Extasia Ecstasia taiko festival concerts

This past Sunday we were able to enjoy nearly four hours of taiko performances. The day was split into an afternoon concert and an evening concert. Following the afternoon performance, my wife and I simply looked at each other. We were literally at a loss for words, other than "wow". Anything we could have said would have taken something away from the experience. At several points, we were nearly moved to tears. We found out later, when the town mayor gave some opening remarks for the evening concert, that he also had been moved to tears.

I also feel that a "play by play" description of the groups and their performances would be a disservice to them. Taiko of this caliber cannot be described, it must be experienced. Perhaps there are a few aspects of the afternoon and evening, which I can share, however. I was rather ... "excited" ... that the first performance of the afternoon featured three genuine Geisha. Many people outside of Japan seem to be aware of Geisha, but I would venture to guess that their ideas regarding them are most likely inaccurate, especially if they are based on somewhat recent movie, "Memoirs of a Geisha". Unfortunately, this movie, was not an accurate portrayal of Geisha. In fact, many Japanese were offended that in making a movie about something so closely associated with Japanese identity, that no Japanese actresses were cast in lead roles. (not to say that the Chinese actresses are not attractive). At any rate, a geisha is a skillfully trained in many traditional arts, such as music, dance and other things. It is rare to see geisha, even in Kyoto. At least during my two years living in Japan and my subsequent yearly visits, I never saw a real Geisha until Sunday. Some may believe they have seen Geisha in Kyoto, especially around the Kiyomizu Temple area, but these are often tourists who pay to have a formal picture taken in Geisha/Maiko dress, and then take some time stroll around the tourist areas following the photo.

Anyhow, I have strayed a bit from the topic. What I mean to say, is that seeing as how Geisha are a rare sight, I felt privileged to be able to enjoy their dance at Ecstasia.

Another group that played was from Kagoshima, in the south west area of Japan. It was made up of all girls (maybe about 20) between around 4th or 5th grade through high school. Their performance was one of those that nearly brought tears to my eyes, simply because of their passion in playing the drums. I think one of the rules of this group contributed a great deal to their moving performance and stage presence. The rule is: "You can't accomplish anything on your own". I'm certain this idea has formed their mentality and helped them to have a feeling of unity as they learn to play taiko together. In order to achieve their performance level, everyone must rely on each other, help each other. If one person struggles, the whole group struggles. If one member performs poorly, it reflects on the whole group. I suppose it's sort of like the saying, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link". I think this may be a very Japanese idea, or way of thinking. Westerners, maybe Americans especially, like to be in the spotlight and strive to be a standout in the group, or on the team, but I think the result of this unified thinking is much more impressive.

I've often thought of this regarding sports teams as well. We like to see the star players perform, it's entertaining and impressive to watch, but one or two star players can easily be beaten by a good all around team.

Hono Taiko was the finale for both the afternoon and evening concerts. It's kind of funny that I mentioned the Mitsu uchi style taiko in my last post and said that it wasn't really performed any longer. At least that is what Mr. Mogi, who gave the lecture said. Wouldn't you know that Hono Taiko performed the Mitsu Uchi style for one of their selections in the afternoon concert. Perhaps it will be revived after all.

There were many more groups, but as I mentioned, to try to describe them all here does not do them justice. I just have to recommend that someday you come to Matto to see Ecstasia for yourself. It's worth it.

Now we move on to plan for our trip to Sago Island to visit Kodo's Earth Celebration on the 17th and 18th of August. In the meantime, we will start taiko lessons at Asano Taiko this Thursday. Stay tuned for more updates.

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