“New Project: Roots of Kodo” by Eri Uchida

In September, while other Kodo members where performing in “Yugen” at Kabukiza Theatre and traveling for small group projects, I was working hard on a new venture on Sado Island: a program called “Roots of Kodo.”

Roots of Kodo is a new live-in workshop aimed at people from abroad. The inaugural program was nine days long, held on Sado from Sep. 10 through 18.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

This idea for this project all started in Europe during a workshop tour I planned in 2017. I met so many energetic overseas taiko players on that tour who were very eager to learn.
I heard people from various countries say they wanted to study (taiko) way more seriously and they wanted to train at Kodo Apprentice Centre, if possible. So I wanted to give them the opportunity to do that. That’s how this program came about.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

Kodo is constantly seeking new forms of expression with taiko, and so are people who play taiko abroad. They are also always wondering what is possible and looking for new inspiration, too.

After careful consideration, I felt that rather than try to teach them what Kodo’s way of expression, if I shared the roots of what we, Kodo, value as a group, then that might be the best way for each of them to move forward in their own pursuit of genuine taiko expression.

Photo: Yui KawamotoPhoto: Yui KawamotoPhoto: Yui Kawamoto

I could prepare that environment for them and create an optimal opportunity for them to learn.

And I’d already learned how to do just that through my experiences at Kodo Apprentice Centre.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

So I devised a program that included all the things that I considered to be Kodo’s roots: making your own meals, cleaning, creating a schedule and living by it together, figuring out time for training, devising practice methods, discussing things…and more.

Photo: Yui KawamotoThe program was not just about taiko training. It also included dance, tea ceremony, taking part in a local festival, agricultural work, and other activities. When I made a list of all the fundamentals of our group, there were so many things other than taiko that I was unsure if it would even make sense to the participants.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

Each and every participant came with an active approach to learning and the desire to make the most of the program. I think the program worked because of their attitude.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

I kept asking myself if all these activities were necessary for simply playing taiko, and I made a real effort not to just gloss over things by saying “In Japan, we do this” or “That’s just the way it is.” By being thoughtful about every element, what was actually important became clear and it was regardless of any country or culture. I discovered things every day… perhaps I ended up learning the most of anyone from all the questions and reflection.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

Once it was over, I realized that getting answers is not the purpose of this programPhoto: Yui Kawamoto

What people got were “seeds.” Those seeds were cultivated on Sado Island, within people just like this, within a history of time spent just like this.
And Kodo is the “flower” in bloom, which grew from those seeds.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

How the Roots of Kodo participants raise the seeds we gave them is up to each one of them. We know seeds grow differently according to factors such as the soil where they are planted, if they get sunlight or not, and if you give them water or not. I think the best way to raise seeds differs from place to place. I wonder what kind of flowers will bloom from those seeds in each participant’s country in the future.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

I hope the message of “ONE EARTH” will spread around the world through these seeds and flowers, to connect us all someday.

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

To all the participants and staff involved, thank you so much.
I am excited about what lies ahead!

Photo: Yui Kawamoto

“A Change of Scene for the Kodo Apprentices” by Eri Uchida

July 26, 2018Photo: Yasuhiko Ishihara

After their regular training session yesterday afternoon, Kodo Apprentice Centre manager Gan (Yasuhiko Ishihara) took the apprentices to Sobama Beach.
That may sound like fun, but it wasn’t for leisure.

Photo: Yasuhiko IshiharaFirst, the apprentices ran along the sandy beach… and then they ran some more.
Running on sand slowed them down but it gave them a change of scene, with a different view to their training every morning. It feels different for them, too, running barefoot with gentle waves lapping at their feet.

Photo: Eri Uchida

After that, they all danced Onikenbai together, a demon sword dance. You’d expect dancing on sand to also be harder than usual, but dancing on the beach together looked liberating and enjoyable for them.

Photo: Yasuhiko Ishihara

They had some free time after their workout and they all took this chance to leap into the sea.

Photo: Yasuhiko Ishihara

At the Apprentice Centre, they may experience a lot of difficult challenges and tough times. I guess when you have fun times and happy experiences after such lows, the highs feel even higher.
Seeing them have as much fun as they could during this short break made me think about the spectrum of emotions they experience during the programme.

Photo: Eri UchidaMaybe this setting created that sense of liberation I noted.
Sado truly is an island filled with nature.

I’m glad Kodo is based on Sado. This island helps us grow everyday.


About the Kodo Apprentice Centre

Seeking Apprentices for the Kodo Ensemble Performer Development Course

Applications are now open for the 2019 intake!

[Application Period] July 6 (Fri)–Nov. 9 (Fri), 2018 *Note: Applications must be received by Nov. 9

[Application Procedure] https://www.kodo.or.jp/en/apr_en/research_students

*Please note that all apprentices require advanced Japanese-language skills.

“June 20: Apprentice Group Training Session with Kodo” by Eri Uchida

Photo: Mariko Sumiyoshi

Today the Kodo apprentices came to Kodo Village for their mid-year recital and a group training session.

Photo: Mariko SumiyoshiThe training session is a valuable time where they receive training by the Kodo members who stand centerstage in our ensemble’s touring productions.

The apprentices heard the words, “I know you want to do it, but you can’t do anything with that feeling alone.”

It all comes back to practicing the fundamentals, after all. It’s all about creating sound with clean, solid strokes.

The apprentices have more eyes on them than usual during this session, but they don’t lose focus for even a second as they take in the detailed instruction.

The apprentices hope to stand on stage as members of Kodo one day. The words the Kodo members impart with the young hopefuls during these sessions are specific, simple, and carry significant weight.

Photo: Mariko Sumiyoshi

Deliberate, repeated practice is what creates that sound, that performance.

Today’s group training session was a fruitful time for the apprentices, who now have a clearer picture of their common goal: creating sound that truly reaches the audience.


About the Kodo Apprentice Centre

[Applications Open Soon for 2019 Intake!] Application Period: July 6 (Fri)–Nov. 9 (Fri), 2018

Application Procedure: https://www.kodo.or.jp/en/apr_en/research_students

“Where Kodo’s Sound Begins” by Eri Uchida

We currently have seventeen Kodo apprentices after welcoming a group of new entrants to Kodo Apprentice Centre at the beginning of April. The first day of training for the new first years was making and shaping bachi (taiko drumsticks).

Photo: Eri Uchida

Under Tomohiro Mitome’s instruction, they learn why they make their own bachi, and the step-by-step process of bachi making, from how to choose the wood to whittling the wood into shape. The things they learn are packed with the wisdom that Mitome has gained from his own experience of trial and error making bachi to date with his own two hands.

“When you make bachi, you are crafting your sound”

The local carpenter who joined the lesson to teach them how to sharpen their planes said,
“If your equipment works well, you can do your job well.”

Those words are painfully true, I thought.

Photo: Eri Uchida

Bachi making is not a skill we can master in one day, no matter how clearly we are taught.

Life gets busier as the days go by at Kodo Apprentice Centre. I wonder how much time they can make for themselves to practice what they are being told and embody those lessons.

Photos: Eri UchidaThe roots. The fundamentals. The essence of things.
That is what we all learn at the Apprentice Centre.
It reminded me that I mustn’t forget these foundations, regardless of the experience I gain traveling the world and appearing on stage.


About the Kodo Apprentice Centre

“Back in Magnificent Rome After Nine Years” by Eri Uchida

Mar. 10, 2018
Photo: Eri Uchida

As soon as I exited the train station, the sheer sight of this enormous structure made me tremble.
This is the Colosseum, which is estimated to hold some 70,000 spectators.

Photo: Eri Uchida
I wonder how on earth people made something like this by hand 2000 years ago, in a time without electricity or machinery. Visiting this structure, I couldn’t help but be amazed by human intelligence, strength, desire, and persistence.
Every detail was so elaborate and dynamic, from the entrance trapdoors that added interest to the spectacle, to the corridors devised throughout that let the spectators smoothly enter and exit.

Photo: Eri UchidaFights were held here, where people or animals battled to the death. I heard that people in those days were really enthusiastic about the fights, which made me wonder about people today. Are we fundamentally different from people back then? It’s a bit scary to think about that.

For me, it was my first visit to Rome since 2009 when I was on my first tour with Kodo, a summer European festival tour. Although I spent a week in Rome then, due to my terrible hay fever and all my first tour nerves, I only ventured out once for sightseeing to visit the Vatican City. Nevertheless, I have profound memories of that visit to Rome such as our rehearsals with A Filetta for EC 2010 and the performances of “Mono-Prism” with Santa Cecilia Symphony Orchestra.

Photo: Eri Uchida
I remembered that back in 2009 I thought this hall looked unbelievably gigantic. I recall feeling proud as I watched the Kodo members selected to play Mono-Prism, but at the same time I felt frightened about appearing on that stage myself.

Photo: Eri Uchida

This time, I sat in the empty audience seats while we were setting up and looked at the stage. It seemed much smaller than last time and that felt strange.

However, when our performance began, the full house was filled with energy and it absorbed our sound, so the furtherest seats felt very far away during the performance.

Photo: Eri UchidaIn this huge arena, every member of our cast did their very best. We received a standing ovation at the end of the performance, a sign that the audience was pleased by our efforts.
We had all spent our day off before the performance sightseeing all over Rome, and it was as if the inspiration of what we had seen turned into powerful energy on stage. I’m already looking forward to the day I can return to Rome and its colossal structures.
Next, we are off to Milan for two performances back to back!


“Kodo One Earth Tour 2018: Evolution” Europe Tour


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