“My First Tour” by Sunao Maehama

My First Tour

Photo: Yasuhiko Ishihara

Nice to meet you, everyone. I’m Sunao Maehama, a Kodo junior member. Kodo’s “Evolution” tour in China is my very first tour.

Photo: Yasuhiko Ishihara

Passing over Sado Island and Kodo Apprentice Centre on the way from Niigata to Shanghai.

Within a week of becoming a junior member earlier this year, I heard which performances I had been cast in for the year ahead. That was when I found out that my first international tour would be in China. I also learned I would be appearing in “Ake no Myojo,” a taiko, song, and dance number.

Photo: Yasuhiko Ishihara

Rehearsing “Ake no Myojo” at Shanghai MISA

Each junior member is given distinct challenges. One of the challenges listed for me was expressing my femininity. One of the senior Kodo members told me that Ake no Myojo puts the spotlight on female performers and requires femininity.

In this piece, you move while carrying and playing a taiko drum. So if you don’t create a stable axis with your body, it doesn’t look good. You have to synchronize the timing of the loud and quiet tones of the drum with the movements of your body. It requires precision. I received all kinds of advice from the senior members, such as keeping my legs close together when I pivot.

Photo: Akiko Umegaki

Rehearsals before opening night in Shanghai

On opening night, I was really nervous but I gave it my all. I think left everything I’ve learned to date on the stage.

Photo: Akiko Umegaki

“Evolution” opening night in Shanghai

As I write this, so far I’ve only performed twice on this tour. Something I have noticed and constantly feel when I perform with Kodo is what it’s like when the sound you create resonates in the bodies and hearts of others.

I am still very new to the ensemble and I’m desperately trying to keep up with everyone. I’ll do my best at our Guangzhou and Beijing performances, too!

Photo: Yasuhiko Ishihara

“Kodo One Earth Tour 2019: Evolution” China Tour

Schedule

“Back Where It All Began” by Junior Member Taiyo Onoda

Photo: Yui Kamiya

This year marks the 50th year of taiko in the United States. It all began in 1968, with the opening of Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka’s San Francisco Taiko Dojo.

Photo: Yui Kamiya

I started playing taiko under Tanaka-sensei (Mr. Tanaka) when I was 8. Through the training, I was connected to many leaders of the American taiko community. With their support, I decided to apply for the Kodo Apprenticeship Program when I was 22.

This is the third year since I left for Japan. I had the honor of participating in San Francisco Taiko Dojo’s 50th Annual International Taiko Festival as a Kodo junior member on November 10th and 11th. There were many guest performers with connections to Tanaka-sensei from all over the world, making the whole performance four and a half hours long.

Photo: Yui Kamiya

The finale piece consisted of the guests soloing on the odaiko (big drum), one after another. With all the performers’ emotions overflowing, the piece became a 45-minute-long masterpiece.

Around the performance, I was able to enjoy exchange with San Jose Taiko and KASA.

Photo: Yui Kamiya

It was very nerve wracking to perform in front of this home crowd for the first time in three years. So much so that I had a migraine during the rehearsal…
But for the performance, I believe I was able to calmly present my natural self. Hopefully I was able to demonstrate how much I’ve changed.

Photo: Yui Kamiya

I brought back many words of encouragement, and of course, hugs.
It’s only a few more months until the final selection, when Kodo chooses which junior members can become fully-fledged performers.
My friends gifted me the strength to keep pushing myself. I am looking forward to greeting everyone again with a smile during the US tour next year.

Photo: Yui Kamiya

Nov. 10 (Sat) & 11 (Sun), 2018 Taiyo Onoda Guest Appearance at “50th Anniversary International Taiko Festival” (San Mateo, CA, USA)

 

 

“In Matsuyama with ‘Spirited Summer'” by Chie Yamawaki

July 22, 2017

Hello, everyone! This is my first blog post. I’m Chie Yamawaki, a Kodo junior member.

I am currently on tour with “Spirited Summer” and we only have four performances to go.

After our performance in Kurashiki today, we traveled to Matsuyama in Shikoku.

Speaking of Shikoku, I am from Kagawa Prefecture.

So when I visit nearby Kurashiki and Matsuyama, it feels similar to being back in my hometown.

The climate and dialect in Western Japan make me feel so relaxed, as did the Sanuki udon noodles I ate during a road-side stop.

This is my first big tour.
My heart felt like it might burst with nerves and worries during the first half of the tour, but all the senior Kodo members supported me through it.
I received a tremendous amount of energy from the smiles and applause the audience gave us at each performance. My heart gets fully recharged with every performance, so I have arrived in Matsuyama filled with energy and with eleven performances worth of wonderful memories.

As this tour progresses, I think each performance feels like a “spirited summer” of its own.
The people, sounds, food, history, atmosphere, water, and other elements of each place we visit blend with Kodo and create a unique, spirited summer experience each time.

Tomorrow we have our Matsuyama performance.
Some years ago I was one of the audience members watching Kodo perform on stage at tomorrow’s venue, Matsuyama Shimin Kaikan.
Now I am a junior member of Kodo and this time I will be on stage performing with Kodo.
Since I was very young, I often visited Matsuyama for fun. I am really looking forward to our spirited summer experience in Matsuyama. I wonder what local flavor will blend into our performance…

For the remainder of the tour, we will head further south to the bottom of Kyushu.
The temperature will rise and so will our spirit on stage!
I look forward to sharing more special summer experiences with you all and taiko. Please come along to see one of our performances.

山脇千栄

Kodo “Spirited Summer” Japan Tour

Photos: Takashi Okamoto

“The School Workshop-Performance Tour, Working Hard in Niigata” by Eri Uchida

On Friday June 16, I went to see the School Workshop-Performance tour in Niigata City where they are currently visiting elementary schools. Kodo gives regular performances at the many schools there.

I went to see our tour at an elementary school that is 10km from Niigata Station. I decided to rent a bicycle to go there. I don’t know what I was thinking… it was further than I thought. I should have known it would be tough on a bike with a basket and no gears. On the way back, I took the easy route by getting a lift back in the Kodo truck. (lol)

 

Ask any young person who went to school in Niigata City if they have seen Kodo and most of them will say that they have, at least once. That is largely thanks to Kodo’s Eiichi Saito and Kazuki Imagai and their efforts since our School Workshop-Performances began some twenty years ago. To visit all the schools in the city requires a morning and afternoon performance each day, at different schools each day. That means fitting ten performances into five days each week. With such a tight schedule, it’s important that everyone is as organized as possible to ensure smooth, good performances. To make sure that not even a minute is wasted, the preparation for the tour includes detailed meetings about loading in and out of each venue and then the cast and crew carry out simulations of how each day and situation will go.

On Friday afternoon, the end of the school week! The kids were so lively!

The School Workshop-Performance requires a lot of stamina, so the physical power of young Kodo members is essential for this tour. Currently there are three junior members on the tour and every day they are giving it their all. They have been on the road for one month now and since I last saw them at a run-through rehearsal on Sado, the young members have all grown in leaps and bounds. Every day as I learn I am reminded that the more you grow, the more you realize exactly what you still lack. The junior members still receive a lot of critiques from the senior members, and I’m sure they are being stretched to their limits. But now that I am a bit more senior myself, I can see that they are growing more than they may think. The senior members know if they praise the junior members too much they won’t improve, so they make sure they don’t give them too much praise. (LOL)
During my visit, I saw my fellow Kodo members all working diligently to better themselves and the performance. Regardless of seniority, they all worry, suffer, work hard, and enjoy themselves. I think they are all really valuable to Kodo.
Keep up that spirit, School Workshop-Performance team! Do your best!

The children flocked to the cast members after the performance for autographs. I hope they will come to see Kodo perform when they grow up, too. We’ll be waiting for you!


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