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.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see that Mr. Tsumura hasn't changed one bit. :) Thanks for sharing, Brian!