Taiko, Samurai warriors and Satoyama Cycling! Let’s experience Japanese culture

Try Taiko drumming, appealing to all for its powerful performance

One of the traditional musical instruments in Japan is the Taiko. You hit the Japanese drum, made of a cowhide stretched over a frame made of a hollowed-out tree trunk, with wooden thick sticks. They are played in events and festivals, so you may see them during your trip in Japan. Today, we visited TAIKO-LAB, which offers trial lessons of Japanese drum in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Sendai.

Basic Practice

The person taking a trial lesson is Fanny Fernandes from France. She says she has seen a documentary of Taiko on TV before and has been interested in it. The lecturer is Aoi Miyasako, who has taught Taiko drumming for more than 20 years and also works as a professional performer.

The lesson started with an explanation of the basic posture and the way to hit the drums. Spread your legs wider than your shoulders, bend your knees a little and hit the drum using the power of all of your body. She hit the drum, but her sound is different from that of her teacher. After receiving the advice from her teacher to hit the drum by bouncing the sticks against the drum with out-stretched elbows, her sound of the drum became clearer and clearer.

Rhythm Practice

First, she repeated the process of hitting with one hand after another and shouting “Ha” every time she hit. Then she practiced playing the drum with the teacher to the rhythm of quarter note, controlling the volume of the sound and making a high-pitch sound by hitting the rim of the drum. After going through the basic practice only, Fanny said with excitement, “Just like calligraphy that I experienced before, Taiko drumming is simple but deep. This is a lot of fun.”

Performance

Lastly, she performed a little long song, combining all the rhythms that she had learned so far. She was confused with the change in rhythms, but performed beautifully until the end. Fanny was very satisfied with the lesson saying, “What’s good about this is that you can face and see your teacher when playing, so you don’t need to understand Japanese. I’m happy to feel that I am making progress. I definitely want to take my friends to the trial when they come to Japan!”

Performing the drums

TAIKO-LAB “Wadaiko Activity”

Studios: Tokyo (Aoyama and Asakusa), Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Sendai
* See website for the location of the studios

Duration: 60 min.

Fee: 30,000 yen flat fee for under 6 people, 5,000 yen per person for a group of more than 7 people

Reservation: Accepted from their website

Other places offering trial lessons of Taiko drumming

Samurai Kembu (sword dance) to learn Japanese history and spirit

Samurai Kembu Theater

Not only just wearing the costume but I want to learn the samurai way from the spirit to the action! There is a place that helps to make such a dream come true. At Samurai Kembu Theater in Kyoto, you can learn the original spirits of samurai including “having a strong belief” “living manfully” and “being responsible for your speech and behavior” and experience the unique movement of samurai.

The lesson starts from the basic content such as how to bow. Then you choose a Japanese sword (safe one made for sword dance) that fits your body type and practice holding, drawing, cutting and putting it back into the sheath. You learn that every movement has a meaning and there is a beautiful way to move.

A scene during the lesson
A scene during the trial lesson

After learning the basic movements, it’s time to put on a costume. Once you choose your favorite one out of more than 10 types of costumes, the lesson of Kembu (sword dance) finally starts. You complete the dance with the teacher to traditional Japanese music. Be a samurai in your mind and body for about 1 minute and enjoy the experience unique to Japan. You can enjoy taking a photo at the end with a good-looking pose. Keep the image of yourself in an extraordinary outfit for your memory!

Samurai Kembu Trial

Venue: Neo Art Bldg BF, Higashi-iru, Sanjo-Hanamikoji, 35-7 Sanchome, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture

Hours: 1-2 hours from 11:00am/2:00pm/6:00pm on Monday – Saturday
*See website for the details of the trial schedule

Fee: Costume included 7,000 yen and up, No costume included 4,000 yen and up *Before and after a trial, model demonstration by an instructor is available (duration:1 hour, additional fee required)

Reservation: Accepted from their website

Other places offering trial lessons of Samurai Kembu

See the original scenery of Japan in Satoyama Cycling

Satoyama Cycling

Traditional Japanese houses quietly standing in the peaceful nature of grass fields and rice and vegetable fields. Satoyama Cycling, where you bike around the traditional Satoyama (countryside mountains), is becoming more and more popular now.

A scene from Satoyama
Visiting old Japanese-style houses

We will introduce “SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE” in Hida City in Gifu Prefecture as one example. The typical standard tour is 22 km long (13 miles), which takes about 3 and a half hours to finish. This is a course that takes you from Hida Furukawa old town to beautiful countryside mountains. You can see the market with a long history, old Japanese-style houses with nostalgic atmosphere, rice fields and surrounding mountains, and feel the life in the countryside directly.

There are also a variety of options such as an easier tour which takes about 2 and a half hours. Rental bikes are also available. Nature in Japan which changes greatly in each season and the culture created by people who live appreciating the wisdom of nature, are filled with new discoveries and joy every time you visit.

SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE

Address: 8-11 Ninomachi, Furukawa-cho, Hida City, Gifu Prefecture

Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm *See website for the starting time of each tour

Fee: Standard tour 7,300 yen

Reservation: Accepted from the website

Other places offering Satoyama Cycling

You should be able to find the deep beauty of Japan by not just seeing but actually experiencing it. Why don’t you try some of these trial programs when you visit Japan next time?