Throughout the year in Niseko you can witness the magnificent taiko drum performances by local troupe Yotei Daiko.
Belgian Kris Gaethofs had never played drums before but was hooked on taiko after he first heard them. When he got the opportunity to play himself, he picked up his sticks and ran with it.
TEXT: KRISTIAN LUND
PHOTOS: GLEN CLAYDON
APPEARS IN: POWDERLIFE 2017 WINTER EDITION
When did you start taiko-ing?
My first try at taiko drumming was during Yotei Daiko’s 2012 spring workshop at the Kutchan Cultural Centre. This is a yearly returning workshop and everyone that finishes it can join the Yotei Daiko members playing the drums during the Kutchan Jaga Matsuri (Potato Festival). The workshopwas so much fun I decided to join Yotei Daiko in earnest afterwards.
Why did you decide to do it?
I watched a performance by world-famous taiko performers KODO in my home country. This left me duly impressed and after moving to Japan and experiencing in person the energy vibrating from Yotei Daiko’s performances, I just had to give it a try myself.
Were you the first foreigner to play with Yotei Daiko?
Others have dabbled but I’m the first to receive the Yotei Daiko Happi Coat (to become a full performing member).
What do you enjoy about taiko drumming itself?
It’s the perfect stress relief combined with physical exercise, but as well as that, nothing beats the feeling of performing live in front of an audience. But more than just taiko drumming, joining Yotei Daiko was like becoming part of a second family. It really is a great group of people.
There seems to be a certain power and almost a connection with the gods when you’re all playing. Does it feel special like that?
Yes, it certainly does. From the moment our lead drummer first strikes his drum I can feel the energy starting to build up inside of me and the other members only to be released when we all join in. It’s an incredible feeling!
How often do you have to practice?
We aim to practice twice at least twice a week together as a group. Casual at times and pretty hardcore at other times.
Is it difficult to remember all the songs? (Do you call them songs?)
Haha. Good question. Let’s just say it took me quite a while. Most of our songs are not written down in any form and we learn by watching and listening to senior members.
Do you or anyone else ever make mistakes? It doesn’t seem like it!
Of course I do. The trick is not to make it obvious to anyone but our own members.