World's Largest Drums

This past weekend, we were able complete another taiko pilgrimage. We all got in the car and drove about two and a half hours to nearby Takayama City in nearby Gifu prefecture. Takayama looks like a nice town, with the Japan Alps as a backdrop. We did not have time to explore the town much. Our destination was the Matsuri no Mori museum (The Festival Forest Museum). The museum was built by a man who loved Japanese festivals and had a special passion for taiko drums. This passion led him to commission Asano Taiko to create the world's largest taiko drums, to be housed at this museum. This museum is built into the side of a mountain. When you enter a long hallway, lined with miniature festival carts on one side, and elaborate screens depicting various festivals on the other, leads you to the main hall, which houses about 10 or 15 huge carts and of course, the taiko.

At the entryway, when you first enter the museum, there are two Ohirado taiko. They are the same diameter as the Odaiko in the main hall, but much flatter. You are allowed to play these drums if you like. I hit them with my fist a couple times and the sound echoed through the large hallway like rolling thunder. I thought how much more powerful it would sound if I actually had a pair of sticks to use. (I found out after returning home and talking with some friends, that museum guests are welcome to bring taiko sticks and play these hirado taiko with the sticks. This seems too good to be true, but if they say so...)

My son really enjoyed playing these drums and we finally had to drag him away, kicking and screaming, to see the rest of the museum.

In the main hall, you can see the three Odaiko on a stage. These are the largest taiko in the world.

Here are the statistics on them.
#1 (on the right)
Diameter - 2.73 meters
Length - 2.73 meters
Weight - 4.5 metric tons

#2 (on the left)
Diameter - 2.67 meters
Length - 2.73 meters
Weight - 4 metric tons

#3 (on the top)
Diameter - 2.4 meters
Length - 2.48 meters
Weight - 2 metric tons

From felling the tree, to the completion of these drums, it took about 3 and a half years. The tree was a Karak tree (?) from Cameroon, Africa. At the trees widest spot, it had a diameter of 3 meters, and the tree itself was 1300 years old.

That is the one tragic thing about these drums. I don't know the whole situation surrounding this tree, why they cut it down, but it seems sad that such an old tree would be cut down.

Of course these drums are made by Asano, so I asked some friends who work at Asano how much it cost to make these drums. Apparently, they were around 500,000 USD each! So that means on that stage there is approximately 1.5 million dollars worth of drums.

Each exhibit in this museum also has what the Japanese call karakuri ningyo, which are moving dolls/mannequins. I think the English info there called them marionettes, except, these do not have strings attached to them. At any rate, the taiko also have some moving statues that play them so visitors can hear what the drums sound like. They started playing when I was still in the entry hallway and it did really sound like thunder. There are a couple of unfortunate aspects about this situation, though. First of all, the sticks are padded mallets, so you really don't get a nice big sound like you would with proper wooden sticks. (at least you get to hear it though). Secondly, the arms of the mannequins are so long that they look like orangutan children. It is not so obvious when their backs are to you as they play the drum, but it is quite surprising when they turn around at the end and bow.

Finally, I have a short video I took with my digicam of the mannequins playing the drums. It is not the same as being there, but please enjoy it all the same.

Here is a video of the mannequins playing the drums:

No comments: