Monday, January 9, 2012


What is "Japanese" in your group and when does it matter?

- Costuming

What you wear gives sends your audience a message, but what they see may not be what you intend. What does your costume/outfit say about your group? Do you wear happi, obi, tabi, hachimaki? If you wear even more traditional Japanese garb, is it because you're trying to present a very Japanese visage and style? If you only wear a few of these pieces, is it out of convenience, or budget restrictions, or...? Does what you wear support or go against the message of your group?

- Song titles

I mentioned this before, but of the songs I've composed by myself, I've never given one a Japanese title. It's not that I'm against doing so, but I prefer to name a song whatever feels best. Often, a Japanese word doesn't capture what I'm trying to get at. What about your songs? Is a Japanese name the first thing you think of? Why? Do you feel you need to give it a Japanese name because your group prefers it?

- Other instruments

Even though the difference between kane and atarigane may be slight, the difference between hyotan and shekere is not. Just as we would hope other people using taiko would at least know what they are playing, we should understand and respect the other instruments we appropriate into our music.

- Media

I remember at the first "Non-Japanese players in taiko" Discussion Session at NATC, a Caucasian woman said people would request Asian players at gigs (or be confused when non-Asians showed up). This is ignorance on the requester's part, but it made me wonder what the group's website and press info portrayed. If you have a lot of Asian faces on the website but present several non-Asians at a performance, can you really be surprised when there's confusion? What do your pictures, videos, and general web presence say about your group from the outside?

- Japanophiles

There are people who really identify with Japanese sensibilities. But not ALL sensibilities. Each and every one of us choose what we follow and what we don't. Perspective is important to realize this especially when people take a superior attitude on being "more" of something than others. Does being into anime and J-pop make someone "more" Japanese than someone who's into karate and taiko? Does being born in Japan bring more authority to anything? How would you quantify any of that? Being "more Japanese" is not only irrelevant to credibility, it's impossible to measure!


Some of these topics are more sensitive than others, but if we shy away from them, we only invite ignorance. The more we understand, the better choices we can make!

Football (2006 FIFA World Cup Germany) by Hisashi Tenmyouya

1 comment:

  1. Good questions! This may not be discussed or acknowledged openly, but it can affect group dynamics a lot.