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Taiko drumming, the heartbeat of Sado Island, Japan

The island of Sado, Japan, is the sixth largest isle of the main Japanese islands. The island consists of two parallel mountain ranges and wonderful natural habitats. With its remote location Sado became famous for being used as a place of punishment. Starting as early as in the 8th century criminals were shipped off to Sado, never to return. This was serious punishment at the time and usually meant death. However, the last banishment was recorded in the year 1700. After gold was found in the early 1600’s the island became more heavily populated and established itself as a shipping port.

Moving forward in time, tourism boomed in the beginning of the 1990’s and peaked at over 1 million yearly visitors. Even though travelers shied away from the area after the 2004 earthquake, today, Sado enjoys renewed tourism, offering local festivals, ancient temples and ruins, as well as many outdoor activities. The yearly major Earth Celebration festival has been staged by the taiko entertainers named Kodo, a group of drummers and musicians living on the island. The Kodo performers (the word meaning “heartbeat” or “children of the drum”) have become an integral part of the Japanese culture, touring eight months out of the year. Taiko drumming, a form of rhythm and physical movement requires physical and mental strength. It takes many years of practice to perfect this art. Students live and practice together, learning to become one as a performance group. It has certainly paid off as they enjoy tours not only through Japan, but also Europe, South America, the Far East and the United States. The group Kodo also features other traditional Japanese instruments such as fue and shamisen. They dance and engage in vocal performances. The members mostly use traditional rhythms of the region, but also have composed many songs themselves. Some of the mayor events featuring the group Kodo include the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles and the Berlin Symphony Hall.

Kodo calls Sado home since 1971. The island inspires them to stay in tune with the traditions of the elders and the group considers the island to be their guiding force behind their creative lifestyle. Their goal is to find a harmonious balance between people and the natural world.

The mission statement reads in part: “It is through this process of Living, Learning, and Creating that we cultivate a unique aesthetic and sensitivity, reaching out toward a new world culture rooted in the rich possibilities of a peaceful coexistence between humanity and nature.”

Living in this village together has helped the group to absorb nature’s voices, aided them to listen carefully to the birds and the waves of the ocean, and the sounds of the trees. Kodo village has become their base camp, coming back time after time to renew and refresh, especially after their numerous world tours.

The concept of peace and brotherhood, bringing people together through the acceptance of other cultures and lifestyles is an honorable one. A place where people of all races can come together in harmony surrounded by nature’s bounty is a worthy cause and if more quaint villages like this were made around the world perhaps it could contribute to world peace.