Today saw the group travel by bus to the mountains of Aichi Prefecture, where we went to the practice space of the professional taiko group Shidara.
After a two-hour bus ride from the Nihon Fukushi University Mihama campus, we were greeted by Shidara members - including two current trainees who were with Rakko last year when they came to Pittsburgh! - along with surprise guest Takumi Kato, a professional taiko player, former member of Rakko, and longtime friend and supporter of Pittsburgh Taiko!
Following the greeting came lunch. Shidara member made curry for all the students, but the Pittsburgh students were also able to make their own pizza and bake it in a stone furnace! Everyone successfully rolled their dough and added their toppings before having the resulting pizza baked, after which they could finally enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Lunch was followed by the main purpose of the trip - an afternoon of study with the members of Shidara. The afternoon opened with performances by both trainees and performing members of the group, as well as a performance of oni-daiko by Kato Takumi, before the Pittsburgh students took the stage to demonstrate their skills for the group. This was followed by brief comments by Shidara members and Kato Takumi, each of whom praised the students on their performance.
Members of Rakko then gave a brief performance, informing them of their successful 3rd place finish at the All Nippon High School Bunkasai. There exists a deep connection between with Shidara and Rakko, with several former Rakko members now performing with the professional group.
After the demonstrations came the main event: an intensive workshop. The Pittsburgh students were introduced to the fundamentals of the Shidara performance style through a physically exhausting yet amazing session. They started on shime-daiko, guided through the fundamentals by Shidara members. then, after a period of non-stop playing that tested their physical and mental limits, they took to the chū-daiko to apply the playing fundamentals to a different drum.
Following the workshop, gifts were exchanged and group pictures were taken, keepsakes of an amazing afternoon.
Everyone then got back on the bus and traveled a short distance to a blueberry field owned by Shidara, where they were able to pick blueberries to take back to their host families.
Some time in the fields and a few goodbyes later, we were back on the bus for Mihama, where everyone separated for the day.
(For more pictures from the day, visit the Pittsburgh Taiko Flickr page.)