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.


Anonymous said...

Great list, Brian! Thanks for this. I will refer to your page when someone asked me for referal, as well.

On a sad note, my old group (Waraku Daiko) is going to lose the practice place. Such a shame! We don't know where we will be going to practice from now on yet.

How about Asano Taiko? Do you have a special venue where you go for practice? And what did you have to do to be accepted in that group?

Raion Taiko said...

That's too bad. Finding a place to practice is sometimes almost as much of a challenge as getting drums. Asano has two practice spaces close to their factory and Museum in Ishikawa. Asano also has two studios in Tokyo available for rent. They are in the Meguro area. Where are you? Was it Chiba? If Meguro might be an option for your group, here is the address for Asano's Tokyo studios, Kyowakan. http://www.asano.jp/kyouwakan/studio/index.html
Good luck.

Carrie said...

First off, don't knock the running! I run 10K most days and it makes playing a full set of taiko significantly easier.

Running regularly expands your lung capacity, making breathing easier when you play. Controlled breathing is important, in my opinion. If someone is out of breath, often shoulders tend to rise up, which in turn alters your form. Plus, then there's no panting after you're done playing:)

Also, running is a great way to strengthen your core. A strong core supports good posture and helps your body to maintain this posture even when fatigued. Besides making you look better when you play, engaging those muscles will help to protect your lower back.

K, I'll write my actual "comment" separately because this one got a little long...

Carrie said...

Wakayama's always left out...

Here's the scoop on Wakayama, where I live:

There are many many groups in the area of varying levels and varying styles. Here are a few that come to mind.

Engetsu Daiko (Shirahama)
Onna Daiko (women only, Tanabe)
Oniwaka Daiko (Tanabe)
Otonoshoyu (Tanabe)
Kiyohime (Tanabe)
Ryujin Daiko (Tanabe)
Okukamano Daiko (Tanabe)
Kuroshio Daiko (Kushimoto)
Mandara Daiko (Shingu)
Tennon Daiko (Gobo)
Shippu Uchi Daiko (Yuasa, my group)

In Kainan there is a place to take taiko lessons, privately, or with a group with Ryo Shimamoto. He's the best teacher around and I've learned nearly all I know from him. In fact, after doing my research in the US about accessible taiko teachers in Japan, he's the reason I chose to move to Wakayama and I highly recommend him.


If anyone has questions about the groups I mentioned above or my teacher, how to contact them, or need the kanji for the group's name just email me. Most of them don't have websites.

Raion Taiko said...

Thanks, Carrie. If anyone needs to get in touch with Carrie to get further info on the taiko groups she mentioned, she can be reached through her blog at http://allthingstaiko.blogspot.com

Carrie said...

Oh, right. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is a great resource, thank you!