If anybody gets both the musical reference AND the meaning of the title of this post, I will buy you some kimchi while I'm in South Korea (which will actually be tomorrow. Booyah!)
Anyway: Taiko. The basic translation is "drum" in Japanese, but the art of the thing is a bit different then wailing out on your set in an impromptu drum-solo in front of ten thousand screaming fans. The drums are big, heavy, and expensive, and the actual performance smacks of an unholy union between a marching band and overzealous dough kneading. The above is my first interaction with taiko, which took place roughly a month after my arrival in Japan. As you can see, my hair was still recovering from my cosplay dye-job, though my face is regardlessly twisted in fearsome concentration. It's a miracle my focused stare didn't cause the tips of my obachi (taiko drumsticks) to explode into flame.
Maybe a few weeks after this first encounter, I had a friend introduce me to another taiko group, and thus began my tutelage under the motley crew of Hagakure Taiko. The three guys above are some of the veteran members of the group. It's worth noting that while we do get paid to do performances, it's not a way to make a living. Most if not all of the money goes to transportation, maintaining the drums, buying new equipment and throwing sweet-ass parties for us on random occasions. For me, it's pretty much volunteer work, but even that is kind of a perk as I recently learned that they usually charge people something like forty dollars a month for training. Foreigner card for the win!
Here I am in my natural element, ie posing like a moron. I was even lucky enough to have the whole uniform and my obachi provided to me for free. I do technically pay something like one dollar every time I go into practice, but that's a pittance compared to how much I've received from these guys.
This is Nao, the best player on the group. Japanese people have the tendency to take some kind of activity and practice the hell out of it until they've mastered it, and for him taiko is that activity. He routinely starts our performances with a three or so minute solo on the odaiko, or the "big drum". He is also one of the younger members of the group, clocking in right around 30, and we have a consistently ridiculous rapport involving his broken English and my broken Japanese.
I actually have a LOT of taiko pictures, and I think I'll post more at a later time, or maybe I'll just open up a public internet album... but for now, I leave you with this - Taiko Performance! I'm the guy in the back playing the big drum. This was at a smaller festival where we played around half an hour of music. This song is a staple of taiko groups everywhere, though every group has a little variation on it. Sorry the video is kind of iffy quality, but a friend took it unprompted and her camera is kind of eehhhh. I plan on giving my new camera to a friend at a later performance and requesting a longer filming...but we'll see what we get.
Anyway, that's it for today. Peace.