Tuesday, April 13, 2010

成田太鼓祭り (The Narita Drum Festival)

Last Saturday, I went to the Narita Drum Festival. It was awesome.

But, don't take my word for it. I have proof.

See? Dragons, drums, and (masked, shirtless) dudes. Awesome.

The Narita Taiko Masturi is one of (if not the) biggest Taiko events in all of Japan. It takes place in (duh) Narita, which you may recall is the city with the giant airport outside of Tokyo. It was about an hour, maybe forty-five minute trip from Nishi-funabashi Station. Basically it's just tons of performances all day by tons of different professional and amateur groups. Also, the temple(s) on Narita-san is (are) gorgeous.

True story: to preserve the history of the site, they keep all the old main-temple buildings when they decide that they need a new, bigger one. So to keep the structure in tact, they tie up the buildings with giant ropes and physically pull it (as in, with lots of human beings) to a new location. That's bad-ass.
Not only are the temple grounds huge (my pictures can't give a good depiction of the scale, unfortunately), it was the first time in the three weeks that I've been living in Japan that I had seen real nature. Look, a waterfall! 

Again, awesome.

Also, if you ever find yourself in Narita, be sure to get some eel. Narita is famous for it. And it is oh so delicious.
Anyway, taiko is the Japanese word for drums in general, so technically this might be better described as the 和太鼓 festival, the Japanese Drum festival. Taiko drums range in size, but they're most famous for the big-ass ones, like in the arcade game. Like this one:
(I wish I could get a closer shot, but I was far away and don't have the best camera. Still, you can see that this drum is MUCH larger than that guy.)

Taiko drum performances are really amazing to experience. It's not just about the music; it's about the performance: the bombast, the power, the choreography (yes, choreography). Even this amateur group, on one of the many smaller stages at two in the afternoon, blew my mind. Thank God I had the foresight to actually tape these performances and not just take pictures. Quality's not the best, unfortunately, I could only take it on my little digital camera:

Narita Drum Festival from wednesdayafternoonpicnic on Vimeo.

I enjoyed this festival so much that I decided to try and join a local taiko group. Apparently beginners (and foreigners) are welcome. My first practice is a three-hour session Saturday afternoon. Wish me luck!


  1. So exciting! I am so jealous of the taiko-group joining and the festival-experiencing in general! That`s really awesome; I hope you have a lot of fun! I`m sure it will be a great way to make friends.

    Is it hitsumabushi that you ate? If you like it you should have some if you come to Nagoya! Here there is a specific way of eating it (you mix the last of it with tea), so there are several places that deal specifically in hitsumabushi. I love eel. I think it is what roasted dragon would taste like.

  2. I'm not all that sure, but from what I can tell I don't think it is. Hitsumabushi looks like it's made of eel pieces, but ours were just eel filets in two halves. And I'm not sure if it was grilled, though it definitely had that delicious eel bbq sauce.

    The taiko club was awesome! It's only six people, and they're all like 30 - 50 year olds who just love doing it. They were super friendly even if I couldn't understand everything they said. They were very supportive even though I was new at it and couldn't communicate perfectly. They showed me a routine they did and said (I think) that it'll be my graduation exam before I leave in July. We'll see if they were just being nice or if I really can make that kind of progress.