Reviving a tradition in Taiko Making
a taste of traditional Japanese craftsmanship with a hint of modern
marketing know-how, one just has to look to Tajima-machi, and Hisayoshi
Kawada's Drum Factory.
In the olden days, the area around Tajima was home to many acres of
trees and so it became quite a centre of drum-barrel production. This
production peaked in the Taisho era, when it was said that 80% of domestic
drum-barrel production took place in the Tajima area. Kawada was working
as a craftsman in a Drum-making factory when a friend introduced him
to the town of Tajima. Kawada liked the place so much he moved and this
was 15 years ago. Presently, his factory employs 15 craftsmen. There
are only 5 companies within the prefectureengaged in drum-making. Of
these, 3 are currently engaged in the trade in the Tajima area, mostly
concentrating on hand-made drums.
His factory currently produces 1000 drums a year,with freight destinations
ranging from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Thefactory sells to schools, musical
instrument shops and those who have a real passion for taiko.
Kawadais also setting his sights on the overseas market, and the sizeable
foreign population resident inJapan. To this end, he has published an
English language introduction to his company in the English edition
of the NTT Telephone Directory.
Kawada would like to investigate the market by displaying his exhibits
at a European trade fair. He has recognised that there are many different
types of drum in Europe, and is considering how to lay the appropriate
groundwork for establishing a niche in the spectrum for Japanese drums.
Tajima happens to be very convenient place to collect together the
timber that is used in drum manufacture. The main types of wood used
in drum manufacture arekeyaki (zelkova) and tochi (horse
chestnut). Kawada never uses imported wood, as he has no desire to contribute
to the demand for timber from developing nations that have no contingency
to combat their overfelling. As the years pass, the abundance of the
larger trees is diminishing, Kawada has started using gohan,
a veneer ply which makes the most of limited resources. Treated cowhide
is used to make the drumskins.
A drum of smaller size would take a month to make, whereas larger drums
can take up to half a year to complete. The biggest drum Kawada has
made to date had a drumskin diameter of 1.2m, and when transported abroad,
was only just able to fit in a jumbo jet.
As part of his scheme to popularise taiko, Kawada has established
a taiko school which meets three times a year at Shimogo-machi,
near his Tajima-machi factory. His drums are used for practice by those
wishing to improve their technique, or those simply wishing to try taiko
drumming for the first time. To date, Kawada has also held two classes
of drumming in downtown Tokyo, bringing craftwork and tradition to modern