My first experience ...

Our departure date is now only a little more than a week away. As we get busier with our moving preparations, we are getting more and more excited about studying taiko drumming. I think I first saw a live taiko performance in 1998, when I first moved to Japan. It was incredible. It was evident that the passion with which the drummers played, moved everyone in the crowd who was watching. The name of the group was Honno Taiko of Ishikawa ken. The group is made up of three women. They were accompanied by several other drums for this performance at some sort of street festival in Kanazawa. Between songs, one of the women jumping around yelling at the audience (in a friendly way). I was actually surprised at her energy, because it seemed that everyone in the group had used up there energy (and then some) during the performance, yet this woman seemed to have an endless supply. Anyone who is familiar with Honno Taiko has probably already realized that I am speaking of Jige-san, who is still a member of the group, and still seems to have no limits to her energy. Anyway, at this point, I had only been in Japan for about two weeks and had a very limited understanding of Japanese. From what I was able to understand, it seemed that Jige-san was inviting us to a larger event later on that month, where Honno Taiko would be headlining. This was most likely Ecstasia, an annual event put on my Asano Taiko in Matto, near Kanazawa. I didn't attend that year, but I did the following year and was, again, speechless with awe at the way these drums were played, and seemed to have the same effect on everyone in attendance.
I also was able to see Kodo perform twice when I lived in Japan from 1998 - 2000. What left the biggest impression on me from their performance were the songs, "O-daiko" and "Yataibayashi", which were performed one right after another. Both of these pieces require an extraordinary level of physical endurance, which was very obvious during the performance. By the time they were at the end of the song, I felt like the drummer's heart was ready to burst. Literally burst, and yet, I also felt that if that were to happen, he would die with a smile on his face. I recently read Jack London's "Call of the Wild". At one point in the story, London writes about certain sled dogs' desires to die in the traces of the sled. The dogs felt shame at being cut out of the traces, even if continuing meant certain death. I felt as if these drummers maybe felt the same about playing taiko. Although I've never heard of any taiko fatalities, I wonder if these drummers had a choice, they would choose to go on stage, literally playing their hearts out.
I am very excited that we will be experiencing these two groups again very soon. We have already purchased tickets to this year's Ecstasia in Matto, where I'm certain Honno Taiko will be peforming along with numerous other groups from all over Japan. We are in the process of making plans to travel to Sado Island in the Sea of Japan, where the members of Kodo live, and practice.
Every summer they hold their annual Earth Celebration weekend. We are hoping to go and camp out on the beach, while spending a couple days enjoying taiko performances and workshops. I am certain I will have plenty to write about following those two events.

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