12 Jan Hello from Emily in Japan!
2024 HET Greetings from Emily
Ho Etsu Taiko
Hello Ho Etsu People and Happy New Year! Emily here! The group is revving up for a big performance on February 17th as part of Illinois College’s Fine Arts Series featuring new arrangements and pieces. What better excuse to get out of the city and breathe some country air than a HET show! FEB 17th Concert
For the past year and some change, I’ve been studying, watching, practicing, performing, and teaching taiko in Japan, studying primarily under Kaoly Asano of Gocoo and Tawoo Dojo. What led me here was a desire to understand why people like you, myself, and other taiko people continue to be drawn to the drum.
I met Kaoly san in 2019 at the KaDON Retreat. Within 3 days, she managed to create trust amongst a large group of strangers to the point of openly crying while playing taiko. I couldn’t understand what had happened, but perhaps studying with Kaoly san could lead me to understand the depths of what taiko can do.
Through Kaoly san, the teachings of my former taiko teachers and mentors in America, and friends in Japan, I’ve gotten to experience historical and relatively new festivals across the country. And if you’ve been to MBT’s Ginza festival, you can see that festivals are a critical component to what makes “wadaiko.” I’ve visited many Shinto and Buddhist shrines, another place you find wadaiko, and on the flipside, seen avant garde approaches that youtube videos can’t quite capture. However, 1-2 years is quite a short amount of time and I can’t say I’ve “found the answer” to the depths of taiko, but I can confidently say that there is no “right” answer.
I can also say that I’m excited to return this year and start up classes again. There is only 1 Kaoly Asano, so I won’t make you cry, but I hope I can help lead you to have fun and facilitate your connection to the depths of taiko.
In the meantime, you can check out my substack for lengthy stories and updates: https://taiko.substack.com/
One quick story to leave you with. Whenever I travel outside of Tokyo, I always bring my shinobue (Japanese bamboo flute). I really enjoy practicing outside alone on the beach or in a forest. Although it may sound magical, I’m so new to the instrument that it’s a bit painful to listen to. Recently, I was on top of a hill overlooking Mt. Fuji and the ocean, and a young couple came up to me. They requested I play, despite explaining how new I am. They were very encouraging, but their smiles were so forced while I was playing, I was embarrassed for them! Although my pride was cracked, it was a good learning experience to recognize what I need to work on.
Hopefully you can find some applicable encouragement and perhaps even a smile with this story!
Happy New Year, and hope to see you sometime in 2024!
Much love, Emily Harada (below are some photos of my experiences – enjoy!)