Thoughts on the Art of Taiko
Toshiyuki Shimada

I did not have much interest in taiko before becoming a taiko student in 1995. But after studying for three years, I seriously came to consider serving God by playing taiko at Misono, and so I applied for membership. It was in May of my second year at Misono that I was accepted as a member of the Ensemble.

My most vivid memory of a performance involves one that took place at Osaka. It was the first time I played in public. Also, I have very strong memories of my first solo performances. They took place in Sapporo and Sendai in 2001. Until then, I had played in the background by following the older members of the Ensemble. But eventually the time came for me to do it alone. And I simply could not. As much as I was trained and encouraged by the more seasoned members, whenever it came time for me to practice my solo I became so sick that I could hardly stand. All my skills abandoned me. In a way, I felt that I was not prepared, that I must experience much more hard practice before I could be ready to go on the stage. At last, Tosha Sensei, our Music Director, gave me some very good advice. "You still have fear", he said. "Let go of that fear by beating the drum." The problem was that I knew that a performer's whole character and life appears on stage when he plays, and I felt that my own life was still too shallow.

These days, I enjoy playing the flute and I play it for fun. Yet, when I compare myself to the older players, I have to admit that my sound does not have their depth. Therefore, I am trying to accumulate as much experience through hard practice as I can so that one day I will reach their level.

I used to feel nothing but arrogance toward taiko students younger than myself. But in the course of teaching high school and junior high students, I have gained a good deal of compassion for them. I realize now that, like I was at their age, they too have a precious faith. I also realize that if I care as much for these youngsters as I was fortunate enough to be cared for when I was their age, they will grow up to work for the well-being of others. As for me, taiko has opened a mind that was once very closed. Taiko brings me spiritual depth.

Sometime in my life, I want to play God's sound, with either the drum or the flute. I want to feel as if I have become God's instrument. I assume that I will know when I make such a sound. I will know it instantly. If my heart is pure enough, I can do it.