Old Year, New Year

Happy New Year. I have been sick since December 21st and I am still fighting off the last remnants of this stubborn cold, but now I am mostly healthy and was even able to practice a little bit yesterday. Unfortunately, however, partially because of the holidays, and partially because of being sick, our taiko related activities over the past few weeks have been rather limited. Monday, Jan 7, Yume Mitai practices will start again and the following Tuesday, Jan 15, Matto Bayashi will begin again. I am looking forward to getting back to regular taiko practice. I have been practicing my parts nearly every day, but playing the rhythms on your knees is much different that actually playing it on a drum. My goal was to have my parts memorized by the time the break was over. I still have some work to do before Monday.

We did manage to get a little vacation in even though I was sick. We traveled to Osaka to visit some friends I met in college in Chicago. They took us to a large shrine in Osaka, called Sumiyoshi Taisha. Aside from its large size, another one of its famous points is a rather unique bridge, called "Taiko Bashi" ("bashi" means bridge). It is called this because it has a rather steep curvature and when it is viewed from the side, it looks like nearly half a circle. I guess this invokes thoughts of a taiko. Well, you can decide for yourself, here is a picture:

Hmm, I guess it isn't quite half a circle, but it is at least more of a circle than most bridges. Our second day there, we went to Nara to visit our friends in Wadaiko Yamato. They had just returned from nearly a year of touring Europe and North America and that evening, or the next day they would each return to their hometowns for a week or two before returning to Nara to prepare for another year of touring. They also run a taiko school for children in the founder's hometown of Asukamura. It just happened that on that day, they were holding the final event of the year for the students in the school. The event was a mochi zuki taikai. Mochi is a sort of rice cake and you make it by first cooking a special type of rice, and then it is placed in a large wooden or stone bowl and beaten over and over with large wooden hammers until it reaches the right consistency. It is a popular activity in Japan in the fall and winter. Here is a picture of my daughter hammering the rice.

Many of their students and parents were also there. It all took place at their fairly new facility. It is their house, but it is also their practice space. I believe they had the house built to their specifications, and in the basement (a rarity in Japan) is a nice and large practice space, mainly used for the school.

Once the school event was over, the members of the group had one last meal together before going their separate ways. It was a Japanese/Korean style barbecue. (Luckily we had mild weather). But what did they use for fuel/charcoal? Well, since it was the end of the year, it was time to do some house cleaning, so they used all of their old bachi (sticks) which had broken, or been cracked, or were simply in too poor condition to use. This was actually A LOT of sticks. There were several boxes full.
Here are two members just getting started with the stick burning.

Here is something interesting about Yamato. They all make their own sticks. They will take a long, square piece of wood and shave it down until it is the size they want. Right now, for us, when we need a new pair of sticks, we can easily go to Asano Taiko and pick out whatever we need, but I suppose, since Yamato is touring around the world for most of the year, it is a little harder to come by taiko sticks, so it is just easier, or it is more practical to learn to make their own. I think it is something we should also consider doing when we return to Michigan, seeing how there are not any taiko shops in our area.

Other than our trip to Kansai, I have been trying to recover from my cold, and work on my song little by little. We have one more event to look forward to on my last day of vacation before returning to work. We will return to Nara to see Yamato's concert, before they leave again to travel the world. They are already scheduled in Paris from January 15th. So, next week, look forward to a report of the Yamato concert.

1 comment:

Marlene said...

Happy New Year, Brian! And to your family, too, of course.
From, the Marlene the Pug Crew:)