Konnichiwa Toshi Sensei!

Konnichiwa Toshi Sensei!


Taiko was originally used at religious ceremonies and was played when people offered prayers to Gods. Taiko is made of wood and as people believed that the wood is one of the things Gods lived in, taiko was also regarded as something divine. Therefore taiko was played when people welcomed Gods. As such, taiko has been treated as a holy instrument since old times. In 1995 I came to Melbourne as an assistant Japanese teacher and for the purpose of introducing Japanese culture I brought taiko from Japan. I introduced taiko to schools in Melbourne and because of that we started to perform at many festivals, schools and functions. In the beginning, I played taiko just to introduce Japanese culture. Wadaiko Rindo… I started lessons in 1996 so this year will be our 20th anniversary. We started with merely 3 students and we practiced in a small office. I had never taught taiko before, but one of my Australian friends encouraged me to start teaching and she offered me a lot of support. Definitely our tour to Tonga. When we went there, we played taiko at a school and I was extremely happy when the students started to sing for us to thank us. I took great pleasure in being part of the cultural exchange between taiko and their local music. Even though our schedule was extremely packed, we had eight performances in 5 days and were all sweaty every day, we felt good when we heard them sing. So yeah, I had a very strong memory about our visit to Tonga. My dream is to bring taiko to as many Australians so that they can watch, understand and enjoy it. I believe that’s my calling and for that reason we have this taiko class right here. Students enjoy learning to play taiko and people can enjoy watching our performances. Initially I had no intention of teaching taiko and my friend got me into it, but when I gave it a go, I found it really enjoyable and it was great watching my students being enthusiastic about learning taiko. I felt real joy in teaching. I only did performances when I was in Japan, but I feel fortunate that I can teach taiko here and perform with my students. Communication was a problem in the beginning. In Japan, we don’t use music scores to learn a piece. Rather we learn by listening and watching. So it was difficult to explain that to my students. There is a Japanese word “ma”, which means “a space between beats”. At times, not everyone is in sync with everyone else with this “ma”. I think it is hard to teach how to play harmoniously with each other. I come up with an idea when I’m having a bath, in the toilet or on an airplane, basically when I’m relaxed. The best time is half an hour after I’ve had a coffee. I really want my students to always play taiko with joy. Sometimes they become so serious as they try to remember a piece, but once you pass that stage and practise more, one day you’ll really enjoy playing taiko. Until then, I’d like my students to persevere and encourage each other. I believe you’ll truly enjoy playing with each other. It feels so good when everyone can produce one big sound rather than playing on your own. I hope we can share this joy of playing taiko together.

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