Nen Daiko periodically contributes to Ekoji Buddhist Temple's newsletter, the Kalavinka. The following article was featured in the July edition.
Last month’s article detailed the humble origins of Ekoji’s own Nen Daiko. However, were you aware that Nen Daiko is only one of many temple based taiko groups in the United States? Like most Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) temples, the associated taiko groups are also predominantly located on the West Coast. However, a common unifying theme is a close relationship with their associated temples. Just as a community of followers makes up a temple's Sangha, some temple-based taiko groups also come together in a taiko community to form a larger “taiko Sangha”.
Out of all the temple-based taiko groups in the US, Nen Daiko maintains a special relationship with two specific groups: Soh Daiko of New York Buddhist Church, and Hoh Daiko of Seabrook Buddhist Temple. Being the only other BCA temples on the East Coast, (and therefore the only other temple-based taiko groups as well), both groups were instrumental in providing instruction, moral support, guidance, and friendship as they helped our fledgling group develop. This month we will briefly discuss each group’s history and how they were instrumental to Nen Daiko’s development.
The first taiko group on the East Coast, Soh Daiko was formed in December 1979 by members of the New York Buddhist Church as a youth activity after members of the Young Buddhist Association saw Chicago's taiko group at an Eastern Young Buddhist League convention. Membership chairman Mamoru Funai and adult advisors Jim Moran and Merle and Alan Okada started a taiko group with a "seed" grant from the Church and set about learning to make barrel drums with help of drum-making instructions from other taiko groups that came before them.
Asking then resident minister Rev. Hozen Seki for a name that would reflect "peace, harmony, and working together," the group was given the name of "Soh." The group gained early instruction from Rev. Ron Miyamura of Chicago’s Midwest Buddhist Temple Taiko Group and Rev. Masao Kodani of Senshin Temple’s Kinnara Taiko in Los Angeles. They taught Soh Daiko not only about drum building, but about basic taiko techniques and philosophy, resulting in the group’s evolution from a youth to an adult group.
In the fall of 1994, members of Soh Daiko first came to Ekoji to officially help create Nen Daiko. Walking us through the construction and assembly of our first taiko, they also provided a wealth of knowledge and expertise with regards to taiko playing fundamentals, as well as philosophical approaches. Ever since, Soh Daiko has remained a guiding pillar and resource for Nen Daiko as we continued our development over the years.
Hoh Daiko Drummers of Seabrook, New Jersey was established on February 23, 1991 under the auspices of the Seabrook Buddhist Temple. It chose Hoh Daiko for its name symbolizing “the way of the drums”. The group began by using discarded tires and plastic garbage cans as practice instruments and on the drum made for them by Rev. Ron Miyamura of Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago.
Their dedication soon found the group making its own taiko from whiskey and wine barrels, learning the difficult process from Soh Daiko of New York.
Hoh Daiko’s rapid emergence was evidenced soon after the national and international coverage of “Seabrook Story” which was aired in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor by Nippon TV and the National Broadcasting Corporation. Since that time, they have participated throughout the Eastern seaboard at various schools and organizations.
In 1993, prior to Soh Daiko’s first visit to Ekoji, Hoh Daiko helped encourage Ekoji’s Dharma School students to think about starting their own taiko group by holding a beginning workshop that introduced them to the experience of playing taiko. Once Nen Daiko formed a year later, Hoh Daiko again offered workshops and guidance as to how our fledgling group could further develop our skills.
Soh, Hoh, and Nen Daiko: A Taiko Sangha
Just as New York Buddhist Church, Seabrook Buddhist Temple, and Ekoji Buddhist Temple historically maintained and enjoyed a close relationship with each other, so too have their associated taiko groups fostered a close relationship of mutual support, collaboration, and friendship. The three temples’ relatively close proximity to each other meant that all three groups were able to meet up annually at Seabrook’s Obon Festival –this year held on Saturday, July 19th. This Festival is eagerly anticipated as an opportunity to see each other again, catch up, and enjoy each other’s company and fellowship.
Given our shared history and profile as the only three BCA temple-based taiko groups on the East Coast, we are happy to have both Soh and Hoh Daiko as our honored guests for our celebration of Nen Daiko’s 20th Anniversary on Saturday, August 30th. Tickets are on sale now, so please come out and enjoy performances by each group!
And one last note, until our Anniversary performance, be sure to come check out Ekoji’s Obon festival Saturday, July 12th too! Besides Nen Daiko, there is Japanese folk dancing, great food, and an open house to view the temple Hondo and learn more about Buddhism! For more information, be sure to check out www.ekoji.org!
Note: Group information from www.sohdaiko.org, www.hohdaiko.org, www.nendaiko.org
Ekoji Buddhist Temple's annual Obon is just days away and will be held on Saturday, July 12. In addition to practicing twice a week to prepare for our performance, one other very important preparation for the festivities is to set up the stage and yagura. With the help of Ekoji's Sangha members we were able to complete the construction in a relatively short time. Thanks to mother nature, the beautiful weather made the event very pleasant.
For those of you not familiar with a yagura, it is Japanese for "tower" and is usually an elevated stage where musicians perform during the dancing at Obon and other festivals. Look for a Nen Daiko member on the yagura during the dancing as he/she plays the taiko during the dancing. Don't hesitate to join the dancing and enjoy the festivities!
Stop by Ekoji Buddhist Temple's grounds for some yummy Japanese fare like chicken bentos, somen, and dessert galore, as well as traditional dancing. Festivities start at 5:30 pm. Nen Daiko will take the stage around 7:40 pm. Hope to see you all at Obon on Saturday!