This semester I participated in a taiko group, Japanese drumming, based at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. While a little apprehensive, the group definitely welcomed me, as well as the two other KCJS students that participated along with me this semester.
Although I had participated in my college’s taiko group and had a little experience in playing taiko, I was unsure at first as to how this group would differ in comparison. The group members, who range from middle school students to adults, made us feel welcome and a part of the group, although there were definitely awkward moments where I was not sure what to say or how best to help. While we would play together and interact during practice or performances, the group would always make an effort to include us in dinners or other events after performances. It was strange, at first, to not have many group members in the college age-range, but it was a good experience to leave the university atmosphere and have the chance to interact with people of different ages. It was also interesting to observe the differences in language between different group members, such as the children who always used casual form, and the very formal interactions that occurred between the group and the people working at the shrine.
While the time spent playing on the drums and interacting with the group members was worthwhile, the lack of a consistent practice schedule, coupled with a large number of performances, meant that I did not get to participate as fully as I would have liked. Because the other members already had a good grasp of the songs, there were multi-week gaps between practices so it was harder to learn songs and become part of the group. In addition, even though we were able to perform a song in a few performances, I did not feel very confident; I would have greatly benefited from more practice. Still, it was nice to feel included and interact with the members of the group and audience and have the unique experience of entering the shrine before each performance. The group still has one more performance and a year-end party, so I am looking forward to having another opportunity to perform and talk with the members.