iEXPerience Program: Wadaiko with Yamanashi High School Students

iCLA students took a visit to Yamanashi Pref. Nirasaki Technical High School for a Wadaiko experience with the Taiko Club.

Yamanashi high school students demonstrate wadaiko.

On May 13, 25 iCLA students visited Nirasaki Technical High School’s famed Taiko Club to learn about the art of Japanese drums, the Wadaiko. Nirasaki Technical High School’s Taiko Club has received numerous awards for their performances and regularly performs on-stage for events in Nirasaki City and around Yamanashi Prefecture. Formed in 2000, the club is trained by top-level Wadaiko masters and iCLA students had the exceptional chance to experience Wadaiko with them.

This iEXPerience Program event was organized with Interdisciplinary Arts professor of music, Dr. Mike Blow. Dr. Blow’s students who have a special interest in performance and music also joined to assist on the trip. Before arriving at the high school, Dr. Blow gave a short lecture on the Wadaiko, its ancient origins, and as a musical art form in the modern day.

After arriving at the high school, iCLA students were warmly welcomed by Taiko Club Members. They entered the clubroom to begin the Taiko experience. Under brilliant instruction by the skillful members of the Taiko Club, iCLA students tried their hand at different Taiko rhythms. The lesson began with simple rhythms and progressed to more complicated and fast rhythms. Then, iCLA students and the Taiko Club improvised a performance together with what they learned.

Yamanashi high school students demonstrate wadaiko for iCLA students
iCLA's international students try wadaiko with the Taiko Club.

To finish the introduction to Taiko, the Taiko Club performed for the students. First was an inspiring performance with an extraordinary ensemble of Taiko of many sizes accompanied by wind instruments. The performance drew from the image of the samurai, invoking scenes of fierce battles and bustling castle towns. Following it was a remarkable performance of exclusively Taiko. The performances demonstrated the diversity of Kumi-daiko and the extraordinary skill of the Nirasaki Technical High School Taiko Club.

Yamanashi high school students perform wadaiko for iCLA students
Yamanashi high school students perform wadaiko for iCLA students

I learnt how involved Wadaiko is: it looks like you put your whole body, mind and spirit into it. This aspect really showed when the students performed. Brilliant! This was my favourite experience program I’ve done! One of the most amazing performances I’ve seen (and I have seen a lot having studied music)!

iCLA Short-Term Study Abroad Student

I never quite realised how intricate a wadaiko performance could be. I’ve always loved the drums and it was incredible to see the Japanese version of the instrument. It’s amazing how music can be both so similar and so different in different cultures. The performance of the students was immaculate! Absolutely incredible.

 iCLA Student

Afterward, a Q&A session was held for iCLA students to ask questions about Taiko. iCLA students asked the club questions like whether sheet music for Taiko exists, or how long the club members have been practicing Taiko and how they became interested in the art. Finally, the visit concluded with a tour around the campus of the high school, peeking briefly into the lives of high school students in Yamanashi.

The iEXPerience Program event also included a visit to Nirasaki City’s Heiwa Kannon (the bodhisattva of peace) statue and a panoramic view of Nirasaki City. The Heiwa Kannon statue was built to commemorate the then-Crown Prince’s marriage in 1959 and was finished in 1961. The Heiwa Kannon also stands as a prayer for the peace of city residents and the safety of mountain climbers.

The iEXPerience Wadaiko program offered students an opportunity to better understand Yamanashi, its culture, and a chance for cultural exchange with the local community. 

iCLA students pose in front of a Yamanashi high school after the iEXPerience trip


Yamanashi Pref. Nirasaki Technical High School Taiko Club
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