Thanks to an enterprising group of foreign exchange students, this year Seattle University has its first Taiko Club.
Hidaka Taiko Club gave a brave performance at this year’s International Dinner.
The idea came from Yukiyo Mitsuishi, a sophomore political science major. Her friends call her Yuki, and she pushed for the new club from her very first day at Seattle U. With help from Dale Watanabe, assistant director of the International Student Center (ISC), who gave her support and advice, and from Tyrone Nakawatase, the leader of a local Taiko group in Seattle, who lent her the gear she needed, Yuki was able to rally students, friends and peers to make it happen. (Interesting side note: Watanabe and Nakawatase founded Japan Club together back in 2001.)
Now the group has more than 20 members who practice four times a week for a total of 10 hours. Its official name is “SU Hidaka Taiko.” Hidaka, in Japanese, means Red Hawk. The adventurous group, which is only a few months old, has already performed three times—at an on-campus celebration of the Lunar New Year, the involvement fair and the International Dinner.
“Taiko is the first Japanese cultural thing I’ve learned,” said sophomore Chie Ikoma, a member of the club.
In Japanese the term “taiko” refers a broad range of percussion instruments. “Wadaiko” more specifically refers to the kinds of drums that Mitsuishi, Ikoma and Naoi use in their performances. They bought their own “bachi,” or drumsticks, but elected to borrow the drums.
“I totally wasn’t interested in Taiko at first,” said junior Kurumi Naoi.
Naoi changed her mind when she went with Mitsuishi to a practice session with Nakawatase, the aforementioned leader of a local Taiko group called Inochi Taiko. “The sound was strong, and moving.”
Mistuishi, Ikoma and Naoi, are now three of the clubs’ most prominent members. Ikoma is a sophomore studying management and Naoi is a junior English major. All three of them are part of an exchange program with Sophia University, Seattle U’s sister school in Tokyo, Japan. Apparently they didn’t become friends until they came to Seattle. Actually, they had never spoken to each other.
“We met at orientation,” Naoi said with a laugh.
Only a handful of students come from Sophia University every year—five or six, at most—so it wasn’t long before they got to know each other. And when Mitsuishi started the Taiko club, the others weren’t very interested. But their curiosity grew as they helped her organize the club, buy and rent the gear she needed and advertise the practice schedule. But it still took a gentle nudge from Mitsuishi to get them to try it out.
“I forced them to come with me practice,” Mitsuishi said.
All three had trouble thinking of the most memorable moment from their time Hidaka Taiko. They all said their favorite memory couldn’t be reduced to a specific time or date. Apparently they loved all of it. Each week, for hours, they played the drums until their hands blistered, then after practice the whole club would hang out to chat or get food together. Mitsuishi, Ikoma and Naoi nodded and hummed as if to agree that this was one of their favorite parts of being in the club.
“I like when we gather after practice,” Naoi said.
“Because of it, it feels like a family,” Mitsuishi added. “We see each other almost every day.”
Naoi explained how she used to play on the volleyball team here at Seattle U, but no one gathered after practice like the Taiko club did.
“Maybe it’s a Japanese thing,” she said. The three of them laughed.
Hidaka Taiko Club’s next performance will be on Feb. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Pigott Auditorium for the Day of Remembrance Taiko Fundraiser for Minidoka Pilgrimage 2017. The event will feature speakers and other local Taiko groups. Tickets can be purchased online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/day-of-remembrance-taiko-fundraiser-for-minidoka-pilgrimage-2017-tickets-30341160227.
Nick may be reached at