Taiko Drum Culture Bringing All the Islands Together!

Japan has many islands and each of those islands has a unique culture that has taken root there. The organization Aogashima Kanju Taiko deals with initiatives for the Tokyo Treasure Islands Acceleration Program to create core fans via Aogashima’s regional culture.

Kanju taiko is not simply a Shinto ritual or a festival but has a history that ties in closely with the daily lives of the people there in the regional culture of the island. Kanju taiko has its roots in neighboring island Hachijojima’s Hachijo taiko. Hachijo taiko has similarities with Kanju taiko such as being developed from the daily entertainment of the people or that there were a lot of women who were the drummers for the longest time. Both taiko styles include two people per taiko drum. On one side of the drum, one person creates the rhythm by hitting the lower part of the drum and the other person on the other side of the drum creates an improvised performance by hitting the upper half. It’s a style that resembles a conversation between two people, promoting communication and cooperation between people of all ages such as children to adults.

On February 26th, 2023, a cultural exchange event for regional performing arts of Aogashima was held in the multipurpose event hall in Aogashima Village Elementary and Junior High School. The organization “Aogashima Kanju Taiko” hosted the event to pass on taiko drum culture on the island. The cultural exchange event consisted of traditional folk music and dance and was held to pass on traditional performance art from the island to the younger generations. Yoshio Okuyama, a representative from start ups that were founded with this purpose in mind, such as Aogashima Regional Performance Arts Preservation Society and Hachijo Taiko Yosare Society, invited everyone from Hachijo-jima to join in to create an opportunity where people participate in cultural exchange via performance arts.

(Aogashima Kanju Taiko Performance) (Hachijo Yosare Society Performance) (Aogashima Regional Performance Arts Preservation Society, traditional folk song and dance)

The event was a great success, attracting over half of the island’s population with around 70 or more people in attendance and was held for an hour and a half. Both children and adults enjoyed the powerful performances by Aogashima Kanju Taiko and Hachijo Taiko Yosare Society. The venue was filled with enthusiasm and applause. The Aogashima Regional Performance Arts Preservation Society performed traditional song and dance which have been designated as intangible treasures by Tokyo. Voices singing “choishiccho!” could be heard throughout the venue and the performers and visitors came together in this cultural exchange event.

(The last traditional folk dance)

All the visitors surveyed at the end of the event said they would like to learn more about regional performance arts from the island through regional performance arts cultural exchange events on the island. This answer demonstrates that the efforts and passion of the performers and staff from Aogashima Kanju Taiko, Aogashima Regional Performance Arts Preservation Society and Hachijo Taiko Yosare Society have touched the hearts of the visitors.

Aogashima Kanju Taiko is determined to cultivate regional performance arts culture using cultural exchange events such as these. This exchange event was particularly important as it was held after COVID-19 and allowed for ties with the region to deepen further.