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The rehearsal space for drum group Tokyo Dageki Dan seems more like a football locker room than a spot to experience one of the country’s most honored musical traditions.

Seven drummers joke around while prepping their wadaiko, Japanese drums that can measure anywhere from 30 cm to a meter in diameter. Once practice starts, though, the joking ends and the “athletes” focus; their soft voices become booming yelps that compete with the thunderous sound of the drumming. You’ve got to be strong to play drums this size, and many of the members play sports to gain the stamina needed.

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