We’ve just spent nine days in Fukui with Kurumaya-sensei at his beautiful taiko dojo in Miyama, Fukui prefecture, Japan.
Kurumaya-sensei is the teacher of the UK taiko group Mugenkyo, whom Alison first trained and performed with. It was 15 years since she had seen Kurumaya-sensei. Yumi had also visited Kurumaya-sensei at his dojo twice before, but this was the first time we had visited together – and the first time Alison has come to Japan!
Kurumaya-sensei is the master of the Fukui style of taiko playing (also called Hokuriku-style), which is based on the mitsu-uchi rhythm, with a strong emphasis on improvisation and developing one’s individual style. As well as playing a lot with Kurumaya-sensei, we also watched and took part in several of his classes, and were really impressed by the taiko of his students. Even the beginners already have their own distinctive way of playing and are naturals at the Fukui way of deftly throwing and twirling bachi and moving gracefully between drums.
Kurumaya-sensei also showed us around the Fukui area, including Daian-zenji, the beautiful zen temple in the mountains where his group, Hibiki Daiko, used to be based and where they are doing a concert on the 9th November. We also ate lots of fantastic food.
As well as being inspired by the skill and style of Fukui taiko, we were also inspired by the atmosphere of the dojo, which is relaxed but focused. Lots of sustained taiko playing but also lots of tea breaks and talking about taiko, giving us time to absorb what we were learning and get a deeper understanding of Kurumaya-sensei’s approach. At the Kurumaya taiko dojo, you get better at taiko while drinking tea!
If you ever get a chance to go to Fukui, then we highly recommend learning taiko with Kurumaya-sensei. It really is life-changing and whatever style of taiko you play (Yumi has mainly learned Oedo Sukeroku style of taiko) you will benefit from his subtle yet profound teaching. You can find contact details on his website: 1taiko.com