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Taiko Drumming in a Different Light

Imagine sitting in anticipation for a performance. The room is dark and all is quiet. You know what’s about to happen, but you’re not quite sure what to expect as this is your first time ever having witnessed a traditional performance. Suddenly, a loud bang of a bellowing drum demands your attention. The next thing you know, you are overcome with a sense of wonder and enjoyment as the ensemble of drums play out a wonderful story before you, and you remain captivated, never wanting the drumming to stop.

This was my experience while watching the brilliant performance of the Zuiho Taiko Drummers.

Taiko Drumming is generally known as an ancient form of percussion playing with a set of drums that tend to range in size, and is performed with specific choreographed motion.

I was formally introduced to the Zuiho Taiko Drumming group with a documentary that captured their everyday lives and common struggle to master the art of Taiko Drumming. I learned that they are actually a group of performers with mental disabilities that, instead of living in a care facility, they work to integrate themselves into society by living on their own, with the additional support of neighbors and care-professionals. That being said, their dream is to be able to achieve happiness thorough sustaining a family and finding their way as strong individuals. The drummers find strength in their drumming - the one thing they are 100% sure to give their full effort in without letting their mental disability get in the way. For me, this is the ordinary trying to doing something extraordinary because it exhibits a kind of dedication and passion that those without mental disabilities may not ever be able to relate to, much less exhibit themselves. The willingness to work hard and prove to others that, despite this label of being "disabled" there is something that they can persevere in.

After having watched the documentary, I had the chance to see the group perform live. There was something magical that happened. Despite my language barrier and despite their disabilities, I was able to fully enjoy the music and the enthusiasm displayed by these wonderful individuals. The rhythmic beat of the drums synchronized with my emotions and my heart, and I was moved to feel their excitement, their rush of energy. It's amazing that a traditional medium such as Taiko Drumming could connect us in such a way.



This got me thinking more about the ways in which Japan functions as a society. First off, I can’t speak with authority on any issues related to society and disabilities; I can only give my opinion, and because of this experience, I am motivated to share my thoughts on what I have seen and think. Therefore, the comparisons I am making here between Japan and the U.S. are limited to my personal account only.

Now, there are various things that I've noticed while in Tokyo. For example, it seems that the entire city is mapped out with a special pathway for those with visual impairment so that they can walk - a yellow strip with embossed spheres fit into a particular pattern that indicates at what part of the sidewalk they are. So, for example, there are different embossed designs for when they are walking along a straight path and when they come to an intersection. Furthermore, I've also noticed the braille system on the top of soda cans.

It's these little things that make me think more and more about how Japan takes care of, in these examples, those with visual impairments, and in general, those with disabilities. Though I have yet to look further into it, it's still an interesting thing to notice because of the difference it highlights. Major cities, such as New York City, do not seem to have anything in terms of a special walk-way in place, but they do use the braille system fairly often, and I am sure there are specific rules and regulations to assist them that are similar to that of Japan.

While I can't draw conclusions in regards to which is better, I can say that I am fond of that specific method the Japanese have in terms of commuting in Tokyo. Way to go!




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