Thoughts on the Art of Taiko

Akira Oshima

I first began performing taiko at the Grand Dedication Ceremony of Meishusama Hall in Misono on December 23, 1982. I was among those who performed at the "One-Hundred-Drums" ceremony or "Momo-daiko" at that memorable event. It was encouraging to see so many young people like myself gathered from all over Japan to play the drums. At that time, I was the only drummer from Niigata.

A half a year before, I attended the pilgrimage delegation and was very much moved by the presence of Kaishusama and Mikotosama. I recall them with their hands clasped as they listened to my testimonial. I knew then that I wanted to do something very special to honor them.

During Shumei's propagation efforts in August of that year, I witnessed some miraculous happenings. Two of them I remember well. There was a blind old lady whose sight was restored when I gave her Jyorei. Another elderly woman with rheumatism so bad that she could not sit found that she was limber enough to do so after receiving Jyorei. I realized that those two ladies' happiness also was my happiness and I came to believe in God and the world of the spirit. Soon after, I left my job and through Shumei began to follow the path to which God had led me.

The next year, soon after coming to Misono, I was sent to practice taiko with Ondekoza, a very famous taiko group in Nagasaki. After a year and a half of refining my skills under Ondekoza's hard discipline, I returned to Misono to become part of Shinji Shumeikai's new taiko ensemble. After coming in touch with Misono's special environment again and feeling Kaishusama's spirit (which permeates that sacred place), I made up my mind once and for all to dedicate all of my life to Shumei.

At first, the Shumei Taiko Ensemble only had three drummers and three drums. We gave no concerts for the first ten years. Looking back, I think the reason I could stand not performing in public for ten years was that I came to Misono not just to play taiko but also to do hoshi. Hoshi kept me going.

Our Ensemble's whole purpose is to serve God by playing the drums. This is at the core of our group's spirit. I know that it is especially difficult to completely give one's body and soul not only on stage but also in one's daily life. It is something very hard to achieve in just a lifetime. Just as Kaishusama has dedicated all of her life to God, we also must be dedicated. We must devote ourselves to the spirituality in our art and in our personal lives. Even if this seems an impossible goal to reach no matter how hard we try, we must try nonetheless.

So far, for me our most impressive performances have been the concerts we gave at the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, and those in New York at the United Nations. The more I look back at myself, the more I see my own imperfections and the more fear I feel when performing for people who have an elevated sense of spirituality. At such times, I prayed to God, "Please, use my body." Then, I played with just one thought in mind: I want Kaishusama, Mikotosama, and Kaicho-Sensei to find pleasure in my playing. I want to be more like Kaishusama but, no matter how hard I train, this is still very difficult.

Even though we have experienced only a few concerts, we have met many wonderful people and have learned a lot from them. I especially cannot forget the shining eyes of the children when we played in South Africa. It is a treasure to have met and performed for so many wonderful people, people with great souls and pure hearts.

"My goal is to have a spirit and presence that touches people deeply even before I begin to play, when I simply am standing before my drum. I want to elevate my character both through taiko and through living my daily life so that I can contribute to world peace by beating the drum."

I know that Kaishusama's presence touches people deeply. They are touched by her spirituality. I would like to have such a spirit. To achieve this, I feel it is necessary to train hard every day. I want to be worthy enough for God to use me. My desire is to have God work through me not only when I play taiko but also when I do hoshi, when I run, train, and live my daily life, so that my life itself will be a path to God.

Taiko moves people. Beyond that, taiko is a way that I am able to feel God.