“Our Calling. My Calling.” by Ryotaro Leo Ikenaga

When I compose, I want my pieces to inspire people. To evoke real emotions.

I want them to paint vivid images, and I want them to resonate with the audience’s hearts.

When I direct, my goal is the same.


Photo: Takashi Okamoto


When I was offered the opportunity to direct a new Kodo production, I set out on a quest to find what it was that I wanted to portray.

I asked myself: What do I want the audience to feel?

As I dove deeper, the same question popped up over and over again.

“Why do we, Kodo, play taiko?”

It’s easy to say that playing taiko is a calling.

But why do I, or my colleagues, play taiko as a member of Kodo? I think that’s a completely different question.

Ever since the world came to a standstill in the Spring of 2020, there have been countless times where I’ve felt like we are incredibly powerless in the face of adversity.

I’ve questioned how much we are living up to the “One Earth” mantra, without taking strong stands and courses of action on various issues around the globe.

I’ve been reminded time and time again how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to play taiko for a living, and that we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

Over these past three years, I have been asking myself the same question: “What are we doing?”



It was during this time of self-loathing and trepidation that I had the opportunity to perform in front of Ukrainian war refugees in Estonia.

This turned out to be one the most memorable moments of my career; all I wished for in that moment was to give these people hope, to offer them a moment of peace.

It was a state of pure emotion and altruism; something I didn’t know I was capable of.

It’s hard to put in words, but it was at that moment I felt I wanted to create something that was truly altruistic in nature.

Something that can inspire people, something that can have a positive effect on the world.


Photo: Takashi Okamoto


Whether or not I’ll be able to achieve this is a question for another time. For now, I am extremely grateful I’ve been given the chance to try.

This is my calling.

Ryotaro Leo Ikenaga


Photo: Takashi Okamoto |Art Director: Hiroomi Hattori (COM Works)

Photo: Takashi Okamoto
Art Director: Hiroomi Hattori (COM Works)


Kodo “Calling” Japan Tour

Kodo “Calling” Japan Tour


Ryotaro Leo Ikenaga


Kenta Nakagome, Shogo Komatsuzaki, Yuta Sumiyoshi, Koki Miura, Mizuki Yoneyama, Masayasu Maeda, Seita Saegusa, Yuki Hirata, Kei Sadanari, Moe Niiyama, et al.
*Subject to change without notice.

Kodo Performance in Asakusa 2023 “Calling”


“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)

“Supporting the Kodo Book Translation Project ‘Drum Your Heart Out!'” by Yuichiro Funabashi

In January, a fellow Niigata-based artist, Jo Kanamori, gave me his new book, Dance Company of Struggles. Mr. Kanamori is a dancer and the artistic director of Noism Company Niigata and this is his first book. I read it with great interest. Then in February, I went to see Noism’s new production, Der Wanderer. Mr. Kanamori’s artistic direction is always exciting. This time, he really brought the physicality of each and every cast member to the forefront while creating a sense of unity within the cast led by dancer Sawako Iseki. It was a wonderful performance. Having just read Mr. Kanamori’s book, I could feel even more color and depth as I watched them perform. That really stayed with me. This experience made me think a lot about the importance of recording our words.

Melanie Taylor, a member of our team who handles our English translation, has launched a project to share the book that Kodo published in 2011, Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo, with the world. This book describes Kodo’s history in a straightforward manner from various perspectives. For me, it’s an important book that I read over and over again as things crop up along our journey.

Melanie has been watching Kodo perform for years and years. She carefully weaves my words into English, bringing the true meaning of each word into her translation by checking the background and my intention. She is a trustworthy friend of mine, and I am sincerely looking forward to seeing her translation of this book take shape. I sincerely hope that many people will feel more depth and color when they watch Kodo’s performances after reading this book.

Over ten years have already passed since we published this book and I strongly feel the need to start preparing to publish the sequel—the next part of our history. For now, I am grateful that Melanie has kicked off this project to translate our first book. I really hope that many people will support this project.

Incidentally, in my Japanese profile it says my hobbies include reading and enjoying pro wrestling, Rakugo storytelling, and Takarazuka theatrical performances. I have a lot of books about my various interests, lining my bookshelves. When I learn all sorts of things about each group and each person, and their history and background, my feelings intensify and my enjoyment doubles.

Yuichiro Funabashi
Kodo Ensemble Leader
March 2023

Kodo Book Translation Project “Drum Your Heart Out” Crowdfunding Campaign on PledgeMe
This site’s currency is New Zealand dollars.

Kodo Book Translation Project “Drum Your Heart Out” Intro Video

The campaign video is fully subtitled in English and Japanese. If subtitles don’t appear, click the settings cog on YouTube and switch them on.

“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

Kodo Blog Archive