Trying Taiko

A few years ago, I was living in Fukui Prefecture, and my boss at the time was very active in our local community. This meant that we, his employees, also often attended different local events. Once, I was at a Culture Day festival, which had various traditional Japanese events and customs to try. My friends and I were able to partake in things such as writing Japanese calligraphy, a tea ceremony, and making mochi. The thing that stood out to me the most was they had a young taiko group that did a performance. It was not only so exciting to see but I thought the taiko players all looked really cool. I admired how they played with sure ease and grace, yet still looked very cool and powerful.

After their performance was over, they asked if anyone in the audience wanted to try playing, just for fun. My friends and I decided to give it a go and found it to be difficult, but fun nonetheless. We enjoyed it so much that we asked our boss the following day if he knew of any places that would be willing to give us lessons. In the blink of an eye my boss was on the phone with the very group we had seen the day before. He told us that on Tuesday evenings they would be able to take us, but that the rest of the students that day were all in elementary or junior high school, and also that the teacher could not speak English. We said that we didn’t mind, so long as we had a place to take lessons.

That Tuesday we showed up and were greeted by our new teacher, a very strict, slightly intimidating, yet fun-loving older man. He explained to us the different ways to beat the taiko and how to be able to keep the beat. It was much harder than we had anticipated, we had been used to keeping the beat in times of four, but he kept the beat through only sounds. Not only that, but the way you had to swing your arms so high and the placement of your feet were so specific. By the end of our first day, we were so sore and tired. Even though we were sore and tired, it didn’t dull our spirits. If anything, it made us want to try even more.

About a week later we found out that the group we had joined was going to have a big performance in just a few more weeks. Our teacher had asked us if we would like to join it and we quickly said yes, but now this meant we had to really practice. Of course, we practiced in class, and we even asked our teacher if he could write down the music on a music sheet to help us practice at home. At first, we practiced using our tables and pencils, but the lack of similar motions made it hard. Eventually, we found toy taiko sets and we bought them to practice. To an onlooker it probably looked rather silly, but truthfully those toy taikos were a lifesaver.

Finally, we had our performance and managed to play without a hitch, but a bit after that my work schedule changed so I wasn’t able to continue taking my lessons. However, I really enjoyed my time learning taiko, and I’d recommend it if you have ever thought about trying it yourself!



in the blink of an eye (idiom) - very fast
intimidating (adj.) - scary
anticipate (v) - to imagine or expect that something will happen
dull one’s spirits (idiom) - to make you feel sad or less happy
onlooker (n) - someone who watches something happening, but from a distance
without a hitch (idiom) - to happen successfully without any problems