How Hot Does It Get in Japan? Not Too Hot for Taiko!

"Does it get this hot in Michigan?" "Does it get this cold in Michigan?" Japanese people seem to enjoy asking these types of questions. My answer is usually "Yes, sometimes it gets even hotter (or colder)." Now we are approaching the hottest time of the year in Japan and a typhoon that passed to the north has brought with it hot and sticky weather. It's actually only in the 90s (and in the winter, it rarely gets much below freezing) but the poorly insulated buidlings (and the humidity as well) makes it feel so much hotter. Everyone seems 10 times more irritable than usual because of the heat (especially kids).

Oh well, the nice thing about this time of year is that it means Asano Taiko's Exstasia is not far off. In fact, it is this Sunday! Today, I am heading off to the concert venue (a huge, outdoor park) to help work on setting up. Last Monday we had a meeting about how the stage and so on would be set up and what it would look like. It looks pretty cool. I'll try to get a few pictures today while I'm working. I am looking forward to helping out for this huge event. It will be a lot of work, and most of us are not getting paid for it, but it will be an excellent learning experience, I'm sure.

Anyhow, I just had a few pictures to post today, so that's what I'll do. First, on Saturday, our neighborhood had their 夏祭り (natsu matsuri - summer festival), which we attended. The neighborhood taiko group, Togashi Fujin Taiko was one of the performers, so I took a few pictures of them. Usually there are 5 members, but for some reason, only two of them could perform that day.

And yesterday, my wife had her recital for the Ishikawa Taiko Federation Intermediate Course (石川太鼓連盟中級講座). I was impressed by her Odaiko playing. Here is a picture, but the lighting was not so good, so the picture is a bit dark.

The recital was for three classes, the "first time" taiko class, the beginners taiko class, and the intermediate class. They had also invited several other groups as guests, though, the most well known being dazoku (打族) of Komatsu. They were quite good and have a lot of influence from Kaga Taiko style. The rhythms were very similar and there is a lot of stick twirling as well. Here is picture of their performance (again, in poor light).


How to be a Professional

As promised, here is the second half of the list (How to be an Amateur),I began a couple days ago. This list is called (naturally) How to be a Professional.

1. Never consider your product "good enough", you should always look for something to improve

2. Be confident in your strengths and take pride in what you have accomplished

3. Have clearly defined goals for today, tomorrow, this week, next week, next month, next year, in 10 years... you get the idea

4. Celebrate with others when they succeed

5. Challenge your one perceived limits and abilities

6. Believe in yourself

7. Have consistent, effective practicing habits

8. Be able to manage your time wisely and efficiently

9. Find ways to succeed instead of worrying about how you could fail

10. Make sure the way you spend your money is aligned with the goals you have set

11. Have a clear "vision" for your success

12. Focus on solving problems instead of finding out whose fault it is

13. Define your success by meeting your own goals, not by comparing yourself to competitors

So, there they are. I would say that after reading through these, many people would probably say that most of these are common sense. I would agree, but I also think sometimes we don't realize these things until someone points them out to us. It's kind of like the riddle you couldn't figure out and then when someone explains it to you, you slap your forehead and say, "Why didn't I think of that?"

Anyway, for all my fellow taiko amateurs (or aspiring athletes, musicians, Internet marketers, whatever) out there striving to reach that next level, I hope that these two lists are helpful to you and help you to stay on track to realize your goals. Best of luck to you. Remember: 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration... or is it 1% , 90%?


How to be an Amateur

Some people have a lot of talent, but never seem to be able to find their big break. I think there are a lot of talented musicians out there who are struggling to make ends meet. Unfortunately, just having talent is usually not enough to pay your bills. Perhaps you've seen the bumper sticker that says, "Real musicians have day jobs". It would be nice if having talent was enough to put food on the table, but anyone who wants to earn their money through their talent, needs to have a certain mindset in order to make it past that amateur stage, and break into the professional world of whatever area they are in.

My Mother-in-Law has a modeling agency. (The b/w picture on the right was taken by me, by the way). The agency also runs a school for children and teens who wish to become models, performers or actors in the future, called "Actors Studio". Students enrolled learn modeling, singing, dancing, acting and even taiko. The classes are held in the company's studio, where we are able to practice taiko sometimes when it is not being used for other events. A while ago, I noticed an interesting poster hanging on the wall titled "The Differences Between a Professional and an Amateur". I thought it was very interesting and whether you are striving to be a professional sports player or to create a new taiko team, the ideas would be useful to you.

So today, I am straying a bit from the "taiko" theme in order to share with you the first half of these guidelines entitled: "How to be an Amateur".

1. Be satisfied with the way things are
2. Make sure you can always find something to complain about
3. Don't worry about setting goals (short term, or long term), just take things as they come
4. If something is difficult, awkward, painful, etc. don't bother with it. It's not worth it.
5. Don't take risks, stay with what you know is safe
6. Always question your own ability. After all, there are a lot of other people out there and most of them are probably better than you at whatever you're doing.
7. Change your mind easily and often
8. Become a procrastinator and find lots of useless activities to fill up your extra time (like watching TV, playing solitaire)
9. Try not to do anything where there is a chance you could fail
10. Spend your money how you want, when you want
11. If you try something once or twice and it doesn't work, give up on it, it will probably never work
12. If something goes wrong, make sure you find out who's fault it is, and make sure they are blamed for it (because it definitely isn't YOUR fault)
13. Always compare yourself to your competitors and define your success by how you stack up to them

After reading the amateur guidelines, I think you can get a good idea of what NOT to do if you wish to make it into the professional world. Tomorrow (or more likely in a couple days) I will post the other half of the poster, "How to be a Professional".


More Pictures from Sunday

No taiko until Saturday for me. Of course, I would be happy to play for every day, but because of practicing for five hours on Saturday, two performances on Sunday and then practice on Monday and Tuesday night, the blisters on my hand are not complaining about the break. I made a couple new blisters over the weekend, and they actually need the time to heal up. Saturday it will be back to taiko, though.

Anyhow, I discovered yesterday that there were several pictures of Sunday's performances posted on the Asano Taiko blog. The pictures were taken by Azuma san, who does a lot of volunteer photography for Asano. I also shared his pictures from the March recital this year. Unfortunately, in the pictures they posted from Sunday, I am always located at the furthest possible spot away from the photographer, so you probably cannot see me.

Still, here is the link to the blog entry. If you can read Japanese, then you can read the post as well. If not, just enjoy the pictures. Sunday's Exstasia Campaign Performance at Kaga Jusco


Extasia Campaign Performances

I really enjoy performing. When there is an audience to play for, I always feel like I have more energy, and if I can feel that the audience is enjoying themselves, I get even more energy. I am always excited when we have a performance.

Today I performed twice with Matto Yume Mitai at the Jusco shopping center in Kaga (Ishikawa prefecture). This was a campaign performance to promote the upcoming Exstasia Taiko Festival, July 27. In fact, I just noticed yesterday a big billboard that was put up near Asano Taiko to advertise the festival. Here are some pictures:

The three ladies are the members of Hono Taiko, from left to right: Yamada Mizue, Kinoshita Chieko and Jige Akemi. The smaller pictures are of the guests who will be performing: Wadaiko Yamato, Asano Machiko and Hayashi Eitetsu Fu-un no Kai.

Members of Sasuke and Hana Kagami also performed with us. We had our first performance at 11 am, with a second at 2 pm.

The morning started with a little stress because one of our trucks broke down as we were leaving. Fortunately, it was repaired fairly easily and quickly and made it to the shopping center on time. It broke down again on the way home, and was again, quickly repaired. I suppose it will need to go into the shop, though.

We performed outside in the parking lot. We were expecting it to be quite hot, but after we arrived, it clouded over and a breeze picked up, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. By the time the afternoon performance arrived, it actually started to rain lightly. We were able to set up some tents and perform underneath them (except for the Odaiko, which were too large) In spite of the rain, the second performance seemed to go better than the first.

I'm always impressed with how organized the concerts are at Asano. Everyone seems to know exactly what needs to be done, and they always seem to plan for things going wrong. Then, when things go wrong (like trucks breaking down), it doesn't become a problem. And when things go right, we get to finish earlier than scheduled.

I wish I could take pictures of our performance, but since I am performing, I can't. Anyhow, here is a picture of us during set-up: