The city of Masumoto in Nagano prefecture, about 170 km north of Tokyo, is home to one of the most complete and beautiful original castles in Japan, which is used as the backdrop for the annual ‘taiko’, or Japanese drum, festival.
The two-day event, which is one of the largest of its kind in Japan, features some of the top amateur taiko bands from across the country.
Although there are several venues scattered around the city, the highlight is the 3.5-hour concert held in the garden grounds of Matsumoto castle itself from 5.30pm through to 9pm. Needless, to say its an absolutely spectacular sight and sound!!!
The bands playing range across all ages, including this fantastic group of primary school kids aged 7-11 from Hyogo prefecture.
This group of junior high school kids from Aichi prefecture were also absolutely brilliant!
The event is perhaps not as big as the one held in Narita, but its setting of course makes it in many ways even more spectacular.
The event culminates with a performance by the only professional taiko group, the world-famous Ondekoza (‘demon drum group’) originally from the island of Sado, which is famous for its annual week-long taiko festival held every August.
Ondekoza believe that taiko and running are synonymous and start every day with a 10-km run. They became globally famous after playing a full concert immediately on completing the Boston marathon.
The group spent 3 years (1990–1993) running and performing around the United States, beginning and ending their journey with performances at Carnegie Hall in New York. At the end of the journey the members had run approximately 14,900 km.
Similarly, in 1998, the group began a marathon tour of China, performing in various cities throughout the country while running a distance of 12,500 km.
Taiko is fast becoming one of my favourite genres of music and an immediate priority will be to do some proper research on where the other big taiko festivals in Japan are! I’ll happily travel to anywhere in Japan to see a good taiko show!
The weekend was also interesting, albeit frustrating, as it really showed me what I am doing wrong when in comes to taking videos, especially with a still camera! I hope the lessons learnt will lead to an improvement in my video-ing skills!
Some more clips for whoever is interested: