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5 Things You may not know about Taiko Drumming

March 7, 2019

Japanese Taiko drumming group Yamato, posed ferociously around many drums

The art of Taiko drumming was first introduced into Japan in 6th Century CE and has remained an important part of the culture and tradition ever since. Here are a few facts you might not know about Taiko.

It’s a lifestyle

Performing with immense power and their mouths wide, Japanese Taiko drummers pounds on their great big drums
Yamato © Masa Ogawa

Taiko drummers must remain in peak physical condition to maintain the skill and the stamina required to deliver intense and high-energy performances. The Yamato drummers train ferociously, running ten kilometres every morning before rehearsals. Taiko is more closely related to dance than you might think, as the drummers follow choreographed routines and use their entire bodies.

It featured in the soundtrack to Isle of Dogs

Atmospheric Taiko drumming underpins the score to Wes Anderson’s 2018 movie Isle of Dogs, composed by Brooklyn based composer and musician, Kaoru Watanabe, who specialises in Japanese percussion and shinobue flutes. The film was subsequently nominated for Best Original Score in the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

Taiko Drumming is good for your health

Japanese Taiko drumming group Yamato pose around their drums, holding big drumsticks, smiling with their mouths open wide in excitement
Yamato © Masa Ogawa

There are many studies linking a daily dose of drumming to positive health benefits and well-being. Evidence suggests that it can reduce blood pressure, improve cognitive function, reduce pain and prevent depression and emotional disorders. Some groups practise therapeutic drumming to achieve mindfulness and as a form of meditation.

It has origins in Japanese folklore

Performing with immense power and their mouth wide, Japanese Taiko drummer pounds on a great big drum
Yamato © Masa Ogawa

One of the oldest books in Japanese classical history, the Nihon Shoki, describes the origins of Taiko. The myth tells the story of Amaterasu, who had sealed herself inside a cave in anger and was beckoned out by an elder goddess Ame-no-Uzume when others had failed. Ame-no-Uzume accomplished this by emptying out a barrel of sake and dancing on top of it. Historians regard her performance as the mythological creation of Taiko music!

The biggest Okedo-Daiko drum weights 3.5 tons

A photo taken from behind a Japanese Taiko drummer, drumming on a great big drum
Yamato © Masa Ogawa

Found at Odaiko Hall in Kita-Akita, Akita, Japan, the world’s largest Taiko drum measures 3.8 metres long and only the most experienced drummers are allowed to play it. Originally, drums of this scale were created to mimic the sound of thunder in the hope that they would bring rain to reward villagers living off their land.