SENDAI – A taiko drum ensemble of young performers from disaster-stricken Fukushima Prefecture are busy sharpening their thunderous drumbeats as they prepare for their upcoming performance scheduled for March 22 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Almost five years after the catastrophe, members of the Yamakiya Taiko group still remain evacuated from their hometown of Yamakiya, where all residents were forced out due to radiation contamination after the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
The ensemble in exile hopes to convey their unbroken spirit and Fukushima’s current state on the road to recovery to the many people in the United States who supported them through hard times.
“It is a great opportunity to express our thoughts and the current situation of Fukushima,” says Genki Endo, 27, a professional drummer and the representative of the drum team.
Last summer, Endo traveled by himself to Michigan, where he became acquainted with American musicians. But the plan for his group’s performance was hatched through the support of Japanese-born filmmaker Toko Shiiki, who is based in Ann Arbor and facilitated his introduction to the U.S. side.
“I wish to introduce my hometown, which is blessed by abundant nature and fresh air, where time floats by slowly, so that people from around the world will come to Fukushima and Yamakiya in the future,” Endo says.
The Yamakiya district, situated in a mountainous region about 500 meters above sea level in the town of Kawamata, has a population of approximately 1,200 and is located some 40 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant adjacent to the village of Iitate and the town of Namie in northeastern Japan.
The group was first formed in 2001 as a drum club for elementary and junior high school students to uphold the longstanding tradition of wadaiko (Japanese drumming) and evolved into the present team in 2008. Currently, it consists of 17 male and female drummers in their 20s or younger.
The ensemble is a major attraction and is invited to perform at numerous functions, including New Year’s sales events and Coming-of-Age Day ceremonies in Fukushima Prefecture. The members usually practice at a community center at night after finishing school or work.
The Yamakiya Taiko group is also expected to take part in other events in the United States, including a workshop by the University of Michigan’s school of music in southeast Michigan.
If you would like to support Yamakiya Taiko group by helping with airline costs and other expenses, please visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/1188217593/yamakiya-taiko-fukushima-japan-us-concert-tour-201 (English) and readyfor.jp/projects/gen-taiko (Japanese).