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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I just got back from Moscow. I’ve been there several times before, but it was always at the end of March when it was really cold. On my previous visits, it was cloudy every day and so cold that it was tough to simply go outside. So my impression of Moscow was somewhat heavy, cold, and dull.
But Moscow in October was completely different and this time I was greeted by feel-good autumn sun and breezes.
This time we performed at the Japanese Embassy and Grand Kremlin Palace.
We also led a taiko workshop for students at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and local taiko players. The workshop was about two hours long and we also joined them for a social gathering.
I felt the local passion towards music and performing arts through the wonderful support of the organizers, the townscape in Moscow in a milder season, and the smiles of the workshop participants who watched us intently.
It was a thoroughly fulfilling week and by the end of it I really liked Moscow. I was already thinking about coming back and seeing everyone again.
Thank you very much to everyone who looked after us on this visit.
I hope the bonds we made will last a very long time.
On Sunday October 1st, I led Onikenbai (demon sword dance) and Odaiko (big drum) workshops at Gettoen in Shinto Village, Gunma Prefecture. There was a social get-together for the workshop participants the night before where we all had a great time chatting, drinking, singing, and playing taiko. Gettoen is a multipurpose studio. On the ground floor, they have the studio and a kitchen and dining room. On the second floor, they have sleeping quarters for overnight guests.
Here’s a picture with the Onikenbai workshop participants. Despite partying heartily the night before, you can see that they were all fresh-faced and ready for the workshop the next day.
And here I am with the Odaiko workshop group. Even after a party and the Onikenbai workshop, they didn’t show any signs of tiredness throughout the Odaiko workshop. Look at those smiles!
The workshops were presented by Mr. Ryuji Okamura and his mother. Mr. Okamura is a taiko performer and the owner of Gettoen. They run hula dance classes at their studio, too. Mr. Okamura is a former Kodo apprentice and ever since those days he has been a loyal member of our supporter’s club. I am grateful for his support!
After the workshops I left Gunma and traveled home to Wachi in Kyoto Prefecture. The rice was harvested here on Sep. 5th and our current harvest is in the form of collecting chestnuts in the mornings and evenings.
My next workshops at Gettoen will be held on Sunday Dec. 17. Nearby there is a hot spring that is run by Shinto Village and it costs 300 yen for a two-hour soak. So I recommend you come the day before and have a nice soak in the springs on Saturday. It is really good. And of course, you can spend the night at Gettoen.
I am looking forward to seeing you all at the workshops.
Inquiries & Bookings: Okamura Store Tel: 050-3551-8107
Yoshie Abe is currently taking part in “Cross Transit,” an international collaborative production led by choreographer and dancer Akiko Kitamura. It is a creative project that brings artists together from Japan and around Asia.
After their rehearsals this week at Kodo Village, tomorrow the Cross Transit artists will present a 30-minute demonstration of this unique work at Sado Island Taiko Centre. If you’re in the area, please come along! It’s free admission and reservations are not required.
Date & Time: Sep. 6 (Wed), 2017 16:30–17:00 Venue: Sado Island Taiko Centre Main Hall Free admission
*Preschoolers are welcome, too.
“Ninin-Angya,” an upbeat duo featuring Kodo Distinguished Members Yoshikazu Fujimoto & Yoko Fujimoto, will visit Uchiko in Ehime Prefecture for a performance on June 27.
Join the Fujimotos for a fun encounter filled with taiko, songs, and stories from their unique journeys through life. They will present some of the many songs they have encountered to date on Sado Island, on their travels, and with Kodo. You’re in for a special treat at this particular performance because Yoshikazu is bringing his own odaiko along to play. He named his big drum “Taiyo,” which means “sun.” Below is a video message from Yoshikazu and Yoko about their performance in Uchiko. They look forward to seeing everyone there!
June 27 (Tue), 2017 Yoshikazu Fujimoto & Yoko Fujimoto in “Song & Taiko Ninin-Angya” (Uchiko, Ehime) *Further details in Japanese