Another Taiko Blog and KODO: Behind the Scenes Video

KODO: Behind the Scenes

It has taken me twice as long to eat my meals in the past few days. I'm not eating more, probably I'm eating less. Why is it taking me so long? Because I am using my left hand to eat. (I'm right-handed, by the way). Using a fork and spoon with your non-dominant hand is one thing, trying to use chopsticks with it is another story. For many westerners, using your dominant hand to eat meals with chopsticks is challenging enough. I am also trying to brush my teeth with my left hand. I'm starting to get used to it, but at first, even as I brushed with my left hand, I couldn't keep from moving my right hand in a brushing motion. It must have been amusing to watch my spastic tooth-brushing ritual.

Using your left hand isn't a new idea. I've heard of many athletes doing the same thing in order to strengthen the non-dominant side of their body. That's what I'm trying to do as well. For taiko beginners, it is always painfully obvious that one of their hands/arms is stronger than the other. Over the past few years, I've watched several new people join the taiko groups I'm in, and almost without fail, during the first lesson, the instructor will say something like, "You're right-handed, aren't you. Your left hand is too weak."

Having one hand stronger than the other usually causes uneven beats, speeding up or slowing down and asymmetrical form when playing. There are several ways to even out your hand and arm strength. One is to practice exercises and etudes starting with your non-dominant hand (as I mentioned in a previous post about practicing shime taiko.) But using your non-dominant hand for everyday activities, like teeth brushing and eating with chopsticks, is another way to work towards becoming ambidextrous.

Although it is not the first time I've heard of this method of training, I was reminded of it in this excellent video about what it is like to be an apprentice with the Kodo Drummers on Sado Island. Apparently, one of the first tasks for new apprentices is to make their own pair of chopsticks and make their own pair of bachi (drum sticks). Then they must eat only using their non-dominant hand. If they can't do it, they go hungry until they learn how.

With a job and a family of four, many of the KODO training techniques are not feasible. After all, they are on a remote island cut off from family, friends, technology and all they have to think about is taiko. But using my non-dominant hand to eat with and brush my teeth, well, that's something I can do without too much trouble. I have found that I don't asks for seconds as often, though, just because it can be so tiring to eat that way.

Well, you probably want to see the video. Here it is. KODO Apprentice Video. Sorry, I can't embed it, so you'll have to go to YouTube to watch it. It is worth the time, though.

Another Taiko Blog

Where did I find this interesting video? I found it at the TAIKOHANA Blog. The owner of the TaikoHana blog wrote to me a week or so ago asking if I knew of any places to practice taiko in Fukuoka. (See my answer to her question here: Where to Practice Taiko in Japan.) I discovered that she also kept a blog about taiko and read through it in one sitting. Perhaps I found it interesting because her story is similar to ours in some ways. At any rate, in the interest of providing all those English speaking taiko enthusiasts out there more reading material, I thought I would recommend it to you.

Marie Ayabe is the writer of the blog. Marie was born and raised in Hawaii. She began learning taiko in the summer of 2007 at the Taiko Center of the Pacific. She enjoyed it so much that she decided to start a group at her college, which is called AIKO. This fall she will go to Japan as a JET teacher and hopes to continue her taiko studies there. She hopes to eventually be able to perform with a professional group and teach taiko to other people as well.

She will probably be busy getting ready for her move to Japan this summer, but once she gets settled in, I imagine she will have lots of interesting posts about her own taiko journey. So please check out her blog:
TaikoHana Blog


Where Can I Practice Taiko in Japan?

Every now and then I get an interesting question about taiko by email. I can't claim to be an expert on taiko, but if I don't know the answer to questions, I often know how to find them. That was the case today. I got an email from a taiko enthusiast who is moving to Fukuoka, Japan this fall and she was trying to find a group to practice with there. At first I was going to send her my apologies and tell her that I couldn't help her. After all, Fukuoka is pretty far from Ishikawa. Then I remembered TAO. Some of you know TAO, don't you? They are a group that tours around the world. I've never seen TAO perform, but apparently they're pretty, um, crazy. For example, Yamato (one of my favorites) has a pretty intense training program. For the most part, they run 10 Km just about every day. That's probably a good 45 - 60 min. run everyday. Well, I read an article last year about TAO that said they run a half Marathon everyday! That's 20 km, (13 miles). Not to say that a regular running program isn't an important part of playing the taiko, it certainly is. I do wonder, though, if 20 km a day (and very little sleep) isn't overdoing it just a tad.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. I knew TAO was based somewhere in Western Japan, so I looked them up and as it happened, they are based in Fukuoka Prefecture. I don't know if they offer much in the way of classes, but it seems that they have a few workshop offerings. I also discovered from their website that they are planning a North American Tour starting in January 2010. It looks like they'll be around the Midwest in March. I haven't seen them before and we ought to be back in Michigan by then. I suppose we'll have to check them out, maybe invite them over for dinner (start planning the menu, mom.)

I don't know how useful TAO would be in finding a place to practice taiko in Japan. I am sure they are quite involved with their own training and practice. It was while I was poking around the TAO website that I thought of the most useful place for all you taiko enthusiast moving to Japan for a summer, or a year or even longer. It's the Japan Taiko Foundation (Nippon Taiko Renmei). I looked them up. They have a Japanese and English page. As is often the case, the information on the English page is much more limited. The truly useful info is on the Japanese page. On the Japanese page, they have lists of taiko groups by prefecture. I suppose it is not a comprehensive list of taiko groups. There are probably groups that are not registered with the taiko renmei, but for someone who has nothing to go on, it's probably a good place to start. So finally, I come to the useful part of this post. Here are links to the pages for each prefecture in Japan. The link offers a list of taiko groups, a contact person and a contact number. If you don't read Japanese, you could print out the page for your prefecture and bring it to someone who does and ask them to help you get in contact with one of the groups.

Well, I intended to link each prefecture to the page listing the groups for that prefecture, but they have their website set up so you can't do that. Wait... This is ridiculous, their whole website is the same URL, I can't link to any individual pages on their site. Okay. Let's see here. This will be a lot easier if you read Japanese, if you don't, you can still do it, it will just be a bit more of a challenge. First, go to the Taiko Foundation Website. On the left is a menu bar. Try to find the heading that looks like this: 支部・加盟団体 underneath that, there is a menu item that looks like this: 加盟団体一覧 Click on it. If you know the Kanji for your prefecture, look for it and click on it and the list of taiko groups in your area should come up. If you don't know the kanji for your prefecture (you really should learn it, if you don't) Maybe this list can help you to find it:

Hokkaido East 北海道・道東支部
Hokkaido West 北海道・道西支部
Hokkaido North 北海道・道北支部
Hokkaido South 北海道・道南支部
Hokkaido Central 北海道・道央支部
Aomori 青森県
Akita 秋田県
Yamagata 山形県
Iwate 岩手県
Miyagi 宮城県
Fukushima 福島県
Niigata 新潟県
Toyama 富山県
Ishikawa 石川県
Fukui 福井県
Ibaraki 茨城県
Tochigi 栃木県
Gunma 群馬県
Saitama 埼玉県
Tokyo 東京都
Chiba 千葉県
Kanagawa 神奈川県
Yamanashi 山梨県
Shizuoka 静岡県
Nagano 長野県
Aichi 愛知県
Gifu 岐阜県
Mie 三重県
Kyoto 京都府
Nara 奈良県
Osaka 大阪府
Hyogo 兵庫県
Okayama 岡山県
Hiroshima 広島県
Shimane 島根県
Tottori 鳥取県
Tokushima 徳島県
Kagawa 香川県
Fukuoka 福岡県
Saga 佐賀県
Nagasaki 長崎県
Oita 大分県
Kumamoto 熊本県
Miyazaki 宮崎県
Kagoshima 鹿児島県

Sorry, no links for: Okinawa (沖縄), Kochi (高知), Ehime (愛媛), Yamaguchi (山口), Wakayama (和歌山) or Shiga (滋賀). I don't know why. I am certain there are taiko groups there. Perhaps they are just not members of the Taiko Foundation...

Well, I hope this helps. Good luck.


Asano 400th Annivesary Opening Concert

I guess it was nearly three weeks ago, but on June 5th, we were able to attend the opening concert for Asano Taiko's 400th annivesary. It was quite an amazing concert featuring some of the taiko world's most famous artists. There were many people and groups whom I have seen perform in the past, such as Hono Taiko, Yamato, and Miyake Taiko, but there were also many groups I saw for the first time, like Tiffany Tamaribuchi, Tokara, Hachijo Jima and current/former members of Kodo and Ondekoza: Imafuku Yuu and Fujimoto Yoshikazu.

The concert venue was the Matto Gakushu Center Hall, which is a small hall attached to a city library. I can't imagine that it would hold much more than a few hundred people, but it was standing room only. One of the benefits of the small theater, though, is the intimate feel it creates. We got very intimate seats in the second row! The mood on the stage I felt from the performers was relaxed (not in a lazy way) and celebratory. Everyone, the performers and the audience, seemed to really enjoy themselves.

Miyake Taiko was powerful and impressive, (as it always is). The groups from outside of Japan, or featuring members from outside of Japan (Tiffany Tamaribuchi and Tokara) had a slightly different feel about them. In a subtle sort of way, they were more light-hearted, they almost had a more optimistic way of playing, if that makes sense to you. Not to say that they were better or worse than any of the other groups, they just had a different, can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it feel to them. I do remember reading somewhere, though, that one of the Asano brothers commented once on how much N. American taiko players really seem to enjoy themselves while they are playing taiko.

Yamato also certainly seems to enjoy themselves on stage, but in a slightly different way. Yamato began Ogawa-san, the leader, thanking Asano Taiko for all they've done. He said, "If Asano did not exist, Yamato would not exist." This is probably true for most of the groups there that evening. Whether groups use Asano drums or not, Ondekoza/Kodo is probably one of the main reasons for the spread of Taiko around the world, and they have always played Asano drums. Yamato performed their song which features Katsugi Oke Taiko, "Rakuda". It's one of my favorites of theirs.

Another performance that I particularly enjoyed (as did my daughter) was from Imafuku Yuu, a native of Shimane prefecture and former member of Ondekoza (I think). Imafuku san uses elements of Kagura music in his taiko performance, which include singing and dancing. (There is a short clip on his homepage, it should play automatically) For this performance he used a small nagado and was accompanied by a shime taiko played with take bachi (bamboo sticks). He played and sang (he has a wonderful voice) a song about blessings and fortune and good luck. As he played, another performer came out, dressed as one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan, Ebisu. Ebisu is: The God of Good Fortune, the Ocean, and Fishing Folk
Also Deity of Honest Labor & Patron of Laborers. He looked something like this. Anyhow, Ebisu danced around on stage and pretended to go fishing. First he reeled in an old boot, which my daughter found amusing (well, okay, I did too). Then he finally caught a Red Snapper, or Sea Bream fish, which is symbolic of congratulatory wishes in Japan, appropriate for Asano's 400th annivesary.

Imafuku-san's nagado taiko was actually quite interesting. On one of the heads, there seemed to be a drawing of some sort. Although I was in the second row, I still couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be. My best guess was a pig. After the concert, I was backstage and Imafuku-san happened to be there with the drum, so I asked him about it. As it turned out, the picture wasn't a picture at all, it was very artistically written arabic. Someone had written it for him as a gift when he was in ... I think it was somewhere in Northern Africa. It said something like "Playing the drum is joy." (note to self: start writing stuff down that you want to remember).

Anyhow, it was a great concert, the performances, the atmosphere, everything. And it only cost 1000 yen. At the end of the concert, Asano Senmu (Akitoshi) stood on stage beaming with happiness, with his eyes glistening looking as if tears of joy were about to overflow. He expressed his thankfulness to all the performers and how wonderful the concert was. Just before he thanked everyone for coming and wished us a safe journey home, he said "I can't wait for the next 400 years!"


Thanks to all our "Investors"

That was quick. On Sunday evening I made a quick post inviting any one interested to invest in our project by funding our Lending Club loan of $5000. 92 people stepped forward within 2 1/2 days to fully fund our loan, with an average investment of around $50. Crowd funding is great, isn't it? I don't know if anyone who was a regular reader of this blog contributed, but thanks to all who did. We will be using the money to help off-set the cost of drums for the classes we will offer when we return to Michigan.

Thanks for believing in us. We won't let you down.


Invest in Our Dreams!

A long time ago... well, about a year and a half... I naively asked for donations to help fund our project of bringing taiko drumming to the people of Michigan. There was not a signal donation. I don't mean to sound ungrateful. We have received tremendous amount of help from family and friends with unbelievable amounts of moral and financial support, but soliciting donations from online "strangers" just didn't work out. I understand. I, too, would be awfully hesitant to donate money to someone I didn't personally know.

I guess 18 months later I am a bit wiser to the ways of the world, but that hasn't changed the fact that we still need to raise some money in order to make all this happen. So here I am, back again with my hat in my hand, trying to raise $5000 before the end of June. But this time, should you choose to offer us some financial assistance in making our dreams a reality, I can offer you something in return.

If anyone is interested in investing in our dream of "the Great Lakes Taiko Center " (that's us) we have been approved for a loan through lendingclub.com. Lending club is a "crowd funding" site, which lets investors fund loan requests of individuals who have a high credit rating. You can read more details about it here: Lending Club FAQ
In a nutshell, you would loan us money, and within three years, you'd get whatever you loaned back, plus interest.

The loan just went "live" less than 12 hours ago and from the way things are going, I don't think we will need to recruit any extra help to get the loan funded. But I thought that there might just possibly be a few people out there who have an interest in our project and just might want to help out.

If you're interested, you would need to sign up to be a lender (I think you'd have to be a US resident as well). I am told that if you sign up through this link, you will get a $25 credit to get started.

Anyway, sorry to ask for money. I know people don't have much of it these days (especially folks in Michigan), but I thought there just might, possibly be the small chance that there are a few people who would like to support us in this way. Thanks for considering.

Oops, I forgot to post the link to our own loan request yesterday. Here it is, if you're interested:
Loan to Purchase Japanese Taiko Drums


Miyake Taiko Workshop

There are so many things that happened last weekend at Asano Taiko's 400th Anniversary celebration. I learned so much, met so many new people, thought about a lot of things in a new light. If I tried to sum them up in one post, it would probably be either reeeaaaallllyy long, or too much information at once. Therefore, I will just try to write short reflections on the experiences and what I learned, as I have time and as they come to mind. Hopefully I can get down my most significant experiences before they slip my mind.

Today's topic: The Miyake Taiko Workshop with Mr. Tsumura and his three sons.

The above is a picture of me (the tall, white guy in the middle) along with the Tsumura family and on the left is Odaiko player, Yamabe Taishi, from Kurashiki Tenryo Taiko in Okayama ken. For some reason, all the women taiko players that I know get all dreamy-eyed and giggly when they are around these guys. From what I hear, they find them rather attractive.

Sunday was my second time to take this workshop from the Tsumuras. I also took it last year during Golden Week (first week of May). I wrote about it extensively in that post. Seeing as the content was pretty much the same, I won't spend a lot of time writing about it again. If you're interested, you can read about it in last year's post.

This year there were significantly more people in the workshop. This limited the amount of time we had and everything took a little bit longer. Last year, we had enough time to work on a variation in the ji-uchi (base rhythm) and also work on the "agari" (speeding up) at the end. This year, however, Mr. Tsumura gave a quick introduction on the correct form - leg positioning, movement of arms, proper grip of the sticks, etc. We each took a turn playing the ji-uchi and the melody four times through, stopping between each set to rotate players. After everyone played one set, Mr. Tsumura gave some general advice and suggestions before going on to teach us how to rotate from player to player without stopping. Last year the switching between players was kind of a challenge for me. I could never quite get the ji-uchi right. This year it seemed to be no problem, though.

After we had learned how to switch between players without stopping the music, we played the song continuously for about 45 minutes, rotating around the room. Mr. Tsumura and his three sons were at various spots around the room and would give advice to the workshop participants as they came around. At the end, we did some cool down stretches and that was it.

I think my muscles (legs especially) were a little more sore than last year. Last year I spent more time exercising so that my legs would be strong. Not that I haven't been exercising, but I haven't been spending much time on the muscles needed for Miyake, so the next day, they were a little sore.

With the increased number of workshop participants, Mr. Tsumura's strictness also came through a little bit more. Unfortunately, it had to come out at the expense of a couple of the younger attendees. It wasn't a type of strictness in the sense that he came across as a mean old man, but more that he was strict because he is very serious about learning and teaching taiko.

For the workshop there were four or five taiko set up. Since there were 20 or 30 participants, we had to be split up into groups. At one point, there were three young girls (8 or 10 years old?). Mr. Tsumura said, "One of you go over to this group." The three girls looked at each other and hesitated for a minute. Then they began playing "rock, paper, scissors" to decide which one of them should go (the loser would go). This is actually a common way to make decisions in Japan. In fact, I think they use it in Parliament fairly often, when they can't come to a consensus. Anyway, when they started the "rock, paper, scissors" game, Mr. Tsumura said, "No, no, no, we don't have time for games, just one of you move to the other group. Hurry up and do it, you're wasting time." After another short hesitation, one of the girls moved. Before moving on, Mr. Tsumura told everyone, "If you don't want to do what you're asked, or you don't want to be split up from your friends, it's okay. You don't have to take the workshop. You're welcome to sit and watch because there are a lot of people who wanted to take this workshop and weren't able to. I'm sure they'll gladly take your place. That kind of thing just wastes time and is a nuisance to everyone else."

Although I felt a little sorry for the girls, that they had to be "the example", I completely agree with what Mr. Tsumura said. If the teacher asks you to do something and you don't want to do it, or you make a fuss about doing it, you are just bothering the other people who are there and who are serious about practicing taiko, or basketball or music or whatever you might be learning.

At another point in the workshop, a young boy (4th or 5th grade?) was quietly tapping on the rim of one of the taiko while Mr. Tsumura was talking. He stopped and said, "Who's playing the drum? Who's making that noise? Whoever it is, stop it. These aren't your drums. You are borrowing them. You shouldn't play them until you are told to play them."

Like for the girls, it may have been slightly traumatic for the young boy, but Mr. Tsumura is correct again. I think it is especially important to make a point to young children about when it is appropriate and inappropriate to make noise on the drums. Small children are just naturally attracted to playing the drums. They can hardly resist playing them, but when someone is talking, it is certainly inappropriate. If small children are not taught to keep quiet (don't play) while the teacher is talking, it is nearly impossible for the teacher to teach. Have you ever tried talking over 10 or 20 drums? I've seen teachers try to do that before and it is painful to watch.

Once again, a "short" summary of a workshop is turning into a term paper. I guess I had better stop before things get too out of hand.

Check back soon for more stories from the Asano Taiko 400th Annivesary Celebration.

Oh, and if you live in Michigan and you haven't taken our survey yet, please do so, it is very helpful to us. If you have taken it, please tell a friend about it and ask them to take it. Thanks for your help.

Click Here to take survey


Thank You, Wadaiko Yamato

On Saturday I went over to Asano Taiko to take part in the 400th Annivesary activities. Wadaiko Yamato had performed at the Friday night opening concert and I knew they would be at Asano on Saturday as well. I thought I would wear one of my Yamato t-shirts, so I chose one from their 2001 (?) tour. I have worn the shirt quite a bit and it shows. The image is in pretty rough shape and the color is very faded.

After arriving at Asano, I saw some of the members. I greeted them and told them I had enjoyed their performance the night before. Then one of them looked at my shirt and said, "Brian, what are your wearing? How old is that thing? Don't you have a newer one?"
"It's not so bad," I said, "It's just been well-loved."
"Brian, we'll send you a new shirt. What size is that?"
"I think it's XL, but it's a little big," I said.

It wouldn't be the first time they have given me t-shirts. But I thought they meant the next time we visited them in Asuka mura, or perhaps the next time we come to one of their concerts. Yesterday, we got a package in the mail. It was five, brand new Wadaiko Yamato T-shirts, Size L.

Thank you, again, Wadaiko Yamato, for your generosity and kindness to us.


What Did We Buy at the Asano Taiko Sale?

Unfortunately, we didn't have any luck in the Asano Taiko drawings this weekend. We got about 10 raffle tickets, but we didn't win anything. A couple people I know did win 10,000 yen gift certificates, though.

We might not have had any luck in the drawings, but in another sense, we did have some luck. We had a certain budget for the drums we could purchase and it so happened, that there was an Ohirado Taiko that didn't go over our budget too much. For the Odaiko of our group, we had decided on getting a large Oke daiko. It is the type that is tightened with ropes and is much lighter, compared to an Ohirado Taiko. There were two reasons we had made that decision. One was price and the other convenience. The price was half of what a Keyaki Ohirado would cost, and since there are only two of us at the moment, we thought it would be easier to move it around. But when we saw this Ohirado on sale for just a little bit more than the same size Oke daiko, we couldn't pass it up. Here it is. Our very own Ohirado Taiko.

It's 3.5 Shaku. 1 shaku is about 30 cm, or 1 foot, so that makes this drum 105 cm, or about 3 1/2 feet in diameter. It's just the size I wanted. Of course, it looks cool to have an even bigger one, but anything much bigger than this starts to get impractical. It's too heavy to move around, you need a bigger truck to transport it and sometimes it won't fit through doorways. So this is just right for us.

One reason it was so much less than we had expected is because it is not made of keyaki (Zelkova), the preferred wood for taiko drums. Most Odaiko, or Ohirado Taiko are made out of either Keyaki or Bubinga (from Africa). The one we are buying happens to be made of Bubinga. Actually, it is hard to even find Keyaki trees large enough to make the really big Odaiko. Besides, I honestly like the grain of Bubinga wood a little better than the Keyaki for this type of drum. Just look at the beautiful patterns:

Right now we don't have any place to store it so Asano is holding it for us until we can clean out our closet. (Oh yes, and until we pay for it, also). So I guess we were lucky enough this weekend. I'm sure I'll write more about the various events and workshops in the days to come. (but first I have to finish my taxes.)


Katsugi Oke Taiko Workshop with Hayashida Hiroyuki

Today (Sunday) is the last day of the 400th Anniversary Celebration at Asano Taiko. Today I will take the Miyake Taiko Workshop, and a singing workshop with Yoshikazu Fujimoto, one of Kodo's oldest members. He'll be teaching the song "Kiyari" which is sung along with Miyake Taiko.

Yesterday I had one workshop and my wife had two. My wife took a workshop on Hachijo Jima Taiko and a Chappa (cymbal) workshop from Ryutaro Kaneko (a former Kodo member). My workshop was with Hiroyuki Hayashida, also a former Kodo member.

From the picture, perhaps you can guess that he is known for Katsugi Oke Taiko playing. In fact, he is one of the first people to play Oke Taiko in that style and is credited with developing and refining Katsugi Oke playing. I took the basic/beginner Katsugi Oke Taiko workshop from him, seeing as I have not really played or learned that style before. We actually didn't get to play that much, but I was impressed with his teaching and I could tell that his philosophy about practicing is very similar to mine. For example, some of the advice he gave us: practice a lot of drills like stick control drills, accent drills, paradiddles, and so on. In fact, he said that you should spend most of your practice time on drills, not on practicing songs. (I completely agree) He also scolded taiko players (in a friendly way) who do not use a metronome during practice. He said the metronome is your best friend. Also, in some of the handouts he gave us, it had more good advice, like "practicing 30 minutes a day is better than practicing three hours once a week." Of course, if you grew up taking music lessons all this is common sense. But one of the nice things about taiko is that it tends to attract a lot of people who do not have much of a musical background, so perhaps it is good to remind people of it from time to time.

The workshop was scheduled for 90 min, but it ended up being more than two hours. Hayashida san said usually his Katsugi Oke workshops are seven hours! So he was challenged to try to fit all of that into 90 minutes. We didn't get a lot of playing time, but I still feel as if I learned a lot. Not only about playing Katsugi Oke, but about the care and treatment of the drums as well. What was the biggest thing I learned? That I need to practice a lot more before I will feel comfortable playing Katsugi Oke Taiko.

Today, my wife will also have a Katsugi Oke workshop from Hayashida san, but she is taking the intermediate level. My workshop was for beginners.


I Wonder How Lucky I Am?

Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow morning at 9 AM Asano Taiko will kick off their 400th anniversary celebration. It is three days of taiko workshops, live performances, and a huge sale, 400 years in the making! Well, maybe not 400 years in the making, but it's a pretty big deal, especially because sales at Asano are pretty rare.

It was 400 years ago, back in 1609, that the Kaga clan, invited taiko maker, Saemongoro from Harima (Hyogo Prefecture) to found Asano Taiko in Fukutomi, Ishikawa Village, which is now called Fukudome Town in Hakusan City. Since then, Asano has been producing top quality, hand-crafted taiko drums and other traditional products. (Read a short history of Asano Taiko)

What else was going on in the world in 1609? Well, not a whole lot of significant events. But the children's rhyme, "Three Blind Mice" was published in London. That's worth something.

Anyhow, we have been looking forward to this event for quite some time. It couldn't have come at a better time for us. We will start by attending the concert tomorrow evening, which is full of world-renowned taiko performers and tickets were only 1000 yen (about 10 USD). It's an amazing deal! Saturday we will continue with workshops in Katsugi Oke Taiko, Hachijo Taiko and a chappa workshop. There will be several 30 minute mini-live concerts interspersed during the day. Sunday, we'll continue our workshops with Miyake Taiko, taught by the original creators of Miyake, Mr. Tsumura and his sons, more Katsugi Oke and finish off by learning the song, "Kiyari", which is often sung before playing Miyake Taiko. Sunday will also feature short live performances throughout the day. The workshops are also an amazing deal. Almost all of them are only 1000 yen. So I will get three workshops which would normally cost 3000 - 4000 yen each, for only 3000 yen (about 30 USD).

But it's the sale that is the most timely for us. Regular readers of our blog know our plans to start up a taiko group in Michigan sometime in the beginning of next year. Of course, you can't have a taiko group without taiko and if you're going to buy Asano drums, there probably will be no better time to buy them than this weekend for the next 400 years. Several hundred taiko drums will be on sale for 10%, 20%, 30% even 35% off the normal prices. When you're talking about drums that are at least 1 or 2,000 USD for even the cheapest ones, even 10% or 20% off is saving a huge amount of money.

Today I learned another juicy tidbit, though. It's not just going to be a weekend of live performances, workshops and a sale. There will be drawings too. Each day, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, anyone who bought something will be entered into a drawing at 3 PM of that day. Apparently, there are some pretty nice prizes. There will be two drawings a day: one for people who spent less than 50,000 yen, and one for people who spent over 50,000 (about 500 USD) There is even the possibility of a prize of a ....are you ready? ... 3.5 shaku Ohiradaiko!!!! That's a 105 cm "flat" Odaiko! Here's a picture of what I'm talking about:

These things are not cheap. We originally were thinking of buying one, but they are extremely heavy. It takes at least 3, preferably 4 people, to move one around. And they are extremely expensive. Just for a 3.5 shaku drum, costs around 35,000 USD!!! Add in the stand and case and it could be another 7 or 8,000! The combination of the weight and the cost convinced us to wait on purchasing one of these. Although a few weeks ago, I had a chance to play on an extremely nice one, and I again toyed with the idea of getting one anyways, but in the end, the cost was just too much.

BUT ...

Now there is a chance that I could win one. We'll definitely be spending more than 50,000 yen this weekend, so we ought to have at least a chance to win it. And that is why I wondered in today's title, "How Lucky I Am?" Obviously, it's not the kind of luck, like having a loving family, having a job, enough to eat, being healthy, etc. I know that I am "lucky" in those respects. I am talking about pure luck, pure chance. It is a raffle and the next guy who spends 50,000 yen at Asano will have just the same chance that I have to win that beautiful drum. I sure hope it's me, though. Oh, I would so much love a drum like that!