Matsukawa Kyougaku taiko drummers wow Colorado audiences on “Thank You Tour” of the U.S.

Erin and I missed seeing the Kyogaku taiko drum group from Matsukawa, Japan, when they played full concerts in Colorado Springs and Denver sponsored by Nippon Kan, the non-profit organization founded by Domo restaurauteur and aikido sensei Gaku Homma. The shows were part of their “Arigatou” (Thank You) tour of the United States to show Japan’s gratitude for the outpouring of support after the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed almost 20,000 people. But we were fortunate to get to see a brief sample of their great performance.

The group was the surprise entertainment booked by the Consulate General of Japan at Denver, for a memorial reception to mark the one-year anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disaster. The memorial was the culmination of efforts by the Japanese government to thank the rest of the world.

At the Denver Botanic Gardens, where the memorial reception was held, speakers included Consul General Ikuhiko Ono, who recounted the tragic day last year, and the outpouring of support from Coloradans both from individuals as well as organizations from the Red Cross to the Japan America Society of Colorado. Invited guests got to enjoy an amazing culinary spread provided by Sushi Den and Sonoda’s Sushi.

After the speeches, Deputy Consul General Hiromoto Oyama introdue the evening’s surprise guests, who entered the room and walked through the crowd beating their drums. Before anyone realized, the entire group — of mostly young musicians — assembled on the stage and pounded out a kinetic number with precision choreography.

We were glad we got to see even just a few songs by this talented ensemble. I hope they come back again so we can sit through and entire performance.

Here’s another song they played, featuring members wearing “oni” masks. Oni are demon spirits but not necessarily evil or Satanic like the western devil. They may be scary-looking but they can be just mischievous. Playing taiko isn’t easy — my abs hurt just watching these musicians playing while they’re leaning back.

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