Personal Stories

Every year at Oakland Buddhist Church's Obon I would see Eden Aoba Taiko perform and think, "One day I would like to do that. It looks like a lot of fun." Now as a retiree I have time to make my brain and my bodywork learning new things. It has been a humbling and life-changing learning journey, but a wonderful adventure and fantastic experience to be affiliated with others who enjoy making music and have fun challenging ourselves. I have been with the Eden Aoba family for almost three years but I am still a beginner in understanding all the ways that Taiko affects me. From learning more about Japanese culture to benefiting from a wonderful sense of community among the members of our group, there is great joy to be had from drumming with friends and sharing the joy of Taiko in performing for others.

- Donna Yokomizo

I started Eden Aoba Taiko in the summer of 2009. My friend Melanie and I saw a taiko group play at a dinner and we thought it would be good exercise. In the beginning, it was frustrating but so fun to bang on such a big drum! I was afraid of going to the next level, as we were expected to start playing a "solo" and that was terrifying to me! However, it became even more enjoyable, mainly because of the players. Everyone was so helpful, supportive, and encouraging of the newbie player! I now look forward to all the practices, especially Friday nights where I can see my taiko family and hit the drum with all my might and to get my aggressions out!

-Ethel Dang-Zeager

Don Ya! Ka Se! I joined Eden Aoba Taiko in 2009 after Ethel and I saw a taiko performance. It looked like fun and good exercise and it is, physically and mentally! Two days later, Ethel obtained Aoba's class information and we started classes that night. Taiko drumming is filled with energy, passion, and emotions. It is very interesting to understand the story behind every one of Masa's original songs. I try to understand the song's meaning and then convey this feeling through my drumming. It can take 10-20 (or more!) classes to learn one song. There is no written music. We learn by feeling the song, memory, repetition, and with Masa's ever patient guidance. With my fellow "taikoites", we share common bonds - "first performance" jitters, brain lapses while drumming (performances can be very memorable that way!), and most importantly, having fun as we discipline ourselves to play in unison and in harmony and learn more of the art of taiko.

-Melanie Soo Hoo

To me, Taiko is not only a hobby, it's a passion. It all started at a parade, when I was mesmerized by the Taiko drummers on a float. That day I promised to myself that I will do that too, one day. Nine years ago, when I was ready to start learning Taiko, I was fortunate to find Masa and his group - Eden Aoba Taiko. My life changed that day... I found friends, I found rhythm the way I never had it before and I found the one thing that gives me energy, even when I'm tired:Taiko is about being part of a group that - when in harmony - transforms a sequence of simple sounds into beautiful and complex music.

-Monica Simon

I guess I should credit Sean Connery for leading me to Taiko. He starred in "Rising Sun" a film about a homicide in Japantown, which showed several clips of these "fantastic drummers". Taiko was not even one of my vocabulary words. Overnight it became a new word, a new sound a new emotion and best of all...a new love. This is my ninth year with Eden Aoba and I can't sing its praises loud enough. We have a very creative teacher and a dedicated group of players. Playing in a group has its challenges but also provides much fun, joy, laughs, and a great sense of accomplishment. I am truly fortunate.

-Claire Rich

The sound of the taiko has been described by many as representing a heartbeat, the pulse of life, and for me it has been so. For more than a dozen years now I have had the honor of being a part of Eden Aoba Taiko and my life has been better for it. As I reflect on my memories of class and performance venues shared with my "taiko family", the common theme resonating through them is of the importance of our foundational values: unity, harmony and respect. These tenets were never more evident as when we were in Japan to perform; these shared experiences brought together the rich history and culture our drums represent with the love and passion I have for playing them.

-Bill Weber

Cherry Blossom Festival 1979 in San Francisco was how I found out about Taiko. For years after that I followed San Francisco Taiko and San Jose Taiko attending free and paid performances. At Morgan Hill Taiko Expo I went to hear San Francisco Taiko and they were a no show but Eden Aoba Taiko and Masa were there! The spokesperson said there were lessons at the Japanese Center in San Lorenzo and that was music to my ears! I have been a devotee for 14 years learning and performing under Masa's watchful eye. I am still excited to be learning new songs and when we begin to play I become one with the drum, it is at once calming and awakening! There is discipline yet freedom when you play Taiko and when I have had a tough day I am glad that I can finish it with Taiko. In addition to the spirit of Taiko comes learning about Japanese culture and I feel like it is a huge part of my life now.

-Diane Habell-Jower

Taiko is Power. Music. Fury. Precision. Aspiration. Resolve. Cohesion. As a casual musician I was attracted to taiko because of its powerful and unique sound. Taiko is felt as much as heard. Simple rhythm instruments create fascinating and complex patterns. After making my first taiko drum in 2010, I sought a place to learn to play it. Happily I discovered Eden Aoba, which suits my goals and attitudes perfectly. Masa builds a creative, non-threatening environment focused on the joy of the music. Improvement is valued over perfection, effort over accomplishment, and harmony over virtuosity. As one of the newest members of the group who makes more than his share of mistakes, I appreciate the encouragement, warmth and patience found here. Taiko gives me a way to learn new skills and challenge my limits. And while I can't say I have lost weight, taiko has probably kept a few pounds from being added.

-Eb Demong

I started playing with Eden Aoba Taiko in 2008, shortly after my marriage of 21 years started slipping away. When asked about Taiko, I would say, "Beating big, noisy drums is a good thing." Amazingly, I am the most relaxed when I am drumming. The truth is, I have always been drawn to drumming and Taiko has always captured me--the rhythms, the strength, the drums that seems to beatbas one with my own heart. Eden Aoba's traditional style of playing and the structure of our group are also important to me. I proudly say that we are a multigenerational, multi-cultural group who embrace Masa Fukuizumi's philosophy that Taiko should be available to anyone who wants to play.

-Mary Ann Davis

The reason why I like taiko is because it exercises my mind and body, will delay the onset of aging.

-Yasuko Seavey

I've been playing Taiko for about 5 years. I wanted to learn Taiko because when I was little and living in Japan, in my neighborhood there was an Obon dance. There, I would always hear Taiko drums, but there was no chance to learn at that time and place. In Japan, it's usually only men who play so I am thankful to have a chance to play Taiko here. It has built my confidence to perform in front of a crowd. I played piano as well and being able to play singly has its perks, but I enjoy playing as a group, like Taiko, the most.

-Mariko Omori

I love the moment that taiko sound match with all other players even one note. I feel so good when it's happened. Specially Aoba taiko can enjoy playing with all unique different people. And maybe playing taiko is only time to use my left hand and arm seriously. Playing Taiko make my life a little more spicy. Yes, Taiko is a new ingredient to live with quality life.

-Arata Matsuo

My official Taiko journey started a couple of years ago upon joining Eden Aoba Taiko. Prior to that I had a casual interest in Taiko but had little understanding about the many aspects and depth of this art form. I watched the Eden group perform at the San Ramon Art & Wind festivals and at the conclusion of one of their shows, they announced new classes were forming. I was always struck by the diversity and skill of the performers along with the power of the drums, so I decided to sign up. I was immediately welcomed to participate on a real drum...and no exercises required, as I heard other groups require. I have since discovered that Taiko has deep cultural and spiritual elements that go beyond just leaning a sequence of drum beats and hand movements, which I have only yet begun to understand. I am fortunate and proud to be part of the Eden Aoba team and continue to be a humble student of Taiko under the leadership of our director, Masa. I struggle with many of the fundamentals but I hope thru patience, practice and participation, I can develop a more complete understanding and appreciation of Taiko. Thanks.

-Jeff Fitzgerald

Being with Eden Aoba Taiko for 14 years has been a privilege, and it has kept me little closer to my own Japanese roots. I have enjoyed Masa's compositions whether it be the lively festival pieces based on authentic Japanese folk rhythms or, more recently, his somber interpretation of Japanese mythology. Come hit the taiko with us; be in the midst of good people and good vibes!

-Dorothy Yanagi