October 2023: It is with great sadness that we found out that our taiko teacher, Kurumaya-sensei, master of the Fukui style of taiko, has died.
Alison was fortunate to be taught by him when she first began learning taiko, with Mugenkyo in 1999. At that time, Kurumaya-sensei was staying with Mugenkyo at their new base in Lanarkshire, Scotland, supporting them as they began touring and teaching as a full-time professional group. He then returned to Japan to found his own dojo, the Kurumaya Taiko Dojo. Yumi visited Kurumaya-sensei there upon Alison’s recommendation in 2010 and 2013, and we went there together in 2014 to study with him. It was a transformative time for us, as Kurumaya-sensei challenged us to develop our movement, our power, our fluency and our musicality, individually and as a duo.
We planned to go back in 2021, for further training and to join him in a concert that June, however, the Japanese border was closed to foreign nationals at that time. Alison had also incurred an injury and since then had not been well enough to travel. However, we had just contacted Kurumaya-sensei to see about visiting him next year when we received the news that he had died.
Kurumaya-sensei was a profound influence on all who encountered him. His originality, gracefulness and intensely powerful playing will be deeply missed by all who studied with him or experienced his performances. Many taiko players in Europe trace their taiko roots back to Kurumaya-sensei (especially via Mugenkyo in Scotland or Tentekko in Germany, which were among the first European taiko groups, both founded by people who had studied with Kurumaya-sensei in Fukui) and his death really is the end of an era in European Taiko as well as in Fukui.
Thankfully, there are many of us who will continue to be inspired by him, and continue his legacy in our own way as we perform and teach. 2taiko is indirectly named after him: his website was 1taiko.com and we thought 2taiko would make an apt name for two taiko players nourished directly by his teaching.
You can read more about his life and influence on Alison’s website, including an announcement from the founders of Mugenkyo and Tamashii Taiko, who were among his closest taiko associates outside Japan: Kurumaya-sensei
Here you can also find more information on Hokuriku style, the style of Fukui and Ishikawa (formerly known collectively as ‘Hokuriku’). Kurumaya-sensei was the foremost proponent of the way the style was played in Fukui.