Properly speaking, this drum is called Sarugaku taiko, and is widely used in Noh, Nagauta and Kagura. This drum entered Japan with Gigaku from the Korean kingdom of Kudara long ago in the Asuka period. Then it was used in Dengaku and Sarugaku and then underwent various changes with the beginning of Noh and became an essential part of the Noh ensemble. In the Edo period, together with the other instruments of the Noh flute and percussion ensemble, it became an important part of Nagauta and other popular music forms. It is only used in some Noh plays, but when it is used, it only is played in the climactic final half of the play to create an exciting effect.


The body of the instrument is made of zekova, pine or on occasion sendan or Japanese bead tree. It is shaped like a tube with the center portion slightly larger than the read. The diameter at the edges is 25.5 cm. while the slightly larger portion in the center has a diameter of 27 cm., and the body is 14.5 cm. high. It is lacquered and sometimes it is very elaborately decorated. The skin is horse skin stretched on an iron frame. The skin is 35 cm. in diameter and around the circumference, is lacquered for about 4.5 cm. In the very center, where the drum is struck, there is a small circle 4 cm. in diameter of deer skin. There are eight holes around the drum skin and heavy cords called shirabe are used to tie the skins to the body of the instrument. The usual color for these cords is red-orange, but in the Edo period, certain famous players of this drum were allowed to use purple cords.


In the past the drum was held by one person while another played it, but now a wooden stand is used. The drum is played with relatively thick sticks.