Taiko is the name for the small round stick drum used in Noh and Kabuki and the large stick drum that plays such an important role in Kabuki sound effects. But there are many other traditions of stick drum ranging from the signals in Sumo and Kabuki, to festival drums, and to the enormous drums played with great vigor in the newer performances of Japanese percussion well known around the world. This section of the website features types of taiko stick drum outside of the theater.


In the Edo period, all kinds of signals in society were transmitted by sound. For example, bells or drums were used as fire alarms. Theater performances and Sumo matches were announced by the use of a drum. These drum patterns are still an important part of both genres with one pattern to attract the audience before the beginning of the performance and another one to mark the end of the performance and to send the audience home. See also JTRAD 060 and 061 for examples of the singing style used to announce Sumo bouts.

Yobidashi Caller Nagao (Drum)


There is a rich tradition of traveling performers and nominally Shinto performances in Japan and the percussion from these genres helped to create the various types of music for festivals in the city of Edo. Patterns with names like "Yatai," "Shoden," "Shichome" and "Kamakura" are combined in various ways to create the exhilarating atmosphere of a festival.

Percussion ensemble led by Matsumoto Gennosuke


This is one of traditions of Shishi Kagura passed down in the village of Nibo on Sado Island. Ondeko is the kind of playing of drums presented at the Sanno festival at the Hiyoshi shrine in Nibo on April 14. The men of the village have passed down the technique of playing. Two players strike a large drum at the same time, with different rhythms. There is a great variety of patterns and gradually the music builds to a very exciting climax.

Youth Group from Nibo village, Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture


This is a new piece performed by a percussion ensemble established in 1972 in Kurashiki. Kurashiki is famous for preserving many Edo period buildings including great white storehouses. Tenryo Daiko is the name of the group and of their signature piece that evokes a historical episode when heavily loaded boats from Kurashiki struggled and fought to reach Osaka to supply the battle over Osaka castle at the beginning of the Edo period. It expresses the images of the sound of the battle drums echoing through the white walls of the city, the river filled with supply boats, the white storehouses of Kurashiki reflected in the water and the cool autumn breeze.

Tenryo Percussion Ensemble from Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture


Okinawa has a rich performance tradition that is very different from the rest of Japan, a legacy of centuries as an independent kingdom heavily influenced by China. Zammpa is a peninsula jutting out into the East China Sea. This percussion music celebrates the lion spirit that protects the islands of Okinawa.

Zammpa Lion Percussion Ensemble