in my own words.

I am a member of the instructing team, and I also double as an English interpreter for the lessons because I grew up in the United States. But I often struggle to find the right words. It’s hard to interpret Japanese terms and concepts that don’t have literal English translations, or will not make sense in English in a particular context. Especially on the spot.

For example, the first roadblock that every Japanese-English interpreter probably bumps into is “Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.” This common Japanese greeting can be literally translated into “best regards,” but in certain situations, it’ll mean “please share your knowledge and advice with us,” or “kindly do a favor for me,” or something else. 

Here’s another example. In Japanese, futokoro is a word that explains the space in front of your chest. But it’s more than a word; it’s a concept that changes depending on the activity you’re doing. So it’s different for martial arts, tea ceremony, and taiko. Trying to explain it in one word in English isn’t possible. I needed way more words each time. 

(Side Note: I wrote this blog in Japanese first without considering the difficulty of translating into English. The struggle is real…)

With each passing week, I learned how to explain things better. Interpreting for the senior members allowed me to process their thoughts in my mind twice; once in Japanese and again while I was searching for the right English. While listening to their explanations, I drew on my own knowledge and experiences to find the words I needed.

Interpreting for Cohort 0 Guest Instructor Eiichi Saito

Interpreting for Cohort 1 Guest Instructor Tomohiro Mitome as he explains how to apply the fundamentals of taiko playing to Odaiko (big drum) playing.

But there were still things that I just couldn’t explain concisely. Not just while I was interpreting, but when I was teaching as well. I eventually realized that I had trouble explaining certain concepts, simply because I didn’t know enough about them. A wise man once said, “if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” This quote hit home. Lesson learned.

With Instructor Team Leader Yoshie Abe. We’re working hard to forge meaningful connections with all the students.

With Shogo Komatsuzaki, talking about physical conditioning. At Kodo Taiko School, all the instructors perform on the Kodo stage, so you get to hear practical advice from a performer’s point of view.

For me, getting to experience how the senior members approach and explain this art form firsthand is really inspiring. When I interpret for my fellow instructors, it feels like a VIP experience because I get the chance to go inside their head and take a peek at their way of life, through their eyes. I feel so lucky to have this chance.

This chance comes with a sense of responsibility. I believe it is my duty to share their experience as accurately as possible with taiko enthusiasts all around the world. 

Yoshie Abe (left) and Jun Jidai (right) will be Cohort 2 instructors, too. Join them and participants from around the world! Cohort 2 starts in May 2022.

Cohort 2 of Kodo Taiko School will begin in May 2022. During this course, I am scheduled to be touring Japan, so I won’t be able to participate in the same way as I have to date. Instead, I’ll be on stage, giving it my all and making most of what I learned through Cohort 0 & 1. 

Kodo Taiko School alumni: I hope you’ll come to the theater so we can meet up in person. If you can join us, see you soon!
Kodo Taiko School future students: It will be one of the richest taiko experiences of your life, guaranteed. I’m looking forward to hearing how you get on!

 

 

Kodo Taiko School – Online Information Sessions (Pre-Cohort 2)

Kodo Taiko School Cohort 2

Kodo Taiko School

Reflecting on Our 2022 Europe Tour

The finale of a special concert for refugees from Ukraine in Tallinn, Estonia, on Mar. 29, 2022

Takuro Susaki

The Europe tour cast and crew have returned to Japan.

It was a real joy for Kodo to have been able to welcome and delight so many people at the concert venues we visited across Europe. I sincerely thank everyone who attended our performances, along with the many people who gave their all to make our performances possible.

As many of you know, the cast and crew faced numerous difficulties touring during a pandemic, including situations like concert cancellations that had a huge, direct impact on our tour. In Estonia, we held a concert for refugees from Ukraine, where Kodo felt the close presence of a large number of people who had lost their homes and family due to war. In many ways, this tour shook the cast and crew to the core.

Now that they are safely home, we would like to use our blog as a space where the cast members of our Europe tour can unpack and share their thoughts. I want the entire Kodo Group to learn from their experiences and for us to explore and process their stories as a group. We will use these learnings together as we plan what we can and should do next.

Takuro Susaki
President
Kitamaesen Co., Ltd.

 

Ryotaro Leo Ikenaga

We have just got back to Japan safely after our two-month-long Europe tour.

Two years ago, our Europe tour was suddenly cut short when the COVID-19 pandemic escalated: we had to return to Japan, canceling the remainder of our performances. This time, we were touring during times of pandemic and war. While both tours were memorable in different ways, our 2022 tour was an experience that really shook each and every one of us to our core.

Prior to leaving Japan, we did not know what to expect; how many people would show up to our performances? However, much to our surprise, we were welcomed by a large, warm audience everywhere we went.

Since the pandemic started, we Kodo members have felt conflicted about our purpose in this world. Performing in front of a full house audience and hearing the words “Thank you for coming,” was truly reassuring for all of us.

What can we do as taiko performers to make this world a better place?

Tackling this question has been Kodo’s mission for over 40 years, and this tour reminded all of us that we must once again ask ourselves this very question.

Ryotaro Leo Ikenaga
Kodo “Tsuzumi” 2022 Europe Tour Cast Member

“Open Call for Hana Hachijo—WTC Version Submissions” by Chieko Kojima

Hana Hachijo: Infinity Project
—Making Taiko Rhythms Bloom Like Flowers Around the World—
Open Call for Hana Hachijo—WTC Version
Submissions for Video Collaboration!
Submission Deadline: Extended to Nov. 9!

 

The inaugural World Taiko Conference (WTC) will be held in November this year. I decided to share my signature piece, Hana Hachijo, as part of this event. I created it 21 years ago, based on a traditional folk art, Hachijo Daiko, from Hachijo Island south of Tokyo. “Hana” means flower in Japanese, and my piece incorporates rhythms from Hachijo with dance-like movements that add beauty, grace, and color.

I have traveled the world with “Hana Hachijo,” sharing its seeds with many people to date. With each encounter, I hoped those seeds would one day bloom as a unique flower when each individual played their own rendition of Hana Hachijo.
To commemorate the first WTC in Japan, I would like to start a baton relay that connects our Hana Hachijo flowers around the world. Please play Hana Hachijo, share your rendition, and pass on the baton by using the hashtag #hanabaton. Let’s pass it right around the world!

Please submit a video of you playing “Hana Hachijo,” using the videos below as a guide. There are two versions: one without metronome clicks and one with metronome clicks.

We will compile all the videos we receive to create one collaborative “Hana Hachijo” video featuring everyone. We are going to submit this final video as an exhibition at Niigata Prefectural Cultural Festival in November. After it is shown at the festival, I will share the video on social media for everyone to enjoy. WTC and Kodo will share it, too.

I’m looking forward to receiving everyone’s “flower baton” videos! Thanks in advance for taking part!


*This collaborative video is scheduled to be shared on Nov. 18, 2020 on the Niigata Prefectural Cultural Festival “Niigata Stage Channel” on YouTube. 

Details about World Taiko Conference Song Submission:
https://en.wtctokyo.com/songsubmissions


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