In the Noto peninsula region of Japan, taiko is often accompanied by mask dancing.   It is said that centuries ago taiko was used in this area to frighten away unwelcome visitors from villages.

Groups in small towns sometimes have their own unique base rhythm which they use to accompany the festival performances.

The Kodo drummers of Sado island (the Japan Sea off Niigata prefecture) live an almost temple-like life dedicated to the mastery of taiko.  Their performances are demonstrations of incredible strength and intensity.  The Kodo drummers perform in a minimalist style with little onstage decoration aside from the drums themselves.
Each year they host a festival called Earth Celebration, bringing drummers from around the world to collaborate in fusion performaces.

More on Taiko
More on Kodo
More on Earth Celebration


Japanese Taiko Drumming
In the folklore of Japan, Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, was angry at her brother and retreated into a cave, denying the world her light.  The sundry gods gathered together and played taiko to make her curious about what was going on outside the cave.  When she emerged, they rushed behind her and closed off the cave so that she could never deny the world her light again. 

Taiko are the deepest sounding drums in the world because of their sheer size.  In the shape of a barrel measuring up to two meters in length, their sound inspires a spiritual awe because of their engulfing sound as well as the stern and even martial rhythms that are played on them.  Taiko is usually stressed on the downbeat and often accompanied by fast two or three beat base rhythms. 

Taiko is traditionally played at harvest festivals with two or more drummers contributing improvised rhythms against the base beat.