Sounds of Japan

One of the most liberating elements of Japan and its culture resides in music. Outside of the popular idol culture, the music industry in Japan showcases too many niches to count. You may stumble upon a Jazz cafe right next to a Hip-Hop bar, for example. Or you may walk down the street and catch a taiko (Japanese drums) group preparing for their next performance.

To put it starkly, Japan has a music culture that is rapidly growing, giving a chance to any and all styles.

I experienced this firsthand. During my stay in Japan I had the opportunity to personally see and even participate in the music.

The first of which is the Hikone Community Taiko Club. Though taiko itself just means “drums” in Japanese, it typically refers to what is called kumi-daiko: a traditional style of drumming that has been integrated into the Japanese culture for centuries.

A man playing an Ohira-daiko drum in front of women playing Nagado and Shime-daiko drums
The Hikone Community Taiko Club rehearsing a performance piece

The Hikone Community Taiko Club offers classes for all ages, from younger generations looking to get a start on their music career to older generations aiming to preserve the spirit of kumi-daiko and stay fit. The culmination of musicians from different backgrounds come together to form an elegant cacophony of sound.

A man and a woman playing Shime Daiko drums
Practicing taiko with the club

Another unique opportunity I was able to participate in regarding music in Japan lies within styles far removed from Taiko. Those of which are Rock and Hip-Hop music.

I got the chance to meet members of a fast growing rock band, WOMCADOLE. Their lead singer, Higuchi, and myself performed a concert in Otsu City, Japan. There, I was able to not only join him in a few hard rock pieces, but I also got to perform a few of my own Hip-Hop/Rap songs. This experience was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I cannot thank him enough for giving me the opportunity.

Higuchi and the rest of WOMCADOLE boast an explosive yet melodic rock type of music, similar to that you might hear in an anime. His band was also recently featured by Universal Music Japan.

Two men close together posing with guitars
Me and my good friend/lead singer of WOMCADOLE, Higuchi

The last set of music I’d like to tell you about is one many people can relate to and enjoy from around the world: street music/performance. No matter where you go, a big city is not complete without the sounds of singing, unique instruments, and the like. Osaka, Japan is no exception.

During the Halloween season, Osaka is filled to the brim with people. The atmosphere is completed by crowds of people surrounding street performers, some with large speakers and bucket drums with a kit made from pots and pans. The uniqueness each performer brings tells their own story of life in Japan.

A drummer using buckets, pots and pans to make music
A street drummer in Osaka on Halloween

The culture of music is just as inviting as the other aspects of the country and will continue to grow as time goes on. Even though the produced sounds can be polar opposites, having performed and seen up close music in both America and Japan I can say with certainty that it brings people together all the same.

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