Long ago in Japan, taikos were used for festivities, religion, in theatre, among others; but it was also used to communicate between villages, to set their boundaries or even to notify town about storms or the coming of somebody important. It was also used to intimidate the enemy and also to transmit information.
“The biggest drums with the lowest tones were used to signal when to attack, and the metallic ones or the ones with a more tremble high pitch, once it was time to retreat”.
In feudal times (Sengoku period), taikos were also used in battles to intimidate the enemy, give orders and coordinate the troop positioning, like in many other cultures. The only thing you could hear in the field was its sound.
According to Daihachi Oguchi from Osuwa Daiko, about four thousand years ago, in the Jomon age, the taiko was used to indicate the different activities been held in the village. Simple strikes would indicate that the hunters were back or that a storm was coming and that women needed to bring meat and fruits. While there is no physical evidence to support this believes, Megumi Ochi, Taiko Kan (Drum Museum) curator, thinks this might be true given that in other cultures the same behavior can be noticed. This signals, this indications, were highly important for the developing of everyday life.
The official in charge was called “Yaku”, generally he would mark six steps per beat. According to Gunji Yoshu, nine series of five strikes would call an ally to battle, while nine compasses in three would mean to advance and persecute the enemy.
These days we can appreciate a taiko that was used in battle by the legendary Takeda Shingen (head of the Kai clan in the Sengoku period) at the Museum of Osuwa Daiko, at Nagano prefecture, alongside his armors, katanas and other weapons.
Photo: Osuwa Daiko Museum- Taiko, armor y weapons used by Takeda Shingen.
All of us inherited our ancestors’ history, their culture and habits which are part of our roots and a great part of our identity. My family did not only gave me my aspect, my last name, my customs and my Japanese-Okinawan culture, but also gave me a story that followed my family for a long time and that was one of the main reasons why we came to Argentina.
Just by hearing this story it is inevitable for me to shed a tear, this my grandparents and aunts history:
“When we were in Japan, there already where economic problems, father look for different job offers in different cities, but we also knew a war was coming ahead, we just didn’t know when exactly. So he embarked and headed to another country to keep us away from all the problems, that’s how he got to Argentina, a country in which he worked for the longest time to get my mother, my sister and I, tickets to be there with him.
Time when by and along came the war, the air raid sirens and taikos started to play in our village, I remember my uncles had enlist to defend our country, they were “kamikazes” and “yakus”, and when I say Yaku I mean those that led the troops and coordinate them with a taiko. Taikos were not always use for celebrations. As regards taiko and the war… that’s all I remember as once it started, my sister and I were separated and sheltered with different aunts in different places. It was really hard as we did not know if everybody was fine, a long time went by before we met again. It was really hard to go through all of that, but I think we could make it through, later on and with time, we were able to form a great family in Argentina”.
This is my mother’s older sister’s story, my other aunt was affected by war, but luckily it was not too bad. They are both currently in a good health and happy, each with their own family. This is the story I inherited.
“El Taiko como elemento disuasivo en batalla” Maria Marta Bassús.
Author: Gabriela Wakugawa (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
This article was written on: November 3th, 2014
Original language of this article: Spanish
Original article: Taiko en el campo de batalla
Translator to English: Romina Roldán (Rosario, Argentina)
Native English Editor: Ai Matsuda (Tokyo, Japan)
Author: Gabriela Wakugawa
– Member of Shinzui Daiko (Buenos Aires, Argentina) since May 2013.