The majority of my Wednesday nights here in Japan have been filled with taiko, a Japanese style of drumming. I haven't mentioned a lot about taiko (only here), mostly because I feel like I'm the weakest link when I go to the class. It's a bit embarrassing to have claimed to be a percussionist for upwards of five years (I was in drum line in junior high and part of high school, and yes, I've been to band camp -- don't judge me) and then to come to Japan and get yelled at for holding my drum sticks wrong. But, as would be expected given the fact that almost everything about Japan is different than what I'm used to, taiko isn't your average drumming experience.
Our sensei is approximately 137 years old, but keeps beat like a metronome, pounding away at his drum for the whole of our 90-minute class without even breaking a sweat. The rest of the students – mostly other foreigners, with a couple of brave Japanese ladies mixed in for good measure – takes constant breaks to apply Band-aids to their hands when the drumming-induced blisters start to form after about 15 minutes of hammering away. We're such rookies.
Sensei alternates between barking at us and complimenting us in Japanese, which we somehow understand, and then invariably yells at me for holding my sticks wrong. I hold them like I'm playing a snare, which requires tight and precise movement from the wrist, instead of like I'm playing a taiko drum, which requires wild, theatric movements of the entire arm. What can I say? It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. But since sensei is 137 and I'm only 28, he doesn't seem to find that excuse amusing.
We had our last official taiko practice last week, and I brought my camera to document the experience. I'll miss those humbling Wednesday night classes, and my arms will miss the workout – though I doubt my hands will miss all of those blisters.