History of Tomodachi Daiko Inc. (TDI)

In the spring of 2000, the Grand Master Tanaka who brought the Japanese taiko to U.S. from Japan and the founder of San Francisco Taiko Dojo along with other taiko performers came to Anchorage for the Asian Cultural Night representing Japan at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) as the main feature taiko performers.

Before the concert when they were invited by the Consular-General of Japan, Mr. Tsujimoto to his house for dinner, Mrs. Kono, and Ms. Imai were also invited to attend and were introduced to Grand Master Tanaka and the other taiko drummers. Mr. Tsujimoto saw a great value of cultural exchange between United States and Japan and proposed to Grand Master Tanaka that he come back to Anchorage to help us establish a Japanese taiko program here in Anchorage. At this request, Grand Master Tanaka and the San Francisco Taiko Dojo directors, came back to Anchorage for that summer and trained with Tomodachi Daiko Inc. (TDI) and built three taiko drums from wine barrels brought from California. Mrs. Matsumoto, a former coordinator of the Japanese Immersion program for the Anchorage School District, also assisted in building our first three taiko drums made in Alaska.

The Grand Master Tanaka then taught (TDI) several taiko songs and how to teach those songs to children. The directors of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo scheduled several lectures and workshops on how to start the taiko program here in Alaska, Grand Master Tanaka came back that fall, and taught TDI one more song.

In the fall of that year, Tomodachi Daiko was established as the first taiko group in Alaska, and started teaching a class with 30 members at the Sand Lake Elementary School consisting of both children and adults. Our first public performance was at the Opening Ceremony of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Anchorage.

During the winter break of 2001, Tomodachi Daiko Inc. invited Mrs. Fujiwara of the Japanese taiko group “Chokoma” and Mr. Furuta, a former professional taiko group “Warabiza” member also based in Japan, to Anchorage and spent one week teaching TDI more traditional Japanese taiko songs. In the winter of 2003, Mrs. Fujiwara and Mr. Furuta brought two high school students who were highly skilled taiko player to Anchorage and taught us more songs. In 2005, Chokoma from Japan and Tomodachi Daiko Inc. held the first joint taiko concert at the East High School auditorium.

As TDI grew, in 2006 Mrs. Fujiwara brought more young taiko players from Japan to teach TDI. In 2008, Chokoma of Japan, Takohachi taiko group in Portland, Oregon and Tomodachi Daiko held their second joint taiko concert at West High School auditorium. Chokoma taught TDI 16 out of 27 songs TDI plays today.

In 2013, the third joint taiko concert between Chokoma and Tomodachi Daiko was held at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium at the University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA), with special guests Mr. Kohei Kimura of Takohachi taiko group in Portland, Oregon.  Mr. Kimura who is our former member of TDI and now is a leader of his taiko group “Takohachi”. Mr. Kimura was the only Japanese flute (shinobue) player in Tomodachi Daiko and trained several TDI flute players along with many taiko drummers. These young players became our lead performers and helped to raise TDI’s performance level indeed.

In the summer of 2016, Tomodachi Daiko organized the joint Matsuri concert held in June at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) in Anchorage. It was TDI’s privilege to perform with the featured guests from the world’s number one professional taiko group KODO, Mr. Fujimoto, Mrs. Kojima from Japan, and former KODO members, Mr. Watanabe from New York, along with our close friends of Chokoma of Japan.   

TDI has performed all over Alaska; Anchorage, Bethel, Fairbanks, Palmer and Seward and has visited Japan and was a part of three joint Chokoma taiko concerts in Tokyo, Japan. TDI is pleased to acknowledge the many taiko professionals named in this article who have directly attributed to the success of Tomodachi Daiko. It is from their efforts TDI has become the primer taiko group in Alaska and will forever be grateful.

Tomodachi Daiko Inc. has been sharing the showcase of the traditional art of Japan with our passion and soul of taiko drumming in the community throughout Alaska and will continue to do so with the great supporters of TDI. Our heart is to foster the goodness of American and Japanese culture and unite every taiko player to the beat and rhythm of the taiko drum with perfect synchronization.