Shipping your taiko around the world

This past Tuesday, we had our Matto Bayashi practice as usual. Our practice area is called Asano-EX and it is a mile or two down the road from the main Asano Taiko buildings. It is also not available as a practice space to the general public, like the practice area (新響館)at the main building is. So it is where most of the Asano sponsored groups practice, like Matto Bayashi, Sasuke and even Hono Taiko. When we came in, there were many taiko near the doorway in cases and wrapped up as if they would be shipped off somewhere. I asked Yamada san (our teacher, and member of Hono Taiko) if Hono Taiko was going anywhere for a concert. She looked slightly confused and asked what I meant. I pointed towards the taiko in the doorway and she said, "Oh yes, we're going to Spain and Russia in July and August." July and August are quite a ways away. It is only the middle of May right now, but I realized that sending taiko, which are extremely heavy, by air would be outrageously expensive and sea and surface mail would be the only affordable option.

In fact, we had a similar conversation just last week with some other taiko friends of ours, Wadaiko Yamato, of Nara. Last week we had some business to take care of in Osaka, and since Nara is not that far from Osaka, we stopped by to visit them. It was one of the rare times when they were all present in Japan, instead of touring all over the world. (Last year, they were on tour for almost 11 months and I think they played something like 200 concerts) Anyway, I was also asking some of the members of Yamato how they moved their drums all around the world and coordinated between concerts in Europe, N. America and Japan. They, as well use sea and surface mail, sending their drums out two months ahead of them. But they also said they have about three sets of drums, because sometimes the times between tours is too short to get the drums from Europe to the US, for example. This amazed me when I thought of the cost involved. I recently researched the cost of Asano drums for the 12 - 15 drums that we would ideally like to have and the cost was over $100,000! Yamato certainly has more drums than 12 - 15 and what's more, they have 2 or 3 sets of them! Amazing.

At least this year's schedule is a little more relaxed in comparison with last years. They are based in Nara for the next 3 months or so, before they head back to Europe (?) for the fall. They have quite a nice facility, with a large practice area in the basement in their hometown of Asukamura, which is in the southern part of Nara Prefecture. It is surrounded by hills and rice fields and they even have a nice keyaki tree in front of the buidling. A keyaki tree is known as a Japanese Zelkova tree in English. Why is this significant? Because most taiko are made from keyaki wood. They said, maybe in 200 years or so, it will be big enough to make a taiko from it. I will write a little more about keyaki trees and Asano taiko another time. In the meantime, here are a couple pictures from our visit to Nara.

Here is a view of the hills surrounding their house.

and the keyaki (zelkova) tree in front.

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