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St Louis Osuwa Taiko - Japanese Drumming in the Midwest!

Updated on February 9, 2012

St. Louis's Premier Traditional Japanese Drum Ensemble

St. Louis Osuwa Taiko is a theatrical Japanese drumming group from St. Louis, Mo.--a not-for-profit group of community members who study and perform the art of taiko, traditional Japanese drumming, both around the St. Louis metro area and around the world!

Read on to see videos of community performances, hear the music, learn about taiko in St. Louis and around the world, find where to experience St. Louis Osuwa Taiko live, and create your own taiko or bachi, Japanese drum and drum sticks.

St. Louis Osuwa Taiko Has a New CD! - listen and download here

Public Performances - See St. Louis Osuwa Taiko LIVE!

Visit the website for a schedule of events!
Visit the website for a schedule of events!

STL Taiko News

Find out the most recent news! Read or sign up for the monthly St. Louis Osuwa Taiko Newsletter.

What is "Taiko"?

the tradition of Japanese drumming

The literal translation of the Japanese word taiko is "big drum," although there is a variety of shapes and sizes of taiko available and used. Taiko is an indigenous part of the Japanese culture dating back more than 1400 years. Taiko referred to the Japanese art of drumming associated with religious ceremonies, festivities and various other occasions in ancient and modern Japan.

Long ago, taiko was beaten in warfare to boost the morale of the troops and to fool invading armies into believing that a formidable opposition was on the march. It was also used as a communication method among the neighboring villages as taiko's deep, thunderous sound traveled for miles. Taiko has also been associated with the gods and religions of Japan. Above all, however, the most popular use of taiko, past and present, has been at festivals.

Along with all the stories that come behind the taiko, we will share with you one of many tales that we have heard -- one that can relate to all cultures and why we think taiko is something that can relate to everyone of us as individuals. The first sounds heard by the human fetus in the womb, is the sound of the mother's heartbeat -- deep, rhythmical, warm, and comforting. Grandmaster Daihachi Oguchi once said that we play taiko to mimic the heartbeat we all have. This is probably one of the most universal reasoning.

Modern performance taiko evolved in the 1950s by the strong influence of Grandmaster Daihachi Oguchi of Suwa, Japan. After a period of transition from western jazz drumming to oriental taiko drumming, he was able to introduce the uniqueness of the Japanese Taiko to the people. His affection for jazz drumming has enabled him to incorporate certain skills into the traditional rhythm of the scripted monotonous taiko beats, thus making them more affluent of energy and life. He has contributed considerably in the formation of the modern style of ensemble taiko drumming ("kumi-daiko").

The first formal introduction of taiko to the United States was in 1968 by Master Seiichi Tanaka with the formation of the first North American taiko group - San Francisco Taiko Dojo. He and his group went on to inspire many, if not most, of the taiko groups throughout the America. Since then, taiko has not only become popular but has also become a part of the universal musical language drawing our world closer together.

Taiko Music Reader Poll

Had you heard taiko, traditional Japanese drumming, live or recorded before this lens?

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History of Taiko in St. Louis

St. Louis Osuwa Taiko
St. Louis Osuwa Taiko

The original Osuwa Taiko was formed by Grandmaster Daihachi Oguchi in Suwa, Japan, and since then he has helped the foundation of other Osuwa Taiko branches throughout the world. In 1986, Oguchi visited St. Louis (sister city of Suwa) with a generous donation of hand made drums to the City, and helped form the first Osuwa Taiko in St. Louis.

The group consisted of local kids, however, was disbanded several years later when members went away to pursue their tertiary education elsewhere. (Among them was Kaoru Watanabe, now is a member of the renowned KODO!)

St. Louis Osuwa Taiko was restarted at Washington University in September of 1996 with the return of Joe Kimura, one of the founding members of the original St. Louis Osuwa Taiko. The reorganized group started with five members and debuted at Washington University's MAASU Student Summit November 1996.

In 2006, Dashi, a portable drum stage pulled by children, was acquired and a Dashi subcommittee was formed. Dashi procession is a very popular children's activity at festivals including at the Missouri Botanical Gardens' annual Japanese Festival.

Since it's 1996 re-inception, St. Louis Osuwa Taiko has grown and been invited to perform at events and occasions all over the mid-western United States and the world. Though a community group, the group currently locates at the University of Missouri St. Louis campus, though they recently acquired their own space and plan to open St. Louis's first taiko center in 2011.

Taiko bachi - sticks used in traditional Japanese drumming (taiko)
Taiko bachi - sticks used in traditional Japanese drumming (taiko)


  • Oak dowel 3/4"-7/8" thick (if oak is unavailable a 1" heavy pine dowel may also be used)
  • Super glue with a brush applicator (or use a small paintbrush you don't mind tossing)
  • Cloth medical tape or grip tape
  • Sander or sandpaper
  • Saw


  1. 1) Cut the dowel into two 18" pieces. Recycle any leftover wood.
  2. 2) Sand each end of one dowel so that the edges are slightly rounded.
  3. 3) About 1/2" from one end of the dowel, brush the super glue in a circle around the diameter of the wood. Continue to fill in the end of the dowel wish brushed super glue. This is the striking end of the bachi. The glue helps prevent splitting in the wood and protects the drums.
  4. 4) OPTIONAL: Wrap the cloth tape around the diameter of the opposite end of the dowel. Do this again about 2" further up. This is the gripping end of the bachi. The cloth tape and the natural wood help the drummer grip the bachi. (grip tape not shown in photograph)
  5. 5) Repeat the process with the second dowel and start banging away with your performance-worthy bachi sticks!
Cast your vote for Make Your Own Bachi

Request a Performance

Have St. Louis Osuwa Taiko perform live at your next corporate or organizational event!

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Share Your Thoughts - how do we know you visited if you don't say "Hello"?

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love Japanese Drumming, but had not heard of St Louis Osuwa Taiko. Very good!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      These drums are way cool! I've seen some very moving performances. Thanks for the info and keep on drumming!

    • shandigp profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @Lady Lorelei: Wow. I'm going to appreciate lenses more now. Thanks for your comment.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      8 years ago from Canada

      I am really missing out on some important aspects of music...this is the first time I have heard of the Japanese drum playing. Thank you for enlightening me. I love visiting the squidoo lenses...I feel like I am traveling the world from my desktop.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      woot Taiko! I love traditional Japanese music, especially with this kind of driving drumbeats!

    • shandigp profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      I really love that this Japanese taiko group is offering to play for free at Japan relief efforts fundraisers.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I always had a fascination for the Japanese culture. It is still one of the countries that I want to go. Good Lens.

      Thumbs up.

    • Jayszeman profile image


      9 years ago

      I really like Twitter feed and the directions for making bachi.

    • shandigp profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @I-sparkle: Thank you SO much! I'm honored!

    • I-sparkle profile image


      9 years ago

      I thought that this was truly an outstanding lens. I loved the music video and your content was very interesting and well presented. Great job. I am going to nominate it for LotD.


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