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Japanese Culture Notes

Mt. Fuji at sunset


Kimono Origami
Poetry Taiko

Japanese linked verse is a unique genre of poetry. Usually 2 or 3 poets would get together to write it. Each one wrote several lines, here in groups of twos and threes. Each consencutive set of 2 stanzas constitutes a poem. Thus some start with a 2 line stanza and some with 3. The stanzas are written with a theme in common with the preceeding making many poems from a few stanzas. These poems are part of a set of 100 verses written in the first moon of 1488 at Minase, as part of an observance at the shrine. (Please note: I do not know the name of the person that translated this poetry. It definitly wan't me.)

Cherry Blossoms in front of a castle

Snow yet remaining,
The mountain slopes are misty-
An evening in spring.

Far away the water flows
Past the plum-scented village.

In the river breeze
The willow trees are clustered.
Spring is appearing.

The sound of a boat being poled
Clear in the clear moring light.

The moon! does it still
Over fog-enshrouded fields
Linger in the sky?

Meadows carpeted in frost-
Autumn has drawn to a close.

Heedless of the wishes
Of piping insects,
The grasses wither.
Have you heard any taiko drums? I highly suggest it. Recently, I went to a performance of Kodo, here in town, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The musicianship of the performers was supurb. A bit of taiko history can be found here. The word taiko is actually a generic term for "drum" in Japanese. There are many different types of taiko, just as there are many different Western drums. Kodo has been instrumental in making the O-Daiko drum famous. O-Daiko drums are rather large: sometimes as much as 6 feet in diameter. They can be played by one or two performers. In the performance I watched, it was played by 2.
O-Daiko drummer
In addition to the O-Daiko, another drum that we saw at the Kodo concet was the Shime Daiko. This is a very small drum, the head being only 14 to 16 inches in diameter. The interesting thing about Shime Daiko is that they are tunable. Traditionally this is done with ropes around them, but it can be done with bolts. Kodo placed these drums on the floor and sat behind them, cross-legged. They were used in most of the songs we heard, but the most impressive use of them was a piece using only Shime Daiko. 7 drummers sat in a row accross the front of the stage, each with drums apparently tuned to a very slightly different pitch. The interplay between the taiko and the absolute control over volume was amazing. It was probably the best display of musicanship I have ever witnessed!
Shime Daiko


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Last updated Monday 20 May 2003.
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